Jul 30, 2009

Turning Green Into Gold

Background

Lillian and Adam Cannon are a happy family of five. They’ve spent years looking for the best products for their children. Like many other parents, going with green choices for their children was a priority for the Cannons. They’ve tried all cloth diapers available on the market to make their best selection. And when you have learned so much, why not share it with other parents and help them choose the perfect products for their children?

Lillian and Adam decided to open their own baby product store. An online version seemed the most appealing for them: less start-up costs and the flexibility so needed for a family with three small children. Today people buy more and more online, but deciding to make the switch to cloth diapering can be intimidating, so the couple also does in-person consultations.

Assistance Provided

Starting a business can be overwhelming. The Cannons decided to seek assistance at the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Their consultant provided an overview of the start-up process and guided them through online resources available for small business owners. Furthermore, the Cannons were advised on starting an e-commerce business and how to market it.

The Cannons rushed to get going and as early as in January of 2009, three months after the initial meeting the website was up. Their consultant was at their side to provide ongoing advice: how to improve the website, how to develop financial projections, what software to choose for bookkeeping, what’s new on the regulatory side. Lillian was full of questions and very appreciative that her consultant was always ready to address her concerns, and direct and support her on her way to success. It was also important that Lillian could receive assistance via e-mail correspondence and telephone conversations. Their consultant’s moral support and cheerleading was instrumental in helping them push through the many difficulties facing a new business.

The Cannons were able to start the business with their own money, investing $10,000.00 to cover their start-up and inventory expenses. As the business grows the family is looking for other financing options. The client and consultant are currently working to identify potential funding sources to finance the company’s expansion.


Result

Business picked up fast - maybe too fast - and created some growth challenges: how to finance, how to select inventory, how to find enough time to learn and run a business and still be a loving mom and wife. March 2009 sales were well over $3000, doubled in May, and are now on track to hit $10,000. With their consultant’s advice, the family coped with the challenge and the further growth became less intimidating: with bookkeeping software in place, Adam is able to take care of the orders, the website is being constantly updated and product line continues to grow.

The online store is up and running, Lillian provides free in-person consultations and the family is thinking about expanding into manufacturing. They are exploring an opportunity to bring their own cloth diapers to the market. They have already identified an overseas manufacturer and are looking forward to continuing their work with the SBDC on this project.

Though Pittsburgh Cloth Diapers is only a few months old, they are already working on building their name in the community. They donate to local parenting organizations such as the La Leche League and The Midwife Center, and are producing a Pittsburgh diaper and donating part of the sale proceeds to The Midwife Center.

“As a busy mom of three and small business owner, I don’t have time to research every problem and issue. Svitlana has been there helping me every step of the way. Thank you! ”
- Lillian Cannon

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