I’m Kristen Arnold and this is my blog.
You may be here because you have seen one of my videos, taken one of my training courses, bought one of my products, met me at a live event, stumbled upon me in the social networks, have been here reading my blog before or wonder why it looks like I never work because I’m always chasing my 4 kids.
What I hope you will get out of this blog and my various rantings is the tried and true tools and tutorials of how I get things done. What works, what doesn’t and everything in between. Running a business is hard work and there are a lot of pieces that most of us just flat out do not enjoy, but they have to get done.
I’m here to save you time & money while hopefully sparking some thoughts on how you can put pieces to work in your business.
So here’s the low down on me since you really want to know…
I went to college for Equine Industries, yes, I went to college to shovel sh*t but that’s really where I started getting my first lessons in business.
I’m a hard worker and I love to work so the physical labor never bothered me plus I love animals and somebody has to take care of them right?
While in college I had a job in a large barn off campus. I would be up at 4:30 a.m. to get to the barn, feed and do chores, before returning to campus for my 7 a.m. classes. Basically, I was putting up my shades to start my day and the kids across the hall were still drinking and playing video games from the night before. Yea, there were days that sucked but I would go back to the barn after classes were done for the day for evening chores and a good ride around the field would make it worth it.
During college I worked with therapeutic horseback riding and loved all the special kids I got to work with so after I graduated from Stockbridge, I worked the overnight shift in an autistic program with aggressive, non-verbal kids between the ages of 6 and 18.
During the day, I took additional “real” business courses at the local college because my father threatened me (in the most loving way) that I better do something after shoveling sh*t for 2 years. He even tried to pay me NOT to work where I needed to wear a jean jacket, hat, goggles, pads and get beat up, but I’m a tough cookie and I really did enjoy the kids.
Well, once I didn’t need to work overnights anymore, I switched to working days part time in the world of seniors with dementia. I was then promoted full time to open a new facility. Then I had another switch.. and it was a big switch to the corporate world. Totally selfish- I wanted to make more money and get better benefits but the biggest reason is I’m a person that needs challenges. Period.
If I’m not challenged, I grow bored quickly and if you have ever known anyone that struggles with dementia, you know that the entire day revolves around routine and keeping things consistent. So the big jump to corporate seemed like a good opportunity to switch it up and try something new.
Now, at this point I didn’t know how to use email, I didn’t use the internet at all, in fact, I didn’t even own a computer! Crazy enough, they still hired me! I still remember the day they said “We have no idea what you’ll be doing, but you’ll be doing something”.
My first day I was given the assignment of creating a world-wide online registration system to capture and track the training of 5000 employees around the world… huh? me? I don’t even know how to use email…
Good thing I like challenges. Long story short, I accomplished my goal (and got to do plenty of international travel) and moved up into a few new roles until I finally landed in the world of New Business Development. It was a great opportunity and learning experience to be on the inside of mergers and acquisitions of a fortune 500 company and I learned SOOOO much (but it’s all hush hush stuff so that’s all I can say about that).. and yes, my father was proud that I was finally using my business stuff for more then shoveling sh*t.
That’s where the next act of my life came into play.. it’s that whole “work/life balance” thing…
Working in the group that I did, my day often would start like this.. drop the baby at daycare, get to my desk, open a non-disclosure, call husband, head home to pack my bag, be on a noon flight somewhere.. tough to do with a baby but I did it, but then we had baby #2 on the way.
I had recently come back from maternity with a newborn that refused bottles.. (I know TMI.. ) but I got one of those envelopes on my desk and the destination was another international trip a LONG way from home.. I was sick to my stomach.
I’m thankful for a very generous co-worker who offered to go for me. I will be forever in debt to him for allowing me to stay close to home with a newborn.
Well, that’s when the world changed with September 11th 2001 . It took him a couple weeks to get home via planes, trains and all other transportation and all I could think of is “that would have been me.. “.. that’s when I knew it was time to make another change.
I became a “stay at home” mom…like that would last!
That’s where I discovered my entrepreneur mindset. I had been watching all these “mommy blogs” and reading about “mompreneurs” and when friends started telling to me sell my handmade baby gifts that I normally give as gifts I decided to give it a shot. Why not?
It gave me a new challenge (like staying at home with a toddler and a baby wasn’t enough of a challenge).
