Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer - River of Enery Renewed

It's so hard to keep the energy up through the start up phase and on into the growth phase. And in truth, it's a sad sad day when someone as driven and motivated as Smicko Lady drops the ball for a little while. I did. Enjoyed some down time with my kids (the inspiration for all things creative around here anyways), just loving that I can take them outside, go to the park, push them on the swings, sit in the backyard pool (plastic, 4 inches, but we love it).
But that doesn't mean growth isn't afoot. If you check out the retailer section on the Smicko'z website you will see a new crop of fantastic retailers, both bricks and mortar and online. A huge congratulations to Marcia at Rolz and Sassy Baby Boutique in Kincardine Ontario for her new venture. If you are in the Kincardine area, make sure you get to the Rolz and Sassy Boutique grand opening! Rolz and Sassy are the makers of stunning baby slings, and I had the chance to meet them at the Today's Parent Babytime Show. (Which is also a great lesson for all of us, get OUT of your booth if you can, go meet other manufacturers and retailers, as you never know who's going to want to partner with you in the future). When I met Marcia, she was still in the idea phase, just a few short months ago, and here she and her partner are opening up a store featuring amazing products.
So back to energy renewed...... some big things coming up for Smicko'z. I'm investing the money and going down the PR road. I'm excited and nervous. When the campaign comes out I'll post it here so you can check it ou. Great PR firm that runs campaigns for groups of products, and they've had good results with market penetration (read, do your homework). Lots of companies have approached me in the past, and I just wasn't sold on the payoff for dollars invested. This particular company approached with a solid business plan, and results that were measurable.
The campaign kicks off in September, followed by a jam packed trade and consumer show roster of events. It feels like I'm in an investment phase, but am feeling pretty good about reinvesting what's come into the account in the last few months into the future of the company.
I've been fortunate enough to connect to some amazing mompreneur women who are kicking butt and working their own butts off to get themeselves launched. The most motivated of whom are finding different and interesting ways to get themselves noticed.
I want to share one, only because I know the founder is looking to pick up new subscribers all the time. It's free to join. The man's name is Peter Shankman (feel free to google him, you'll be impressed with his self launched career). You can visit his website at and sign up for his service called "Help a Reporter Out". Again, free to join. Essentially, he sends out mass emails three times a day, with queries from reporters looking for experts to comment on pieces they are writing. If you have knowledge of any topic, you email the reporter/writer/blogger directly and in return you get a mention as does your company. It was pretty much started to appeal to PR professionals, but Shankman has found that more than just PR pros can "help a reporter out". The other side of the deal? If you don't truly have direct knowledge, DO NOT reply. I've replied to about 5 out of over 1000 sent my way. They are fast and easy to read. Most of the ones I've replied to are about small business ventures, startups, and mompreneur angles. I resist replying to the ones I have knowledge of in my personal life - I want my name and my company to be able to stand together.
So there's your hot tip for June. HARO.
Smicko Lady

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


From trade and boutique shows that I've been in, I have met a lew of complimentary toddler product manufacturers. Some starting on, some further down the road. As my latest brain flash moment, I've created an email group that is discussing trade show opportunities, booth sharing, suppliers trading, and contacts to use.
I think its a very beneficial group, and some are able to bring not only product expertise, but jobs they do as day jobs that can offer a great deal of information.
This is a great local idea for any of you to start collecting companies where you are and doing something similar that is local to your market. Consider this - every step that you take alone, you work that much harder. If you have some real support behing you, it's that much easier.
If a show will allow you and another person to share a booth, that's money saved, and a partner to sell your wares if you need a quick bathroom break.
We currently stand as a group of 8. If you think you have something to bring to our local Toronto group, please email me at and tell me a little about yourself and your company. If it could work, Id be pleased to add you the group.
If you're wondering if I'm a fit for your group, visit my site at
Smicko Lady

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Random Stuff

I've been asked in the last few weeks if I found any online resources that I could share, that I've found helpful.
I did - and one I remember is entrepreneur magazing online - tons of links
If you are in a major city, find the local fashion incubator (it's a group of artisans and fashion designers) some of the info will good and free local info, and some of it is to buy. I've used the Toronto Fashion Incubator, and was able to use their lists for sourcing many things, from labels to packaging.
Then there's mompreneur online - and they have fabulous downloads like standard non-disclosure agreement as you go from supplier to supplier.
Incoporation can be done a number of ways, but it must be done to get the business account to get the finances divorced from household expenses.
If there's other documents you need , you can find stadard press releases and standard business plan's - you just need to know the numbers before you do it.
I'll try to remember a few more.
If you're looking for a specific supplier or finisher around Toronto, I have names for you too.

