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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Shop & Support Moms - Gretchen Lajoie - Giftables ME

Thank you to Gretchen Lajoie for sharing her beautiful work with us, environmentally smart and unique gift bags for the holidays. Please think about using these even just in your own household this year! A great idea! She is offering you a discount, check it out! 

Thanks, Gretchen!

Images shared from Gretchen Lajoie 

1. How did you start your business? Why did you want your own business? When did you start your business?
I did not really consider myself a business owner at first.  I still struggle with that concept.  I worked for a state agency for many years but wanted to leave the job to stay home and homeschool my three kids.  I had been making fabric gift bags for my own family for Christmas and birthdays.  They are such time and money savers when it comes to wrapping packages.  Since my family is from all over I routinely get packages mailed to me unwrapped, which leaves me with a mess of wrapping to take care of.  I also hated spending the money and time just to watch it stuffed into garbage bags and put out to the curb.  That seemed so wasteful at so many levels.  When I started thinking of leaving my full-time employment I thought I would start selling bags.  I did not have a well thought out plan, and still don’t to be honest.  After I left my work, I ended up landing a part time consulting job which consumes much of my time.  On a whim last Christmas, I decided to put some bags at a friend’s massage studio to see if they would sell.  In about a week I sold nearly everything I had.  I was not prepared for that.  I have waffled as to whether or not this is a viable business for me because of my other time commitments, but I believe in them so much that I want to make it work. 

2. Why was owning a business a perfect situation for you and your family?
We are fortunate that my husband has a good solid job with benefits, so that is not a concern for us.  Owning a business, whether my consulting business or my bag business, allows me to set my own rules and work times.  My work hours are set based on my kids’ schedules and needs.  I can still provide some financial support while meeting the needs of my family.  I worked full-time with all three kids until last year when my kids were 7, 5 and 3.  It was getting so tough to balance a stressful career, home, kid’s schedules, activities and appointments.  I am now able to manage those things most of the time.

3. What does your business specialize in? What's your favorite product? How'd you come up with the name?
Currently I only make the fabric gift bags but I would like to expand my offerings of those as well as add other fabric crafts.  I am on my second name for the business.  The first included my first name, but I decided that I really wanted more anonymity.  I thought Giftables was an appropriate choice given the type of product that I make.

4. What do you love best about working for yourself?
Leaving a steady, well-paying, long-term career was scary to say the least.  However, I think it was the best personal move I could have made.  I love the flexibility and the fact that I am accountable to myself mostly. I do have clients that I need to service but how I manage the work is up to me.  I am much more available to my family, physically and emotionally.  My husband also works from home so we are all together all of the time.  Believe it or not, it works for us.

5. When working, When do you work in the day/evening? What's your process for working? Things you do daily, a routine?
Since I am managing a couple of very different businesses I split them up.  For my consulting work, I work in the early hours of the morning before the kids really get started on their day.  They do end up watching about an hour of TV in the morning so I can get my work finished but I am OK with that.  I typically work 6-7 mornings a week.  For my gift bags I work in the evening after the kids go to bed.  I had always intended to do it a few nights a week year round but the reality is that I spend a few weeks sewing madly before an event or before the holidays.

Future work space below: 

6. Take me step by step through working with customers. Do you do anything special or unique, wrapping, specials, etc.?
I have set up a Facebook group so I can show fabrics and what I have available (Giftables).  I also have the products at a friend’s massage studio.  They have sold themselves at the studio.  I am considering speaking to a co-op in the area to see if they would be interested in selling the products.  I have done a couple of craft fairs, but I need to do a better job selecting the correct fair.  I need to select craft fairs where an individual wouldn’t mind spending $8 or $12 on a fabric gift bag because they can see the beauty or overall value of such a purchase. 

7. What is your success rate? What do you think customers would say about your work, shop?
As with any product, I need to find the proper customer base.  My product appeals to someone with a little more environmental concern and is willing to commit a little more money up front to save money, time, waste, etc. over the long haul.  For example, I was just at a craft fair where someone said to me “the bags are beautiful, but I just love to wrap too much.”  

My customers are people who either see the environmental value or just don’t want to spend the time to wrap packages by conventional means.   My customers have been very complimentary of my work and fabric selections. 

8. Why do you think people should shop in your store, and why should they support moms who work for themselves?

I decided to sell these bags because I just think they are a great solution to gifting.  They are beautiful, completely re-useable because they come with chalkboard tags, and they are unique.  I am able to wrap all of my Christmas presents in about an hour.  

And those large awkward packages are simple to wrap.  Once the unwrapping is finished they all get sorted, folded and put back into a bag for next year.  I do not have huge rolls of paper, bags of bows, tags, etc. floating around the house because they are unnecessary.  I just think it is a smart solution.  

Mom-driven businesses often times offer fun, creative, different products for their customers.  Since many of these are really small businesses, the customer service will likely beat about anything available in a larger store or business.

9. What are your items to sell?
The only items that I currently sell are fabric gift bags for birthdays or Christmas/Holiday.  

I offer 5 sizes:  Small for $4, Medium for $8, Large for $12, X-Large and Jumbo each for $16.

10. How does your business allow you to be a great mother?
When I worked full-time our biggest issue was the morning routine.  The stress in this house was palpable trying to get everyone up, fed, ready and out the door in order to make it on time to school, daycare, and work.  That morning crazy time set the tone for the rest of our day and it was usually a bad one.  I hated mornings.  Working part time from home coupled with the choice to homeschool has de-escalated the stress to nearly imperceptible levels.  We are not as tired, uptight or crabby.  Being home has brought a reasonable level of harmony to this house.

11. What do you think would surprise readers to know about you?
It is surprising, even to me, that I have entered into this adventure.  I am not a seamstress, I am a hack artist.  I have never, nor do I think I could, read a sewing pattern.  I decide what I want to make and then figure out how I am going to get there.  I am a chemist by education and trade and work as a quality assurance consultant.   This is completely outside of my wheelhouse.

12. What is the coolest thing you've ever experienced as part of working with this business?
When I had the idea to start making these bags I wasn’t sure if anyone else was going to be on the same page with me.  I love it when someone sees them, appreciates them and says to me “that’s a great bag.”  Of course, I am not a much of a sales person so I typically reply “thanks” instead of the smart thing which would be ‘thank you, I make those, would you be interested in one?’

13. What is one of your favorite gifts to give someone for the holidays?
The right answer to this question would be “my bags” which is partially true.  I also make jams and relishes that I give to family and friends. 

14. How many kids do you have? Give us one word to describe them.

I have three kids.  There are so many words to describe them, but one that I am most proud of is ‘loving.’

I would offer 15% off any order through December 10  
by mentioning the Mommy Stories blog.

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