Today, we have a really special interview from Natasha Stoneking who recently opened the adorable online children’s boutique, Sugar Bit! I found Natasha’s blog a few years back when she was pregnant with her first baby and I instantly adored her and her impeccable style! As soon as she announced she was opening an online boutique, I was so excited and could not wait for it to open. Sugar Bit is so unique and stands out from other boutiques you may find. The brands she carries are highly sought after clothing and are the styles every mama wants to dress their child in. I am so very impressed! Natasha has really done a fabulous job with her shop, Sugar Bit, since opening in April of this past year! I am really excited to share her interview with y’all today. Natasha is an inspiration and I know you will appreciate and enjoy her story!
Q: Your blog has been a great source for all things relating to style, what was it that made you decide to open an online children’s boutique?
A: I always wanted to pursue a career in retail from the time I was sixteen when I landed my first job at our local shopping mall. I worked in retail throughout college—though my major was advertising and business—and always hoped I would circle back to the clothing/fashion industry. I have always been an avid online shopper, though my focus shifted once I became a mother to my two girls, Caroline and Carson. I found it difficult to find moderately priced boutique brands, and I wanted to offer our clientele a unique blend of well-known brands as well as newer collections to suit any and all tastes. Dressing babies and children is just way too much fun, and it has been a dream come true to help others shop for their little loved ones as well.
Q:From first thought to launch day, I know you had a lot on your plate. What have been some of the struggles you had to overcome?
A:Initially, the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was self doubt. With so much negativity out there, I was (and still continue to be) my biggest critic and I was terrified at how others would perceive this business that I worked so very hard to create. Other struggles I had to deal with included rude salespeople when discussing what I wanted my collection of brands to look like, finalizing our brand identity (which proved to be more tricky than I ever suspected because of my OCD/Type A personality), and of course, the budgeting and financial details…to put it simply, my background isn’t in finance or accounting, and as a one woman show, I have to do all of that myself, so learning QuickBooks was the biggest pain in the neck and I’m still not a fan, though I do a lot of clerical necessities myself to save money.
Q:I see that Sugar Bit is a family affair and that your husband and daughters play a big part in it. How do each of them help you with your business?
A:My daughters are absolutely the biggest inspiration behind my venture. Of course when I visit market on a purchasing trip, I am thinking about garments I would buy for them to wear, what baby items make great gifts for others to give, and what’s on trend for the children’s industry. Jeff, my husband and business partner, is my go-to guy for advice and guidance. He is a business owner himself and has completed a lot of start-up functions that I deal with on a daily basis, so he has been a tremendous help in so many areas, especially when it comes to keeping me on track and setting realistic goals for Sugar Bit.
Q:Building a business from the ground up is hard work. What is the one thing you have learned most from having a business?
A:There is no “normal” day when it comes to running your own business. Sometimes I’m up before the sun comes up fulfilling orders and packaging, and many nights are spent in my office once the girls go to sleep working on promotional activities, accounting functions, and so on. It is stressful and tiring, but at the same time, it is fulfilling and makes me overjoyed that I am able to do something I am truly passionate about.
Q:What do you enjoy most about operating and running Sugar Bit?
A:I love hearing from our customers…from them sending me emails telling me they love our packaging and handwritten notes to having them post their Sugar Bit outfits on social media, nothing makes me happier than seeing our customers pleased with their experience and returning to shop with us again. Superior customer service is so important to us and will always be a driving force for me to succeed.
Q:It is increasingly popular that women and mothers these days are taking leaps and are starting their own businesses; what advice do you have for moms who are aspiring to start their own business?
A:First of all, do your homework…don’t go too fast too soon. We launched our website in April of this year, though I started my business planning almost a year before that date. I read books, researched competitors, talked to other business owners for tips/tricks/advice, formulated a real strategic business plan/brand identity, and worked endless nights/days/weekends to make Sugar Bit everything I hoped it would be. A well thought out business plan has really helped us tremendously this first year.
Also, just because it might seem like the “cool” thing to do, owning a business isn’t for someone who likes to check in at 8AM and out at 5PM…that just won’t cut it with so many other similar businesses and endless competition in the industry. You have to go above and beyond and stay ahead of the competition.
My last bit of advice would be to stay positive…it’s more than likely not going to be an overnight success, you’re sure to lose some of your investment/money while you get things up and running, and there will be naysayers, but prove them wrong, focus on what you love doing, and most of all PRAY!
Q:What knowledge did you have prior to starting Sugar Bit that really helps you stay afloat?
A:I am an online shopper myself so I know the types of items I’m looking to purchase as a consumer…I’m aware of the trendy brands for babies and children and I am constantly on the lookout for how to make the most of my shopping budget each season. My background in marketing and advertising helps me relay promotional activities to our customers and friends and having experience in social media has helped grow our following fairly consistently during our first six months since we officially launched. In addition, I have been blogging for the past eight years and my Hello! Happiness followers have been huge supporters of Sugar Bit, which has been an incredible blessing as well.
Q: I know being a mother is a top priority for you; how have you balanced your family, business, and blog?
A:At the end of the day, anyone who knows me knows that family comes first…no ifs, ands, or buts about it. My parents instilled a hard-work ethic in me from an early age, and I was always enamored that my mom had a career, yet still made time for my extra-curricular activities and never missed any of the important stuff. I think it is extremely important to teach my daughters that you can have a career and still be an active and engaged mom. Some days are harder to juggle than others, but I am lucky that we have a nanny who helps with our girls so that I am able to work from home and still be present with them on a daily basis. In order to keep myself organized and on a schedule, I keep a planner and write down everything we have going on and make a daily to-do list to keep myself on track.
Q:Give us a little insight on how your average day runs while being a Mama and business owner.
A:Normally, I am up before the girls (around 6:30AM) starting my day, tidying up the house, making lunches on days where the girls go to school, and eating breakfast. Once the minis are up and at it, the real chaos starts…breakfast, getting dressed, and our morning routine. Alex (our nanny) arrives and then I head to my office to get my workday started. The first few hours usually consist of me returning emails, working on promotional activities, fulfilling orders, visiting the post office, and doing other miscellaneous business functions. On a good day, I will break away for a few so I can enjoy some playtime/lunch with the girls before their afternoon naps and then I head back to wrap up my work for the afternoon. Once Alex leaves, the girls and I usually play outside, take walks around the neighborhood, play kitchen, and cook dinner so we can eat when daddy gets home. Then we play upstairs in the playroom (AKA destroy it so I can clean it up later), watch TV, color, and then start our nightly bed routine. Once the girls go to bed around 8PM, Jeff and I usually work for a bit and then spend an hour or so watching TV together before I head to bed. It’s a crazy/busy/hectic “normal”, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Q: Natasha, you are incredibly good at what you do! That is evident in the styles you choose for your children’s boutique. Now, for fun, tell us your favorite places to shop for Mama styles!
A:Ohhh, this is a hard one. I have a so many stores that I shop at that it’s hard to narrow down. One day I will find something at a large, department store (Nordstrom and Dillards are my two favs), but others I’m at local boutiques snatching up fun pieces (Lizard Thicket, Francesca’s, Blush Boutique, Modcloth, Lulus and Shop Ruche are just a few of my go-to favorites). I’m also a bargain girl and always find goodies at Old Navy, Gap, Target, and Forever 21.
Thank you again for being here today and sharing your story and interview with our readers! I know you are such an inspiration for others and I really appreciate you being open about your new endeavor!