Children's Trunk Show -can't say enough about it, was a really good entry for me. And I liked it for the reason I knew I would: Mom only crowd, good numbers through the door, high quality goods for sale, a returing clientele, and people ready to shop. These established show are hard to get into, and it takes waitlisting sometimes, but I got in a cancellation this time, hopefully will get in on my merits next time. And for the first time, I, Ran, Out, Of, Product. Some of my styles were completely sold out. Bad to have empty pegs I think, but overall no one was deterred.
I think I've got setup and takedown down to an art because of my favourite new toy:

THE IKEA DOLLY. It's cheap, it's a dolly and it works. And it costs about 10 bucks. At most shows, you wait around for the dollies, you can spend hours sitting on the floor with everything packed around you. Not so this time, record take down and out to the car, show ended at 5 - we were out the door at 5:20 (only started setdown right at 5:00) I LOVE IKEA.
Get one if you are doing shows. You will likely be far from the car and your booth, so you'll need one.

I also bought a fantastic new foldown table at IKEA, huge bright orange colour, and it can be a 2 foot table or a four foot table - which means after taking a 4x4 space, I am convinced I no longer need 10x10 booths. The booth got plenty of traffic

In buying your tradeshow setups, I suggest that in most cases, smaller will be easier. I use tubberware tubs, the table, chairs, judy's for display, 2 wirestands, and my banner. I do own carpet tiles, can be as big as 5x5 or as big as 10x10. Genius because you can handle anysize booth..

Monday, May 26, 2008

Gearing Up (again)

Alas, another trade show is upon the world of Smicko. And while I had freshman like excitement and nerves for the first big one, the lessons have been learned (not that I'm not looking forward to it, because I am).
Trade Show Lessons Learned (and to be followed and heeded by me at all cost)
1. Set up is the day before, meaning, there is nothing to bring the next day. The days are long. So showing up an hour early just 'because' is totally unnecessary. Totally. In fact, the booth next to me remained unmanned for one hour on the morning of the third day, because clearly she knew something that I didn't.

2. Bring your own food. When I tell you that we ate garbage for three days, I kid you not. Not even a decent cup of coffee to be found. And when I say garbage, I mean it in the sense that a full on Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal from McD's would have been better, less greasy, and less regrettable than what was available. BRING YOUR OWN FOOD, AND A THERMOS OF COFFEE. Also, water bottles cost a couple of arms and legs at these things, so bring your own eco-friendly Nalgene.

3. Set up a booth with chairs. For the love of sciatica, bring chairs.

4. Don't wear white. Don't have a white tablecloth.

5. Bring Purell. Smicko family has only recently gotten over the superbugs contained at last trade show.

6. Turn off the brain when you get home. Sleep is precious. Don't think about the show. Turn off the show till you have to be there at 8:59 am the next day.

7. Bring hand lotion.

8. Leave booth with wonderful Smicko friend Dana, and go look outside where there is sunshine and weather and air. Take a deep cleansing breath. Then go back in.

Smicko'z new warehousing system and office are near completion - and the re-investment doesn't end there. I've taken steps to get a bookeeper to help keep me in line - I'm getting a brand spanking for the first time ever press release professionally done - and web guru is hooking up the smicko'z website with some new features, and bringing the new fabrics on, out with the old.

I received the new Smicko'z fabric order today, and I am in deep deep love with this batch. I can't wait for you all to see the new ones coming out! (was in love with the last batch too, I know I know, but honestly, I'm a fabric hound)
You can check the changes over the next few weeks at

Wish me luck at the show!
Smicko Lady

Friday, May 23, 2008

Something I Should Do

Being in the 'mompreuniverse', I have occasion to meet other budding mompreneurs with fabulous products and companies. They too are wading this road to success, and some are doing a bang up job of it!
Take Kim over at Chatterbox games. She's created a box of Social Skills games and ideas for families to do together. Now a lot of the 'kid' market is a whole lot of fluff. Useless stuff. Her product (and I say this from a decade or so of teaching) is bang on the money. Outside of the 'want' it pile, and way deep into the 'need' it pile. Want to check out something amazing? Google Chatterbox games and get blown away.