I had to learn how to create a website, how to efficiently produce more of my product, make sure that it was quality and wouldn’t fall apart. But it was more then that, I consulted with SCORE and the Center for Women and Enterprise- I met with lawyers and talked patents, trademark protection, labeling requirements, cotton that wouldn’t pill. I fussed for hours on end with how to put graphics on my website and figure out what a merchant account was and how to hook it up to my website and get the money into my back account, credit card security- all this STUFF.
Then I finally “opened” my website and guess what happened? nothing…
Okkkkkkkkk, now what? That was my first big lesson of an online business:
“Just because you build it DOESN’T mean they will come” – Kristen Arnold
So I went back to the mommy blogs and forums. That’s when I decided to do my first press release and try to go the wholesale route – after all, it would be easier to sell more to one person.
If you haven’t ever tried to sell a product wholesale to retail stores it’s not as easy as you think.
You get hung up on a LOT, you have to have an entire set of collateral printed and professional looking to show them when you DO get their attention, the $ numbers have to work and when your a small one person outfit like me, it’s REALLY hard to get your numbers to match what THEY want for numbers. But I kept on it- I made a spreadsheet of baby stores across the country and every day when the kids napped I would call, send out snail mail, send emails and at night I would sew and fill the few orders that trickled in from the website.
When the phone rang I was in disbelief- a major newspaper picked up on me and was coming for an interview.
Now, I have to tell you a secret..
When the reporter arrived and introduced herself as an intern, I didn’t have the best outlook on the possibilities of the article actually getting printed.
That brings us to a family trip to Maine a couple months later- now I have 3 small kids, 2 dogs and a 7 hour trip in a mini-van in July 4th traffic. My cell phone rang and it was someone wanting to place an order. In an excited panic I was searching for something to write an order with while cell reception was coming and going and I ended up writing the order with crayon on the back of an envelope. Then a couple of the retail stores that did take my product on called and said they had a line in the store and they were sold out, how quickly could I get more to them?
I was totally stumped how this was happening until my parents called to tell us that we were on the front page of the business section with a beautiful large color photo too.
More phone orders… all weekend.. my phone rang, orders came into my website, it was my first $10,000.00 weekend.
Excitement turned to fear when I started to look at the numbers.. after all, I was still buying my raw materials retail and sewing them myself.. how the hell was I going to fill these orders?
All I can say is thank goodness for Friends + Wine….
That’s where I really benefited from the viral component of my product, see 99% of people that bought my product were buying it as a gift- and it was unique, so when they gave it at a baby shower there were lot’s of people seeing it. I even had a customer that ended up buying one for each of the the women that was in her college sorority that had babies.
Well things hummed along ok for a while. I made a very large investment and even went to the biggest trade show in the juvenile industry. I got to know more about how the wholesale world works from the inside out but in terms of sales … I didn’t make any money.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing- looking back at the experience and what I learned in terms of the target market I was speaking with and learning their concerns and objections to the product, knowing what I know now, I would have really done things differently.
But I kept plugging along, I was featured in more magazines, more blogs and more sales.. but I was still struggling with the production and ended up hiring seamstresses and buying raw materials in bulk.. more trips to the post office and more learning curve when dealing with hired seamstresses. I even went as far as working through the quote process of overseas production and importing.
This is where I really fell down and skinned my knees, but it was a critical learning experience for me.
I was working IN my business and ON my business. It was David Rumsfield, the Secretary of Defense, that said;
“Think ahead. Don’t let day to day operations drive out planning”
but that’s just what I had done, I had let myself get buried in the nitty gritty details, balancing kids while filling orders and talking to customers, housekeeper, wife, business person… I tried to be super woman.
I realized I had a hobby that was paying me some cash (but not much after you take out the product costs) but I wasn’t looking at it as a business anymore because I was so caught up in the daily operations.
I wasn’t ready to give up on it, but I was hitting burn out- I was starting to resent how hard I was working, so hard, but I couldn’t tip my production scale so my margins were lower and I had more money going out then coming in.
Now, I had a husband that was doing his best to support my “entrepreneur dream” but bottom line, is we needed more income to the house.
I needed to find a JOB.
Do you know how hard it is to find a part time job in a down economy that is flexible and still pays enough to cover child care for the 3 young kids? It ain’t easy!
I wasn’t giving up on my business.. I was just struggling to get over the plateau I was in.
