Monday, September 19, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Mary Katherine "MK" Alderman of Studio 9:05

I am always on the lookout for great giftable items to give to family and friends.  I try and seek out handmade items that really show the person how much they mean to me.  So, when I stumbled upon studio 9:05, I knew I had to spotlight the creator of this amazing and fun giftable product line, Mary Katherine "MK" Alderman.  What I love most about MK's style is how she uses playful vintage photos in creating her product line, which includes notecards, sunshades, invitations, coozies, stickers and coasters.

Click here to check out MK's online store and see her amazing creations for yourself.  And, don't forget to come back to my blog on Friday when I will be reviewing a set of notecards MK sent my way.  One lucky winner will win this notecard set for themselves.

In the meantime, please enjoy my Spotlight on Mommy interview with MK.

Name: Mary Katherine "MK" Alderman
Company Name/Product/Service: Studio9:05, LLC/Vibrant, fresh, giftable items for everyday use.
Company Location: Raleigh, NC
Company Website:
Twitter Handle: @studio905
Age of Company: 1 year, 3 months.
Favorite Inspirational Quotes: "Everyone who carved their own path fought through brush in the beginning." - Myself 
"The biggest mistake people make in life is not trying to make a living at doing what they most enjoy." -Malcolm Forbes
Favorite Book: I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson--When I was working as an outside sales rep a few years ago, I spent a lot of time on the road and developed a secret passion for books on tape. This was one of the first books I listened to and it resonated with me so deeply, I just absolutely fell in love with it. A few months later, I found a signed copy in the $2 book bin at Goodwill! I have read it more times than I can count and just recently found out that they made it into a movie! You can bet I'll be the first in line for a ticket!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc. 

I am married to my wonderful husband Billy and we have one child, our son Ian who will be 3 in December. We also have a 2-year-old English Bulldog named Roxie who has commandeered the couch as her own. I love coffee and savor quiet mornings reading the paper. I find the creative process to be cathartic and necessary for my self-fulfillment.

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about? 

Studio9:05 began as a sense of quiet desperation I had unknowingly incubated during my years in the corporate world. I worked 50 hours/week and allotted no time for self-reflection or self-development. My creative side had been quelled for too long and I began searching for an outlet for my creative energy. Although my work schedule didn't allow for much activity outside my primary duties, I made time during lunch breaks and after Ian went down for bed to draft a business plan and create a savings schedule that would give us the necessary financial cushion to pursue my own venture. In the spring of 2010, I partnered with a dear friend to start Studio9:05. We were able to gain immediate business by offering identity design to indie businesses and worked consistently to research potential suppliers and develop a comprehensive product line. By the spring of 2011, I took the jump off the corporate cliff and set up an official LLC for Studio9:05. Soon after, my friend and I decided amicably to go our separate ways: her company's focus is on identity & marketing collateral design and I am focusing on bringing the Studio9:05 product line to retail and wholesale markets. 

What is a typical work day like? 

Typically, I wake up around 6:30AM and check my emails (some of my suppliers are overseas and their emails come through at odd hours). I then get to have a somewhat leisurely breakfast with my son before I take him to pre-school. I work from about 9AM-5:30PM M-F and usually get an additional hour or two of work done in the evenings. I am working more hours/week now than I was at my corporate job--but the difference is, I look forward to each day. It doesn't feel like work anymore. I keep my weekends free for family time.

What has been a struggle while starting up your company? 

The primary struggle has been learning to be a jack-of-all-trades. I am juggling almost every task associated with the business including design and product development, purchasing, supply chain management, sales & marketing, and shipping. The only task I outsource is my bookkeeping--and that is done on an hourly basis by my accountant/college roommate. Often it feels like there are not enough hours in the day. My to-do list seems to grow at a much faster rate than I can cross things off!

What did you do in your past work life?

I graduated from North Carolina State University  (GO PACK!) with a BS in Business Management and a concentration in Finance. In my past work life, I worked as an outside sales representative for a Fortune 500 Supply Chain & Logistics firm. I gained invaluable skills in sales, purchasing negotiations, and logistics during my time there.

What have been some of your major successes? 

I'm still waiting for that "major" success, but when I look back at everything I have achieved just in the past three months, it's kind of mind-blowing. From teaching myself how to utilize Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to pulling together a comprehensive product line, developing a brand new website, and designing a completely new brand identity (all on my own!), I realize I have made tremendous strides since I decided to move full-time into my indie business. All of these milestones have been incredible accomplishments for me and as I position Studio9:05 for the wholesale market, I am really excited to move forward.

What have been some of your major challenges? 

It has been a challenge to try and complete everything as a one-woman show. Sometimes I feel like I'm in that scene from Willy Wonka when he is coming down the stairs in the chocolate factory--taking a few steps forward and a few steps back--eventually he makes it to the bottom of the stairs but it took him an awful long time! That's how I feel by mid-week every week if I still have most of the items left on my to-do list. It can be very frustrating when I feel like I'm not completing things as quickly as I should. I generally go into overdrive at that point and push through until I'm done. 

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

I switch from strategic to tactical mode and just move forward one task at a time. The big picture can be both inspirational and daunting--being able to focus on the task at hand is what keeps the engine in drive. 

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

Communication and prioritization. If I communicate my schedule to my husband ahead of time, he knows what to expect and there are no surprises. We both know that it takes an awful lot of work to get a business off the ground, but we also agree that it's vital to set time aside as a family and as a couple. This very issue was the inspiration for my "Life Lessons" coaster set--particularly the design stating "Make time for quality time."

What is next for your business? 

The next step for Studio9:05 is the wholesale market. My time from August to October will be largely focused on marketing to stores and developing relationships with regional wholesale reps. I hope to exhibit at at least two large tradeshows in 2012 as well.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business? 

First and foremost, make sure your finances are in order before taking the leap. You need to make sure that your personal debts are taken care of before burdening your family with additional business startup costs. Once things are squared away on the financial front, my best advice is to go for it--hard and strong. Do not waver from your ultimate goal and don't let naysayers throw you off your path. Use your pre-launch planning period wisely--research suppliers, research competitors, price your products appropriately from the beginning and create a sales strategy ahead of time. There are lots of great indie business communities on the web devoted to educating new business owners in everything from pricing strategies to PR to sales tactics. (I highly recommend by Sarah Shaw, by Megan Auman and by Megan Auman & Tara Gentile--two veterans of the indie crafter/maker industry.) But above all, just remember that the juice is worth the squeeze.

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