Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? Why did you start your business?
I am a business owner/entrepreneur in Bradenton/Sarasota, Florida. I have been in business for myself for over 35 years and started in my parents’ basement in Chicago. I began printing t-shirts, which parlayed into a sportswear business that I have grown over the years. Our proprietary brand, Salty Bonz, is a lifestyle brand that represents the Gulf Coast of Florida’s vibe of balmy breezes, sunny weather, boating, fishing, beaching, golfing, and all the things we enjoy in this beautiful place we call home.
What type of products do you sell? How does your manufacturing process look like?
We sell Salty Bonz gear, which includes t-shirts, tank tops, short-sleeve button-up shirts, long sleeve button up shirts, hats, stickers, floating key chain holders and so much more. We imprint and embroider our items at our production facility on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
What are some challenging aspects of your business? How did you overcome them?
We’ve endured the Great Recession of 2009-2010 by reinventing ourselves and pivoting our sales in a different direction to capture a totally new demographic. We have diversified and reinvented ourselves with new product selections, new and updated art, new branding, and frankly new attitudes!
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I enjoy the freedom to create and then produce my ideas. I also enjoy marketing and promoting my business and watching it grow; it gives me a great sense of fulfillment. The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is that the success of your business can sometimes feel solely reliant upon you, which is an incredible pressure to be under. But….as they say, RISK = REWARD.
What are some beginner mistakes you made? What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
One of the big mistakes we made in the very beginning was that we had one VERY large customer, and while we knew it was a bad idea to “put all of our eggs in one basket,” they were such a good customer that it seemed like nothing could go wrong. It did. The recession hit and they simply shut down ordering overnight. It was devastating.
My advice is to keep swimming. The water will be rough, cold, and sometimes has a bad undertow. Just. Keep. Swimming.
What inspires you while designing and/or creating new products.
The weather in Florida and our lifestyle inspire me to create and share this wonderfully relaxed vibe with everyone, regardless of where they are. I love finding new products to decorate as well, so I am always canvassing trade shows and magazines to find the latest and greatest things to bring to our customers.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I’ve been in business since I was 16, and I just taught myself then and every day since then. I learned on the job, and sometimes the hard way. All lessons I’ll never forget!
What are some of the most effective ways in terms of marketing products to your customers?
We use a lot of Etsy, social media advertising and posting, and email marketing nationwide. Locally, we participate in festivals, shows, networking events, and direct sales. We find the most significant growth has been social media for the Salty Bonz brand. We are new to Etsy so we are hoping for the same.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
The organization, product procurement, efficient production, and communication. The organization is the top priority because receiving online orders can quickly get out of control and sacrifice customer service if you don’t have systems in place. Customer service is also our top priority. We always want to make sure that our customers are happy.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
My definition of business success is freedom. My freedom has been hard-earned and I cherish it. Freedom is not just doing what you want when you want; it’s being free to run your business how you see fit. Secondly, it would be a creative expression. When you work for someone else, you don’t always get to implement your ideas. I love being able to just instantly move on what I am thinking.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
Our day-to-day operation is based around a production schedule. We keep a tight schedule and ensure all items are pulled, decorated, and shipped in a timely manner. I divide my day into tasks that need to be done and leave the late afternoon for brainstorming and creativity.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
I plan to continue to focus on Esty and social media growth, as it seems to be skyrocketing at the moment. I feel we could really have an extreme growth opportunity in this sector. Our profitability is strongly impacted by our ability to procure our supplies in bulk and provide a quick turnaround fulfillment time for our customers. We have a very good system in place currently.