A Lovable Little Mom-preneur!

I used to think that my millennial wife life was busy. Then, I interviewed Laura Nunn of Lovable Little Tree Huggers and realized that adding two little boys to the mix makes my “busy” pale in comparison to hers! (Apparently children are much more work than mini schnauzers). Laura is wife to youth pastor Andrew and in addition to having a toddler (Ethan) and infant (Seth) sons, she keeps busy mentoring other people’s teens at Acton Beth-el Christian Reformed Church.

But if that wasn’t enough, Laura’s name can be added to the growing list of “MOM-preneurs,” a newly coined term in recent years that describes moms who establish businesses at home while also acting as the full time parent of their children. But Laura would blush if she heard me calling her an entrepreneur. In her mind, she’s just a mom who cares about the products she uses on her family, but I’ll let you decide! Either way, you have to agree that she’s a stellar example of someone who turned a passion into a thriving business!

Laura, please describe your business in a nutshell for people who are new to Lovable Little Tree Huggers!

Gladly! Lovable Little Tree Huggers is an online natural baby product store that primarily carries cloth diapers, organic bath products and “babywearing” products.

Where did the idea to start your own “green” baby product store come from?

Well, I was always a person who was conscious about the types of products that I used on my body and within my home. I am the kind of person that separated recyclables even when I was camping! When I had Ethan and became a parent for the first time, that “environmental” part of me naturally extended to parenting. In fact, I would say I thought about the types of products we used even more once a baby was added to the mix. As Ethan grew up and we entered the world of “green parenting,” I noticed that there were so many different products and options and available (especially with cloth diapers), and we naturally discovered some that worked best for our family on a trial and error basis. Eventually, I found myself sharing that knowledge with friends and fellow parents, so the idea for a store was born out of a desire to pass along the knowledge we gained from testing the products ourselves.

How bad do you want to squish his cheeks and say “SMOOTCHIE FACE!” right now?

What’s it like being a small business owner?

First, I never expected to be a small business owner. The idea actually scared me because I did not consider myself a business owner at all. If it wasn’t for my husband Andrew who kept pushing me to go for it, I’m not sure I would have taken that leap! But now that I’m doing it, I have to say that I love it because I’m so passionate about what I’m doing. When I first set up the business it was overwhelming. I had to figure out all of tax, registry and website stuff. Luckily I have friends that were able to help me out with those things. Overall it’s a learning process! I’ve also participated in some mompreneur networking things like “TweetUps” and belong to a Mums and Chums organization which connected me with some great peers.

How do you promote your business?

Word-of-mouth is the main way that I attract new customers. Customers who have had a good experience with me often tell their friends and it’s through forming new relationships with people wanting to learn about cloth diapering or natural parenting that I get new customers. The gift registry is a very popular thing on my website and cloth diapering supplies are the most popular of the products. It can be a investment up front so it’s a great thing to be a gift registry. Andrew is also one of my biggest promoters – especially with the “dad” crowd. He promotes my products even more than I do, and it’s great because he can relate to the other men who are hesitant to start cloth diapering. Besides word of mouth, I also do some consumer shows. This allows people to touch and feel my products before they order.

What are some of the challenges?

The biggest challenge is always time. There is always something to do, something I could improve on the website, new products I could look into, different marketing things I could think of. But for me, being a stay-at-home mom is my primary responsibility and focus. I’ve tried setting aside certain days or evening where I can focus solely on the business but sometimes that’s not only possible. Thankfully, my husband Andrew has been a huge supporter from day one so if I need to do some work on the business he’s always there to help me I started this business because of a passion to help others, not with the intention (at least right now) to grow this into a huge operation. Running a business is a challenge and a blessing – it allows me to contribute to our household and to focus on my family.

The other challenge I find I face is balancing my desire to provide natural product as affordable as possible with my desire to still make a decent profit. Many times I find myself hesitant to charge what I really need to!

What is your definition of success for Lovable Little Tree Huggers?

A lot of people ask why I’m not doing more things to push my business. But to me, success is meeting couples and then watching them convert to “green-parenting.” I find it awesome! If I was able to make the world of cloth diapering and natural parenting accessible and attainable to people, that feels like success! The fact that I get to make a little extra money while doing so is like the icing on the cake. Being an educator, influencing people in my circle, providing talks at the Early Years centre, and helping people who don’t know where to start is success in my mind. It is less about millions of customers and more about building a base of happy, satisfied people.

What is your plan for your business in the next five to ten years?

That’s a good question. Well, I don’t want it to be huge. I want to stay home with my kids. If it grows when they are in school that’s good, but I don’t envision growth in a bricks and mortar type of store, I always want to be able to run this from my home and stick to my core products. I’ve actually declined inquiries for franchising because I want to keep this at a manageable size that I can control from my home in my available time.

And of course, converting more people to natural parenting is a goal!

What advice do you have for other millennial women who are thinking of starting a business?

First, you absolutely must have a passion for what you are selling. I’ve seen friends do things like bakeware and scrapbooking reps, but they end up hating their job because they weren’t overly passionate about it. The other thing I would say to young women who are thinking about starting a business is to just go for it! There is so much information and resources and friends that are willing to help you out with the things you don’t know, and as long as you have a passion and see a need it’s worth trying out!

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I asked Laura if there were any plans to carry natural dog shampoos in the future and she said she would have to think about it. But regardless, I was so impressed with her passion and products that I’ve decided future Howard IV will most definitely sport cloth diapers!

