I teach online store owners how to crack the code of eCommerce success for a life of uncapped income, flexibility and fun.
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Katie Basson is President of Birch Tree Promotions, a company she founded in her kitchen in 2006. Birch Tree Promotions provides branded promotional material for companies of all sizes, and she’s delivered everything from pens to Patagonia jackets to happy customers, complete with their logo and branded messages. The company has grown from a one-woman show to the employer of six talented women in Newburyport, Massachusetts, a small town north of Boston in the northeastern part of the U.S.
There’s nothing like an inspiring story to give you a little encouragement. From time to time, I’ll be sharing my talks with women who have worked hard to grow their home businesses into a big success. Maybe you’ll recognize a little bit of yourself in them!
Jodie Minto: How did you get your start as an entrepreneur?
Katie Basson: When my second son was born, my older son was very jealous. He started acting out, so I came up with this behavior modification system where he had a necklace with these coins. When he behaved well, he could earn a new coin for his necklace right on the spot. It was a cute system that really worked, and friends and neighbours all wanted one. So I had a manufacturer make a bunch to sell. It was a huge investment, and it ultimately failed because it took a lot of teaching to show people how to use the educational psychology behind it.
So with that loss and people to support, I needed a job. I took one as an office manager for a guy running a local promotions company. It was just the two of us, sourcing products and having them branded for clients. Eventually I became the sales manager, did presentations, and helped build that business to one with several employees and $1.2 million in revenue.
So when the company’s owner wanted to expand and have me head a new division, I asked for a full partnership.
And he fired me.
JM: So what did you do?
Katie: I sat, stunned, at my kitchen table at 2 a.m., with my family asleep upstairs. And I thought I wonder if I could do this myself? I knew every aspect of that company.
And then I looked out the window, and the only thing visible in the dark was this beautiful birch tree, lit up by the moon. And I said, If I did start my own company, I would call it Birch Tree Promotions.
So I opened my laptop and checked the domain name, and it was available. I bought it on the spot.
JM: Wow. Was it hard to strike out on your own?
Katie: The very next day, I got a call from a woman who was the V.P. of our biggest customer, and she wanted to know what happened and why I had been fired. She knew right away that this was about the money, and she vowed to bring her business along to my new company. She also made some calls and got other customers for me, too, so I had a client base right out of the gate.
I never forgot that, how a woman saw through what was happening — I’m sure she’d had experiences with men who were her boss at some point, too. She gave me support, and now I’m very committed to supporting other women by offering flexible work and hours in my own business. All of my employees are women, and I believe strongly in offering other women those opportunities.
JM: Is it hard to balance working at home and your family time?
Katie: Whenever I find the time, I open up my computer and knock out some work. I cobble together an eight-hour day while the boys are at school and in the evenings. I always try to answer my emails within an hour, which provides a high level of service, but I do get some pushback on that from my family when they feel like I’m always “on”.
The flexibility to run my days however I want is great; the big challenge is not feeling like I can focus for a good, long time. I’m always jumping in and out of tasks, and I feel like it’s ruining my short-term memory. I’d love to be able to switch gears less.
JM: What advice would you give to someone starting a new home business?
Katie: Make your web presence as professional looking as you can. Lots of initial judgments are made from that first click.
JM: Is there anything you wish someone had told you about life as an entrepreneur?
Katie: Hmm. I wish someone had told me how uncomfortable the risk feels. It’s hard to go from a steady paycheck to the unknown. Being your own boss sounds ideal, but it takes long hours, and you just don’t know what’s going to come your way. You have to learn to live with the risk, and even embrace it if you can.
Have you got a success story you would like to share like Kate Basson? We’d love to hear from you and feature your story on one of our blog posts. Get in contact with us here.
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