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Banks Don’t Fund Dreams

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BooJee Beads™.  Strange name, right? That was the first thing that caught my attention when I came across this little jewel of a company.  After checking out their website and realizing how many of our readers would be interested in this product, I decided they would be our next featured article.

Kimberly Martinez and Lisa Harrington are co-founders of this strangely named company.  Let me tell you how they started and then I’ll tell you about the name.  Lisa Harrington was working as a registered pediatric nurse and, as we all know, nurses have to wear name tags that come on ugly lanyards; it’s in the fine print.  Not being satisfied with the plain and the drab, she decided to start making her own and selling them to other employees in the lunch room.  After a while, she had a good little business going on the side when she introduced her sister-in-law, Kimberly Martinez, to her jewelry.

“I lost my job after September 11th; with three kids under the age of three and in my 40’s, as I walked out the door, I knew my days of working for ‘The Man’ were behind me.”

Kimberly didn’t know what she was going to do but knew she had to fulfill her dream of being an entrepreneur.  She says she spent a lot of time looking into Subway franchises and the like but nothing really struck her as being what she wanted.  So, she sat down, figured out what she wanted her life to look like, where she wanted to live, analyzed the entire picture from a holistic standpoint, and decided she wanted to have a business that would allow her all the things she wanted.

Kimberly was looking for a career that would allow her to move back to Florida, to travel internationally, and give her the freedom to do what she wanted to do and not what she was told.  She went to a holiday party back in 2002 and that’s when her Lisa, her sister-in-law, introduced her to her beaded necklaces.  The business idea struck Kimberly as what she had been looking for.

“I stayed up all night, jacked up on Christmas cookies, and wrote out a business plan on the back of a Christmas card.  I told Lisa to quit her job as a nurse because we could do this.”

Getting started was fairly easy for Lisa and Kimberly because they knew exactly who their target market was: Lisa herself.  They came up with a list of other industries where employees would like the products; like: teachers, women who work in corporate offices, the transportation industry, flight attendants, and hospital workers.  Because hospitals were their primary target, they had a great background for the safety design of their products.  The whole thing got rolling from there.

“Employee’s want ID’s when they go to conferences but people don’t like the ones from big stores like Home Depot.  They want something nice and not orange and ugly.”

Kimberly is prone to giving everyone a nickname and the one she gave to her youngest son is BooJee.  Kimberly and Lisa decided to call the new company BooJee Beads™; they admit there is no real meaning to the term and point out that Big Mac didn’t exactly mean cheeseburger in the ’50’s either.

BooJee Beads™ is now in their 8th year of business after starting immediately after that fateful Christmas party.  Lisa Harrington acts as the design and manufacturing officer, handles international manufacturing, and still designs all of the products.  With her nursing background, she keeps a close eye on safety including adding a magnetic clasp to prevent breaking or strangulation and they can even hold up to 6 pounds of weight.  Kimberly is the CEO and runs the rest of corporate, which, from the sounds of it, can be pretty stressful.

“We imported our products from China and neither of us had any experience doing that whatsoever.  Our very first down payment was for a wire transfer for $60,000.  The day we pushed the send button on the wire, we had a sinking feeling in our stomachs.”

Not only did Lisa and Kimberly have to worry about quality issues with products from China but they had no experience with international orders so it was very frightening.  It turned out to be a great experience because now, BooJee Beads products are made by “women bead artists around the world in our mission to create economic opportunities and personal empowerment for women in disadvantage economies.”

You’re probably wondering where two ladies got that large down payment and so was I.  Kimberly told me that they drained their savings accounts, maxed out their credit cards, and sought funding from the FFF’s (friends, family, and fools, she says with a laugh).  Trying to start a business in our country’s current economy is risky but Lisa and Kimberly took that to the extreme by putting every last penny they had into their business.

“Banks don’t fund dreams.  Banks will loan you money against collateral or assets that they can take if you don’t make it.  They will only loan you as much as they can take back if you fail.”

Kimberly points out that credit lending today is not what it used to be.  She mentions that roughly 75% of job growth and creation comes from small business and that credit markets are stifling the populace that are out there taking risks and trying to grow businesses.  She also mentions that small business in the U.S. accounts for roughly 50% of our nation’s GDP.

With all the difficulty, and stress, and tenacity that goes along with getting a business off the ground, I asked Kimberly to tell me about her Ah Hah moment.  You know, the moment when the business owner/entrepreneur sits back and finally breaths and says, “I did it.”  She gave me a long silence.

“I think it was our 3rd year in business.  We did just under $2 million in sales.  Women own half the businesses in the U.S. but less than 4% ever reach the million dollar market sales.  When we hit that level of revenue, I said, ‘Yeah!  Who’s better than us?’”

95% of BooJee Beads’ customers are women but they do carry some products for men.  They sell primarily in the U.S. and Canada but have sent their products to people around the world; including Australia, England, Southern Europe, and they launched internationally at Spring Fare in the U.K. about 4 years ago.

With only 15 employees, they have their work cut out for them but Kimberly says the hiring of the initial employees was a life saver.  She feels that that was one of the best things they did; she knew they would get burnt out doing all the little things and not running the company so they enlisted help in the beginning.  Kimberly and Lisa didn’t take any money from their business for a year or two either.  She says that waiting so long was a big mistake.  Now, she tells women that if they want to work for free, they should join the PTO.

Of course, Kimberly couldn’t tell their company story with out giving some credit to the CountMeIn organization.  She says they’re an amazing group, not for profit, and their mission is to inspire women to grow their business.  CountMeIn, who was co-founded by American Express, had a pitch-your-business competition.  BooJee Beads gave it a shot.  The audience selected 10 winners at a time.  It was sort of American Idol meets The Apprentice.  The audience voted that BooJee Beads would hit the million dollar market.  Kimberly says the endorsement from American Express really kind of turbo charged it.

“The first thing you have to do is figure out what you want your life to look like and then the process for figuring out your business gets easier.  Age has nothing do with it.  The way I see it, you can be 45 years old and be a what you want or you can be 45 years old and wish you were.”

 

 

BooJee Beads™ has even started a sister site that Kimberly calls a natural transition.  They are now selling eyeglass holders on the retail site.  You can order BooJee Beads from the website (www.boojeebeads.com) or order wholesale.  Kimberly Martinez is a contributing author to the national bestselling novel, The Next Big Thing.  You can find it on Amazon.com’s best seller list.

April 20. 2011 by Staff Writer Lacy Sereduk.  NetworkingStar.com All rights reserved 2011

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