The entrepreneurs we feature have such interesting backgrounds and amazing stories of how they got their inspiration to start their business. Today’s feature by Barb Bloom of Images in Bloom and her touching story of starting and building her business with her husband does not disappoint! Based in the ArtCraft building, Barb and Stephen handcraft small batch cold processed soap and shaving products, hand-paint silk, and create gorgeous earrings from silk cocoons. We love her story! Go, Barb, go!
How did you begin your entrepreneurial endeavors?
I spent a lifetime working in healthcare administration, but 2010 would prove to be a turbulent year for our household. We began the year both working full time careers with comfortable salaries and by mid-year we both had been downsized from those very jobs. Having solid work history, experience and good educations, we both did what we knew – send resumes, knock on doors, and make every effort to network for opportunities. Every door closed. No one returned calls, and for the first time in our lives we were finding the process of securing employment almost impossible.
In the midst of this we found ourselves at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and there on a shelf was a bar of handcrafted soap that caught my husband’s eye. “How hard could this be to make? And what makes this bar worth the high ticket price they are asking?” We went home, did lots of research, bought the needed supplies and made a first batch of soap. We shared the bars with neighbors and friends. When they came back asking for more, we began to see the possibilities of a business. We sat down and wrote a business plan, willing to give this soap business a chance. We cleared out more than half of our basement for a soap studio, and through 2015 that was home base for the soap operation. The first year of our business was profitable, but the exciting news is that we have experienced growth each year that had more than doubled the previous year.
What apps do you use to keep yourself organized?
My cell phone is my brains – calendar, alarms, and notes – everything at fingertip. But there are a few apps I really love.
- Evernote, my favorite, can be as simple or complex as you make it. I use it to capture thoughts, ideas, concepts, information on contacts, and general information that I will draw on later. It is easy to search, and you can add photos, or draw pictures.
- Square for credit cards is really easy to use… download the app, plug in the swipe dongle and you are good to go. I have been a loyal user since 2011. And yes, we are able to take the new chip cards with ease. I love the ability to download the activity, and to see the analytics of my sales.
- WordPress, for our website and blog, is easy to update whether on the laptop or mobile device. One feature I love is that I can write a few blogs at a time, and then time delay their publication date, so it seems like I am writing every day.
- Mailchimp (free) for our customer mailing list, allows me to create an email, write the content, drop in the pictures and links and send it effortlessly. The app tracks customer response to each mailing, so I can better understand my customers’ interests and needs. Google analytics helps me see not just who is reading, but where they are heading and which links are popular.
MileIQ is our go to program for tracking mileage. MileIQ is always on, and at the end of the day, it allows the user to view each “segment” and classify as either business or non-business. The report is downloadable monthly.
What is the best advice you have been given?
“Stick to your business plan and don’t let the many voices steer you in different directions.” Another nugget we hold dearly is “Building a brand involves your very integrity… build well, and guard that brand because it takes great effort to establish it, and very little effort to tear it down.” We live and breathe our brand every day, consciously making every effort to remain transparent and honest in all we make, do and say.
What is your driving force?
My driving force is the memory of the challenging time after losing my career, financial footing, and to a large extent, having to redefine my identity and purpose. Our business has given a new purpose, a new infusion of creativity, fresh start, and an infusion of income. I remember those days of not finding work, knocking on doors, depleting the savings and I never want to see that challenging time again. That is why I view the business with the goal of one day employing an army.
How can we find your business?
Our studio work space is located at 2570 Superior Avenue #605 in Cleveland, in the Artcraft building. Our work space is open several times a year for the sale held throughout the building, with the major sale occurring on the first weekend of December annually. To visit our studios by appointment, call us at 216-374-8050. We are always online at www.imagesinbloom.com and we are so excited to offer free shipping within the USA. Otherwise find us about town in a number of shops (listed on our website), and at art fairs throughout the year.
Visit Barb’s website to see her class schedule and her newest product, Winter Paw Protector, for our fur friends.