Julie Cole, Co-founder of Mabel's Labels and a busy mama of six, shares her entrepreneurial journey and will inspire you with her business advice!
What motivated and inspired you to start this business/choose this profession...how did you come up with this idea?
There were two main reasons Mabel’s Labels came to life. The first was that we had a great product idea. We noticed there was a product missing from the market and like many clever moms, if it doesn’t exist, we might as well create it! Our great idea nagged away at us until we couldn’t ignore it any longer. Another catalyst for starting Mabel’s Labels for me was that around the time that we were considering launching our business, my eldest child was diagnosed with autism. I decided that it would be best for me to leave the traditional workforce (I’m a recovered lawyer) and pursue a career that would offer a little more flexibility so I could better manage my son’s therapy program. 14 years later, I’m delighted to report that both Mabel’s Labels and my son have THRIVED!
What steps did you take to get things done during the start‐up process?
First of all, we had a great mindset. Our business was not treated like a hobby, but a business. As such, we created a business plan, marketing plan, and delegated the to-do list among the business partners. Being able to divide and conquer the start-up duties contributed to our early growth. There is so much to get done in those early days. If you have business partners, don’t forget to draft a Shareholders Agreement. You want to make sure you get all your business in order while everyone is still friends!
What has been the most effective way(s) to create awareness of your business/brand?
Without question, word of mouth has been our most powerful tool. Our market is moms, and we know moms! Moms don’t tend to trust traditional advertising, but do trust their mom influencers. We launched years before social media existed, but once social media arrived, we were quick adopters. We knew that it would be a vehicle for word of mouth – now moms could talk about our products in their online communities, in their blogs, on the Facebook pages and Pinterest boards. By creating an amazing product and an engaged community, our brand awareness has been exceptional.
What you love most about your job/company/journey?
There are many scary things about starting a business – this is not for those who are risk adverse. However, the benefits are many. I have had some much needed flexibility while raising my six kids. I also love working hard on something that I created. There is so much energy and rush in being an entrepreneur. I would also say the best parts of this journey has been the people – it has been so enjoyable to work closely with my business partners, our amazing staff and our loyal community of customers. Business IS about relationships.
What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made for your business?
Sacrifice is about perspective. I don’t see things as sacrifices as much as I see them as investments. I suppose in the traditional sense the biggest sacrifice I’ve made is sleep! I’d suggest that if sleep is a priority, then I would not recommend starting a business and having six babies!
What is/has been your biggest struggle aka mountain to climb and how you deal with it?
A difficulty with a growing business is that as soon as you get comfortable understanding where your business is, it grows and it’s needs change. You have to get very comfortable with being uncomfortable when you are a business owner.
Your favourite quote
My favourite quote and definition of success are the same thing. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it” - Maya Angelou
Great business advice you received when you were starting out?
We got so much advice when we started out – everyone has opinions. I’m not sure that there is any one gem that sticks with me, but if I were to give advice, this is what I would say:
- If you have a spouse, make sure they completely understand and support your start-up. Working long hours for no money for years on end can be a deal breaker for some people. Make sure everyone has eyes wide open about the impact starting a business will have on your family.
- Invest in your staff. You are nothing without a great staff team. Hire people for culture fit, hire people smarter than you and make sure you fill talent gaps. Get the right people on the bus. Hire slow, fire fast. A bad employee can cost you a lot of money and damage team morale.
What is the best thing about your workspace?
Our workspace is not fancy, but it is fun and funky. I love the way the Mabel’s Labels headquarters FEELS. Best thing about the workspace? The people in it!