Let me know your thoughts about Laura and Lovable Little Tree Huggers! Would you ever consider “green parenting?”

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Email: laura@lovablelittletreehuggers.com
Website: www.lovablelittletreehuggers.com
Twitter: @MamaTreeHugger

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Disclaimer: Just because I mentioned “future Howard IV” does not entail I agree to, or am making any promises to name any offspring “Howard.” The reference in this post was strictly intended for humorous purposes.

 

One Cupcake at a Time

In a new and exciting series, I’m meeting up with inspiring millennial women who are challenging the perception that ours is a generation of spoiled, lazy and entitled young people. Featured in this inaugural series post is Kendra Coons, a fun, outgoing, and (despite her short stature), an exceptionally big-hearted young woman. I had the pleasure of getting to know during a volunteer stint in Peru, where we became friends amidst a community greenhouse project. Globetrotting on pause for the moment, Kendra currently resides in Toronto where she’s turned her apartment into the Bake-a-Change headquarters. Intrigued? Do read on…

Q: Kendra, in a nutshell, describe what Bake-a-Change is for people who have never heard of it.

A: The way I like to describe it is a modernized, glamourized bake sale. People place orders for whatever type of baked goods they want, (cupcakes, cake-pops, cookies, we’ll do anything), we bake it from scratch, deliver, and then all profits are donated to the charity of their choice.

Q: Mmm… sounds delicious. What charities are you currently working with?

A: I’m working with over a dozen charities right now that range in causes from the environment, health, animals, children and youth and lot more. But if a client has a specific charity that’s not currently listed on the website, we make that new connection and arrange for that donation to go exactly where the client wishes.

Q: So I have to ask, how did you wind up starting this?

A: Funny you should ask! Well, I have some very supportive friends that helped “push” me into this. Essentially, I’m obsessed with holidays, specifically baking for holidays. So every Christmas, Halloween, Easter (you get the idea), I used to bake for for all my friends and family. Eventually, though they loved the desserts, they begged me to stop bringing them so many treats and encouraged me to use my baking talents for my passion for non-profits. By day I’m a full-time professional fundraiser in the non-profit sector, so it was a natural progression to combine that love with my love of baking.

Q: So far, what has been the general response to Bake-a-Change?

A:  Honestly, I did not expect anything to really come of this. I thought I would just make a little Facebook page, get a few orders from my network, and have a little hobby but it kind of snowballed from there. The response has been overwhelming! People have been so supportive and positive about what I’m doing. My roommates especially have been incredibly helpful, allowing me to take over our kitchen with cupcakes, helping me bake, even my neighbors have opened up their kitchen to me! One of the most amazing things was being contacted by Jenny at Tangerine Chan productions, she offered her videographer services to create an amazing promotional video! (Coming soon!)

Q: What has been most challenging?

A: There’s just a huge learning curve in setting up and running a business. At one point I accidentally deleted the whole website. Not even joking. But at the same time I’ve managed to find a lot of help in my network. I’ve had friends assist me with setting up a website, designing a logo, so I’ve been learning along the way. At this point the most challenging part is just managing to get all the orders out the door. I’m using an oven right now that can only bake twelve at a time and at this point I’m probably averaging 500 cupcakes a week!

Q: What do you hope Bake-a-Change looks like in ten years?

A: In ten years I want to be running the bakery full-time, with some staff and volunteers. I’m hoping to initiate and manage special projects abroad that Bake-a-Change’s profits would contribute to. This is more than a bake shop, this is a non-profit organization. I’d love to support some projects with Awaiting Angels, that organization in Peru we worked with. Oh yes, and I’d like to have an oven that bakes more than twelve cupcakes at a time.

Q: What are some of the immediate priorities for Bake-a-Change?

A: I am always interested in meeting with people who would potentially like to volunteer with us. People with viral marketing experience would be helpful to us right now, as well as anyone interested in baking and decorating. In the next year, I’d like to put together a project on Kickstarter to raise money for a physical location – hopefully in Stratford (Ontario).

Q: Kendra, exactly what is your favorite cupcake flavor?

A: Okay this will sound really weird, but I’m actually not much of a cupcake person.

Q: Sorry, did I hear that right?

A: Yes… it’s quite shocking. But I’m told my raspberry lemonade cupcake is amazing! Personally I’m into gingerbread, or pumpkin spice tiramisu.

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Kendra reminds me that we don’t have to know all the answers in order to start something great. Often, it’s taking that first step that’s the most scary, but once you do, amazing things can start to happen – Kendra’s proof of that.

After wiping the drool from your chin I suggest you check out Bake-a-Change here! And while you’re at it, consider ordering cupcakes with a cause next time you have a little soiree, or just crave cupcakes and want to feel less guilty about indulging!

If you ordered cupcakes from Kendra, what cause would you donate proceeds to?

Web: http://bakeachange.com/
Twitter: @BakeAChange

Email: kendra@bakeachange.com
Phone: 647.210.1593
Locations served: Greater Toronto area, Kitchener-Waterloo (other locations upon request)
Causes: Current list here
Events: Corporate events, weddings, private parties, individual indulgences, etc

Photo credits: Alvin @ Tangerine Chan Productions

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Liked this post? Read some of my other musings on the millennial generation…

Too Poor to Have Kids?
New Number One Reason for Divorce