With the holidays fast approaching and people beginning to do their holiday shopping, I wanted to share this week's Spotlight Mom, Tally Oliveau, with you all, in hopes that it may help with buying gifts for family and friends so much easier and less time consuming for busy moms like myself. Tally created iCardMall, a digital gift card mall. Now, I know what you are thinking? Aren't gift cards a little impersonal? Well, why not ask the thousands of people who head to the stores the days and weeks after the holidays to return gifted items that they either didn't want or couldn't use/wear? And, what about the time it took you to figure out what to eventually get each person on your shopping list? Add these two times together and you will see how Tally's iCardMall.com is so much easier, and will make for just the right gift this upcoming holiday season.
How does it work?
"Buying gift cards is now more convenient and stylish than ever. At iCardMall.com you can easily send a personalized e-gift card directly to anyone in the U.S. with an email address. Simply choose the card, personalize and send. It's that simple. "
For me, I get excited when I receive gift cards for myself and my family at the holidays, as I have lists of things that my family wants/needs, and love being able to pick out just the right item -- so, as not having to spend time returning and buying what was wanted in the first place. When I first learned about Tally's online e-gift card store, I was eager to try it out for myself and see not only what it was about, but also see how easy it would be to buy and send e-gift cards. What would the selection of retailers be? Would I be able to find one that my family likes? Head back here on Friday, when I will share more about my personal experience with Tally Oliveau's site, iCardMall and give one lucky reader a chance to win a $25 e-gift card to the restaurant of their choice.
But, in the meantime, please enjoy my Spotlight on Mom interview with Tally Oliveau of iCardMall.
Name: Tally Oliveau
Company Name/Product/Service: iCardMall.com
Company Location: Los Angeles, CA
Company Website: www.icardmall.com
Twitter Handle: @icardmall
Age of Company: 18 months
Favorite Inspirational Quotes: "The only thing wrong with making a mistake is not learning from it. If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough. Perfection Prevents Possibility. Those who have never failed are those who have never done anything."
Favorite Book: Way too hard to choose: anything by Anne Rice, Amy Tan or Toni Morrison
I am a serial entrepreneur - one of the few women in the high tech world of internet startups, and I like that this makes me unusual. I've been on both sides of the fence: I've been both a stay at home mom and a working mom, and they are both extremely difficult. There is no right answer, there's only a right answer for you and your family. I have three amazing kids: Ben (M), who is almost 12, Ariel (F), 10, and Gabriella (we call her Gabi) (F), 5.
In addition to being an entrepreneur, I am also an artist. I do collage and mixed media art, and also had a book published in 2010 about an assemblage project I organize with artists all over the country to create artistic, assemblage doll houses. It's called "Mixed Media Dollhouses". What is "mixed-media"? It just means that I can't seem to limit myself to paint when I create my art, I also like adding paper, metal, fabric, wire, beads and who knows what else! You can see my artwork on my Pinterest site.
Briefly explain your business. How did it come about?
iCardMall is a digital gift card mall. So, instead of going to your local grocery store to buy a gift card, you can just open your browser and purchase it online. The added value at iCardMall is not just the convenience of online shopping, but you are able to combine all of our gift cards with an eGreeting card, making the delivery not only instant, but also stylish, artistic, and heartfelt.
We also have the ability to add your own photo or your corporate logo to our eGreetings when you send an eGift card. For families, you can add your family photo to the eGreeting. For a corporation, this makes the perfect corporate thank you or referral gift. If you send a plastic card with a customized greeting card, that greeting card was probably pretty expensive (we only charge $0.99), it takes a long time to put it all together, you still have to pay for postage, and then, worst of all, your customer will take the plastic gift card out and throw away your paper greeting card. With our product, every time they open their gift card, they will see the corporate logo there and remember who it came from.
I started in the gift card business because I just love gift cards. I was a SAHM, and I was packaging a nice gift card for a friend who just had a baby. There were no greeting cards that would hold a gift card nicely. So, I created one, and the engineer in me said: "You are jerry rigging one mass consumer product for another mass consumer product, you might have something here!" To make a long story short, I was awarded my patent for a greeting card with a gift card holder in 2010. When I heard about digital gift cards, I knew that just because the gift cards were electronic, that didn't mean they needed to look like a boarding pass! They should also be delivered in a stylish, heartfelt way. So, I now have several more patents pending on the digital versions of my greeting card/gift card combo.
What is a typical work day like?
CRAZY! I take two of my three kids to school, then I head straight to the gym. I like to exercise every day because it maks my body feel (and look) good, and I think better on days that I do physical activity. The rest of every day is completely different every day. I definitely spend a lot of time in front of the computer, managing sales, doing a lot of sales and marketing, planning and strategy, and meeting with partners, both in person and on the phone. I love working from home, because I am home when my kids get home from school. I have help now, three days a week, which is a life saver. I usually take time out in the late afternoon or after dinner to help the kids with homework and eat dinner with my kids. I typically spend one evening a week attending a networking or business event outside my office. I fit grocery shopping in - usually when we're out of milk!
What has been a struggle while starting up your company?
Getting those first few partners to work with a small startup. There is a lot of trust that needs to be built, and understandably, larger companies have concerns about small startups. The other struggle is getting consumers to know about iCardMall. We have almost no budget for advertising, so we have to be super creative in finding ways for the public out there to know about us!
What did you do in your past work life?
For ten years, prior to having my first child, I was an environmental engineer. I specialized in soil and groundwater investigation of sites contaminated with hazardous waste. By the time I left when I had Ben, I was VP and running the engineering division. What made me successful there was no being a good engineer, but being good at sales and marketing.
What have been some of your major successes?
I am so grateful for the amazing success we've had at iCardMall. The biggest hurdle was actually creating the website, which is not only beautiful, clean and easy to use, but also secure. Another great success was developing our own API so that other eCommerce platforms and affiliates can connect with us.
What have been some of your major challenges?
Our biggest challenge is definitely budgetary constraints for advertising.
On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
I truly believe in what I'm doing. There are plenty of dark days as an entrepreneur in a small startup. I just don't want to close the door the day before the right window gets unlocked.
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
The secret to balance is.....there is no balance. It's simply important to prioritize properly, and family is always a priority.
What is next for your business?
We are really excited for the upcoming holiday season! We have spent the past 9 months building great pieces to both our consumer facing website and our B2B business, we are looking to really make what we've already built more robust.
Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?
If you have something you really believe in, do it. Always saying "what if?" is much worse than failure. Don't make decisions based on fear of failure, make decisions based on facts, research and dreams. The risk will always be there, if it was easy, everyone would do it. Know that it will be harder than you ever imagined, but more enriching to your life than you ever imagined.
I have the same mentality when I travel and want to buy something. I'm much more upset at the thing (whatever it may be) that I didn't buy and left all the way back in whatever country I was in, than I am upset about "wasting" money on something I did buy and ended up not liking or not using. That rarely happens anyway!