I started a business with a baby: Andreea Ayers of Product Marketing Breakthrough

Andreea Ayers started her extremely successful business Tees For Change in 2006 when pregnant with her first child. (And when I say extremely successful, I mean that she sold over 20,000 t-shirts in over 300 stores worldwide!). Andreea is now teaching other entrepreneurs how to launch and grow profitable product-based businesses.

Later today she’s releasing part 3 of her free training course Product Marketing Breakthrough. You can sign up and join in here. Over to you Andreea:

“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but somewhere between high school and college I convinced myself that life would be ‘safer’ and I would be ‘better off’ if I went on to work for a prestigious company. After graduating with a degree in Business and Marketing from Cornell University, I spent the next few years working for many prestigious companies and organizations in NYC, including McKinsey & Company, Citibank, W Hotels and New York University.

Even though I worked for some great companies and learned a lot, I had always wanted to start my own business.  I had dabbled in running my own business (including knitting hats and selling them in college or setting up candy machines around the water cooler at one of my ‘office’ jobs) and there was something about it that I really enjoyed. Whether it was actually knitting the hats or buying the candy, I felt like I had actually created something from nothing – simply because I had an idea that I wanted to try out.

Soon, I realized that I had to start my own business, so I did what I knew best – marketing and market research. I set up a consulting business and started working with clients to help them with their online marketing (some of my clients included SpaFinder, The Leading Hotels of the World and Ideal Bite).

Then in 2006 I became pregnant with my first baby. While I was taking a prenatal yoga class at a local studio I felt inspired to start a new business. But this time, it would be a product-based business (t-shirts), rather than a service-based business (marketing). I knew nothing about the apparel or t-shirt industry, how to manufacture a t-shirt, how to print one, how to sell to stores or even how to set up an online store to sell a product.

So I started to research and learn as much as I could, ordering t-shirt samples and coming up with design ideas. Well, since I was really not a designer, I decided to do t-shirts with only words, not graphics. That way I could still have control over every aspect of running my business and do it all myself (which was not such a good idea, as I soon learned).

So, about a month before my son was born, Tees For Change, a line of inspirational and eco-friendly tees, was also born. I was slowly learning about the t-shirt industry and reached out to a lot of already-successful t-shirt entrepreneurs to ask them for advice. Most were very generous with their time and with sharing their knowledge, which I definitely appreciated. I felt like I had so many mentors to guide me along the way.

Of course I made a lot of mistakes along the way!

To make a long story short, I’ve come a long way since that day in 2007 when I started with 96 t-shirts (and sold out of them within a month, to my surprise!). After four years of running Tees for Change, I’ve sold over 20,000 t-shirts in over 300 stores in the United States and internationally and have had six figure sales after only one year of running my business.

My t-shirts have appeared in over 200 magazines, newspapers and TV shows, including ABC, NBC, Fox, The Bonnie Hunt Show, Redbook, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today Magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Self, Shape, The Nest and many more. And I even got Tori Spelling, Ed Begley, Denise Richards, Sarah Jessica Parker and Sarah Michelle Gellar to wear my tees!

Of course I made a lot of mistakes along the way! Like the time I spent $6,000 on a PR company hoping that they would help me get tons of press. I got some press, but definitely not enough to cover my $6000 investment. Or the time I spent $1000 on advertising in a local magazine, only to get zero sales from it. Or the time I signed up for a booth at a trade show that was definitely not for my target market – and had only three orders in two days. And what about the time that I trusted that my manufacturer would get my order right, so I didn’t bother to ask for samples before ok’ing the full production run of over 5,000 shirts? Well, half of the shirts came back the wrong color, ALL of them came back with the wrong neck label and another half came back a size too small!

pmb_180-x-150_4Needless to say, I could have done things better, but I was grateful to have learned all the lessons that I did (even though some were very expensive and time-consuming lessons).

I kept getting emails from other entrepreneurs (who had products other than t-shirts) and who wanted to get them into stores and wanted to know how I did it all. So I started to focus more on working with other entrepreneurs and helping them increase sales for their product-based business. So, in 2011, I sold Tees for Change and now my main focus is on working with entrepreneurs and teaching them everything I know about getting their products into stores, in the media and increasing their online exposure and sales.

I’ve worked with entrepreneurs who sell bath and beauty products, products for babies and kids, food, gifts, yoga products, eco-friendly and green goods, handmade and one of a kind items, accessories, greeting cards and stationery products and a lot more! I love seeing other entrepreneurs succeed while pursuing their passion!

I managed to grab Andreea to ask her a few questions…

1. You started your first business when you were pregnant with your first child. How did you find the time (and energy!) to have a baby and a business at the same time?

I really took it one day at a time and didn’t try to do it all! I tried to set up as much as I could before my baby was born so that way a lot of things were in place by the time he arrived. After he was born, I took some time off, of course, and then I started to add more time to my business when I could.

2. We live in times where business, the economy and technology are all changing fast. How are you dealing with this in your own business and what’s your advice to people who are new to or in the early stages of business?

I set aside time each week to learn about new technologies or new things that are happening in the industry. I also read and subscribe to relevant blogs and magazines so I can stay up to date with what’s going on. My advice would be to pick one or two sources that you love and stick with those instead of trying to read everything!

3. Of all the lessons you’ve learned since you started your business in 2006, which is the most important one?

Great question. The most important one is that success comes in the following up. Most of the time you contact someone (whether it’s a store, the media or a potential partner), your first email or contact will most likely not get a response. But when you follow up, that’s when success comes in.

4. Which quote or saying best sums up your approach to business success?

It’s actually a quote that I came across recently “The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them” I don’t know who said it, but it is so true!

Click here to sign up for Andreea’s  free Product Marketing Breakthrough training course.

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