Monday, May 9, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Joan McLaughlin of Black and Gold Sweets

Last month I featured Black and Gold Sweets products as part of my Gift Giving Ideas for Mother's Day.  If you missed my post, click here to read it now.  Today, I wanted to share my interview with the creator of these tasty treats.  Enjoy!

Name: Joan McLaughlin
Company Name/Product/Service: Black and Gold Sweets
Company Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Company Website:
Facebook URL: none
Twitter Handle: @ none
Age of Company: 2 years

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How many children do you have? What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.
I recently retired from 22 years of working for the Pittsburgh Public Schools in administration.  I starting working full-time after my husband had many layoffs in the 1980s and the children were off to school and didn’t need me home as much.  Our 3 children – Amy 36, James 34, Colleen 31 – are all married and Amy has 2 children and James (J.R.) has 1.  I enjoy crocheting while watching TV or riding on long trips.  I am also active in two choirs, one with church and the other is semi-professional where we hire out to groups for entertainment.  The music is very therapeutic for me, since I am a frustrated vocalist.  American Idol didn’t exist when I was growing up!!

Briefly explain your business. How did it come about?

I started making candy as a hobby after taking classes at the local YWCA.  As I started to think about retirement, I knew that I did not want to go back to another office and I also wanted to be flexible enough to travel without having time constraints from an organization.  Over the years I had many people purchase my products and it just seemed like a good idea for retirement

What is a typical work day like?

I really can’t say that I have a typical day.  Since last fall I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, there are many days of treatments or doctor appointments.  I have limitations due to arthritis as well.  Therefore, I just take each day as it comes and treasure it.

What has been a struggle while starting up your company?

For me the biggest struggle is marketing.  I know what I want to do, but execution sometimes doesn’t follow so well. 

What did you do in your past work life?
I have been in business over the past 40 years in many ways.  My first job was in a bank where I went from bookkeeping to teller to secretary to the president.  Most of the work I did was clerical, but I also have done direct sales for a jewelry company and assisted pro bono individuals trying to learn computers.

What have been some of your major successes?

I think my biggest success was raising my children to be independent individuals with successful careers.  There is nothing more gratifying to a parent than to know that you have successful children who have made good choices in life. 

What have been some of your major challenges?
One of my biggest challenges was waiting until I was 40+ to go to college.  It was difficult to try to balance work, home and school all at the same time.  Satisfaction was in the achievement of the diploma.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?

My faith.  I believe that we must stay positive even when there’s a bump in the road.  My cancer has not stopped my husband and I from enjoying our friends, going out to dinner, or traveling to see the children.  God knows when he wants me and until then I will keep living life.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?

This is fun, more than a business.  I make my own hours and only take on what I can actually accomplish.

What is next for your business?

If anything, I’d like to be able to get some of my products in a local community store.  I believe that once the items are tasted they will sell themselves.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?
Never give up on a dream.  If you have the talent, keep trying to perfect it.  There are many people out there that want handmade items particularly.  The hardest part is not underpricing yourself.

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