Another great entrepreneur? Snapdragon designs. Really and truly stunning clothing and bags made by one fabulously stylish lady. Google Snapdragon and you'll find her amazing stuff.

For the story on entrepreneurial spirit, one need look no further than Karen over at Tail Wags Helmet Covers. A former costume designer and teacher, her handmade helmet covers are beyond adorable, and her hard work and dedication towards her product deserve a real congratulatory nod. I believe the link to Tail-Wags is on the blog part of my blog, so check it out.

A company I had occasion to meet over at the Today's Parent Show that I fell in love with (and S is still wearing their shirt night and day" is called Booda Belly. Really beautiful organic and bamboo clothing. The stuff washes and wears like a dream. Also in the startup phase, watch them for great things to come.

If you haven't heard of Name Your Tune yet, you will and soon. These are cd's personalized to your child's name with the old favorites we all grew up with. My kids each have one, and they adore hearing their names on the songs and feeling special. Google Name Your Tune. Amazing as gifts, get your hands on one for your little tot.

I think it's important we all support each other in this game. Sincerely. Without each other, there are no contacts, no advice, and no pushing each other on to bigger and better. I'm not saying to hype your direct competition, but if someone is doing something fabulous in the same market segment as you, connect with them and see how you can better work together. Even if it's sharing a booth at a trade show, or linking each other to your websites, there are many ways to do business together. Lecture over.

Smicko Lady

Monday, May 19, 2008

Onwards Soldiers

Those of you wondering, will I jump into another trade show with both feet after the great plague that ripped through my house after the first one, here's your answer - doing it. May 30, an excellent opportunity for me called The Children's Trunk Show. All very cool vendors, all juvenile oriented, mostly the mompreneur group, and no "attraction" which is something I am getting very wary of.
What's the "ATTRACTION"?
Here it is: A show goes out and hires a couple of actors to wear massive suits of Diego and Dora, and every 60 minutes, a show starts, which you know because you can hear it over a massive loudspeaker, and all 15000 entrants to the trade show RUN past your booth to get there. And rightfully so. They PAID 15-20 bucks a head to get in the door. They expect to be entertained. And justifiably, I'd be offended to be asked to pay 20 bucks to go shopping.
But the Children's Trunk Show has one attraction - Shopping! They ask for a donation at the door that goes to Sick Kids Charities. And that's peachy with me given how much I feel indebted to both Sick Kids and Mt. Sinai Hospitals.
I am getting a little wary of the synagogue and school 'boutique' nights given their low turnouts and the amount of schlepp it takes me to get there, hire a sitter, set up, and sit there all night, whilst doling out the obligatory door prize from my inventory without a tax receipt to show for it, all the while paying Moneris for the rental of my wireless mc/visa/debit machine.
So for the forseeable future, I will shell out and get into established shows.
I am looking at a few right now - Trunk Show Spring and Fall, Babytime Show Fall, Seasons Christmas November.
If anyone knows any established crafty one day shows between now and next year please let me know. You can email me at or feel free to leave the comment here.
One more note - if there's a Smicko pattern that you LURVE and have been thinking of getting, do it sooner than later, I am committed to changing it up by season, and will have a constantly evolving line of product. I look forward to the next batch, and am seriously THRILLED with the new fabrics coming in. They too are limited runs - very limited as summer is a small season. Fall will be much bigger.
You can check out the last line at and choose an online retailer if you can't get here.
Smicko Lady

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Change is a Necessary Evil

Dear Readers
Today we discuss one of my least favorite subjects. Namely, change.
But you say, change can be a good thing, metamorphosis. True. But change in manufacturing generally means a few things. Most of them bad.
Some don't apply. Some do.
1. A supplier has discontinued something. You searched high and low for months on end. You haggled, you begged, you finally found IT!!!! And you'd have bet a lifetime of Cheetos that it would be available to you at the ready for the rest of your natural life. It suddently isn't. And the replacement offered is Gawd-Awful.
2. Ok, really, this is the only change I want to discuss today. And here's why - learn at my mistakes!!!!! HAVE A BACKUP!!! Even if it's one you are entirely less passionate about, in a pinch it will do, and you'll have time to research again.

As it stands, no one but me will feel this for a very long time, which is a very good thing. And by the time someone else feels it, I'll have found the solution. Also a good thing. But I will know and go to sleep knowing that I comitted the classic rookie error. The manufacturing equivalent of not backing up your work on to hard copy. Hand slapped, suitably contrite for one night.