Everyone knows there are two ways to increase profit margin: you need to raise prices (wasn’t able to go that route) or you need to decrease material costs. In order to decrease my material costs, I needed to increase my volume to buy in higher bulk brackets.
Now, I had been using bloggers reviews, I had my product invited to celebrity baby showers, I was doing craft fairs, contacting retailers – I was even invited to the Boston State House to represent Women Entrepreneurs…. that’s me with the Lt. Governor and I proudly brought my father with me.
..and I was featured on Fox News.
but it all came back to this one simple fact.
If you don’t have traffic to your website your potential customers will not find you. Period.
That’s when I started getting obsessive with my learning.
I left the “mommy forums” and I moved into the “Internet Marketing” forums. I read everything I could get my hands on- I found who the leaders were and studied their work.
I joined my first paid forum, Lynn Terry’s forum, that gave me more insights and knowledge then I knew was possible from a forum. I learned about about affiliate marketing and the power of Twitter and started tweeting. I learned that Facebook was a tool not a time wasting past time and started up my account and got bullsh*t when I was “found” by the old grade school friends that think Facebook is only for playing Farmville.
There was another switch here within the house- my family couldn’t understand why I was spending all this time on the computer and not behind my sewing machine. To the point where I had my laptop hidden in my closet so I could fold laundry while reading or listening to videos about online marketing.
I was obsessed- it was an amazing world to me- blogging, ecommerce, search engine optimization, article marketing, information marketing, video, podcasting, social media..
I wasn’t searching for a silver bullet to make money from home in my underwear without actually working- I was looking for the REAL tactics that work to build traffic to your website and sell more product. I wanted to learn the real strategies of online marketing.
It was during this time that I discovered I really enjoyed the world of online marketing.
Another important note: now that my product was getting more exposure I found I had more and more women calling me and asking me HOW I did it- how did I start, they have this “idea” and they don’t know what to do next (confession: the ones that called my toll free number and asked me an hours worth of questions really ticked me off).
Since I was learning all these new strategies, tactics and business models, when people would call I’d love to talk about it but it was taking up countless hours every week and they would get the details they wanted and off they’d go.
That’s when I knew I needed to take a step back and look at the big picture and start thinking with the business view again.
- I needed to increase my volume/sales
- Serve my current customers better for more leverage
- Create a system
- What I really needed was some solid mentoring
Now, while I was reading everything about internet marketing there was one product that kept coming back to me- it was a product called Product Launch Formula.
It was the one course that seemed like it could really help me hit my business objectives and wasn’t selling the pie in the sky “how to make money from home” but I could actually USE it.
It was that training that I thought would allow me to push out of my plateau. So I made the investment, I took the chance.
I dove head first into the training and starting putting it work. I copied and pasted some of the emails and tweaked them for my product and had some small cash pops and was like.. whoa..
But you remember how I talked earlier about all the women that were calling me? Well- I decided to “launch” a new blog to answer questions and point people to.. after all, I had been reading about blogging so it was time to put it to work.
That’s when I “launched” Moms-Business-Coach.com.
I followed the “formula”, I got a seed list within 2 weeks of a few hundred women and from the back of the mini-van in rural Maine borrowing the internet connection from the library (that’s a whole new blog post story) and from there, I offered consulting, I offered low priced reports and quickly that blog was making more money then my eCommerce site was with a fraction of the work and digital products has A LOT better profit margin!! You make it once and you can sell it again, over and over, 24/7 with hardly any additional costs.
That’s when I decided to close shop- more knock-off’s of my product were hitting the market, the US was imposing new regulations and testing for child products and I just got to the point that I didn’t enjoy it anymore.
I had a few false wobbles in there- I hated to see “my baby” go away- I tried transitioning it to someone else, I tried selling it, all these wobbles led me to more lessons on EXIT strategies and planning … darn hindsight…
So I successfully launched my blog then I followed the second piece of advice- GET OUT TO LIVE EVENTS- meet people.. and since I had been active with social media, when I met people at live events, I felt like I already knew them and they knew me and we were able to talk about more then that awkward small talk.
I did just that and I met lots of AMAZING peeps and every one of them has influenced me, shared a piece of their knowledge and blessed my life in one way or another.
As I completed the training I felt like someone had hit me with a frying pan.
It simplified things- it clarified where I went wrong and where so many other people starting businesses go wrong- it showed me where I failed my business.
Note that I didn’t say my business failed.. I failed my business… I failed my customers.. and most of all, I failed my family that I was working so hard to try to add income and change our lifestyle.
I had listened to my business schooling, to what the business experts say, what I was pushed so hard to do when I visited the business expert consultations.
I was told I needed a business plan, I needed a financial forecast, I needed an executive summary. I spent months working on the things that did not build my business and were based on my own views and research of what I THOUGHT the market needed.
What did build my business was interacting with people, finding out what their needs, wants and desires were, what their problems were and then molding a solution out of my knowledge to fit their problem.
I wished that I had learned the real world of marketing vs. selling and what that entailed before I did.. hindsight is a bitch.
If I had followed the formula first I would have learned that it was about building a list of people who want to hear from you and the connection you have with them and that would lead to the real Field of Dreams/Kevin Costner quote we all love to recite
“If you build it they WILL come”
It’s attraction marketing vs push marketing – you build what they want instead of pushing products on them YOU think they need. That’s selling, not marketing.
So where does that leave me?
It’s when people started asking about hiring me for freelance work that I realized I may not be a “guru” – I fly behind the scenes most of the time, but I know I’ve created my own little “bucket” as Eben Pagen calls them.
If you are familiar with the Kolbe personality testing I’m one that is happiest when I’m able to scrutinize, define goals and tackle priorities, problem solve and use my specialized knowledge in broad applications (don’t fence me in or I run!) and of course, keep learning the entire time.
It was another great experience to see what was happening behind the scenes of businesses but it also allowed me to see what wasn’t working well behind the scenes. That’s what allowed me to create my program, Simple Affiliate Training, that shows people the step by step process for setting up an affiliate program, eliminates the need to hire an affiliate manager and let’s you automate most of the process.
I’ve spent years researching and learning the various pieces that go into REAL online marketing and how to become visible to people who WANT what you have.
I’m an expert in my own bucket..
I’m not a just a techy geek but I am often called “go go gadget girl” and I know how to code in html, install scripts, put up a blog and all the fancy pants stuff that goes with it and go ahead and ask me about membership software, I dare you.
I’m not an SEO expert but I know a LOT about search engine optimization, why and how you get search engines to visit your site and how to get to the top of search results.
I’m not a traffic expert but I know hundreds of ways to to get your website traffic stats skyrocketing and I only use “free traffic” and even created Beginners Guide To Website Traffic with plenty of step by step tutorials so anyone can do it.
I’m not a professional blogging expert but it’s personally one of my favorite tools of the online world because of the versatility, simplicity and endless options it gives you to integrate it into your business marketing strategy.
I’m not a social media expert but I know all the in’s and out’s of why every business should create a social media plan. I use these tools every day and teach people that it’s about more then telling the world what you had for lunch. I also know the leverage I have when I send out a tweet and the 10,000 people that are willingly following me on Twitter because they want to see my messages actually read what I have to say.
I’m not a business expert but I know the lifetime value of a customer, how you can maximize your business with less work.. AND if you are searching for a business model that will let you work from home scam free I know more options then you could put to work.
I’m not making millions of dollars working in my underwear everyday (at least as far as you know (wink)) but I do have nice checks that show up every month for work that I did once and it keeps paying me over and over.
I’m not a guru but I get to teach small groups of business owners how to make sense of the e-marketing world and put it work in their business at the Center for Women and Enterprise (and yes, men attend the classes too :)) and give back to the same organization that helped me get started on that entrepreneur path.
and one more thing,
Well, as luck would have it I was at a live event and had a brief conversation in passing with a couple guys in the hall, the stars aligned just right and now I get to work behind the scenes of that product and be a small part of the impact on hundreds of other entrepreneurs and business owners.
And my family now “get’s it”.. they don’t always know what I’m talking about when I get into my internet marketing gibberish, but they know the impact that is has had on us and that’s what really matters.
Pretty cool how things come around full circle sometimes huh?
So that’s my story..
I do endorse products on this blog. These products are ones that I have personal experience with. Some of these may be affiliate links, which means if you purchase the product a percentage of that goes towards paying for the “housekeeping” such as hosting fees, etc. That said, I never recommend a bad product. I stand behind what I say and promote!