Some people know what their calling is at a very young age and that passion just sticks with them for life. Nancy Shapiro was born to teach. Now, she's turned that gift of helping others into a business called Cue Sticks®. Through Cue Sticks, Nancy teaches the power of positive thinking. Cue Sticks are daily reminders that come in the form of either a temporary tattoo or a sticker. They serve the purpose of a friendly, inspirational reminder to stick to your goals of anything from overeating to overcoming a challenge. Her daily lesson is to teach people that with persistence and discipline you can make any dream come true.
"I have always loved helping others and teaching lessons. As a child, I enjoyed playing school with my younger cousins and teaching them new things. In high school, I wrote daily inspirational letters to my best friend who was dealing with an eating disorder. And when my mom, at age 47, was diagnosed with colon cancer, I was there to encourage and support her in the battle any way I could.
Eventually I became an elementary school teacher. It made me so happy to see the kids learn new skills and information that I taught them, and to come up with creative ways to make learning fun. When my two children were born, I took time off to stay at home to raise them. As they grew older, I volunteered and substituted at their school and led various groups of which they were a part, like Cub Scouts, so that I could enjoy my time with them and continue to be involved in helping kids learn and grow.
One day, after putting several sticky note reminders around the house to help me remember my health and fitness goals, such as "Drink Water" and "Move More", I had an "aha" moment. I thought it would be great if the reminders were on temporary tattoos that I wore on my arm so I could see them anytime and anywhere I needed them. I created a few temporary tattoo designs using supplies from the local craft store and wore them to help me reach my goals. They worked! Soon my family and friends were asking to wear some too, for times when they needed a little positive reminder to help them overcome a problem or help them accomplish their goals, whether it was for dieting, learning how to ride a bike, taking a test, etc. So I thought it'd be great to create a variety of them to help even more people....and Cue Sticks were born!"
The website launched in 2010 and Nancy's kids were seven and nine years old at the time. Like so many other stay at home moms with a great idea, Nancy struggled with the typical Catch 22 of having a great idea but not having any business experience or cash flow to build a product line. Luckily, her product is inexpensive and she took her own advice about thinking positive and finding a way to make this happen.
"If I waited for the perfect time to start a small business, it would never happen. There's never enough time or money to do everything at once, as well as the fact that I had never taken a single business class in my undergraduate or graduate programs. But I felt strongly about my product and the impact it would have on the lives of others, so I didn't let any of those things stop me. I just took it one step at a time. Being patient and focusing on short term goals kept me from getting overwhelmed. "
"After researching other temporary tattoo products online, I realized there were very few motivational temporary tattoos, if any, out there. I wanted a name that had the name 'stick' in it, and after some brainstorming I came up with "Cue Sticks" since they'd be your "cue" to "stick" with it. That was the easy part. Next, I taught myself a new computer program to design a variety of tattoos, attended business classes and met with a SCORE advisor to get advice on what steps to take to develop my business. I devoted a lot of time creating a website and online store in which to sell the Cue Sticks and contacted several USA based manufacturers. I showed the Cue Sticks temporary tattoos to my family, friends, students at school....and even strangers....to get opinions on the product idea and design, and used the feedback to make improvements. Next, I sought the help of some experts, like a graphic designer and a photographer, to create the look and feel of my product packaging. After several months, and many, many trials and errors, I finally came up with the packaging and design of the Cue Sticks product. When I finally I sold my first package of Cue Sticks online, it was such an amazing feeling knowing someone wanted a product I had created."
Nancy's Lessons Learned from Launching Her Biz:
When you're starting out, seek out no or low cost resources. There's a wealth of free services available, such as Google's "Business Solutions" and SCORE.org for writing business plans, creating websites, online workshops, etc. SCORE even has professional mentors who will meet with you to counsel you free-of-charge. Researching trademarks and patents, creating a starter website, and utilizing social media tools, like Facebook and Twitter are all things you can learn to do fairly easily online.
Take the time to sell your product at a local farmers market and vendor fairs to see what the demand is for your product before producing mass quantities, approaching large companies or attending high-cost trade shows. It'll give you a small, safe setting to get to know what your customers like or dislike about your product. You'll be able to tweak your product, if need be, without getting in over your head. It's been very tempting along the way for me to rush and take my business to the next level quickly. There have been times that I have been frustrated when comparing myself to a business that is further along. But I've learned it's so important to have patience along the way, learning things as I go and to have slow yet steady growth, instead of hurrying up to fail.
Most importantly, you need to believe in your product and be passionate about it. Not only does that come into play when you're promoting your product to others, of course, but it will also give you the strength and patience to keep going when you hit unexpected snags along the way. Your passion for the business will provide you with the energy and enthusiasm that will motivate you to continue over the hurdles.
Connect With Other Business Owners
I've found it's easier when I don't try to go it alone, but rather learn from others' experiences. Attend a few, select entrepreneur meetings or shows that relate to your product. It's a great way to make connections and get some new ideas, advice or inspiration.
Many people will give you their opinions about how to run your business, whether you ask for it or not. Consider their thoughts and ideas, but don't let it veer you off of your course. Likewise, if a path you're going down suddenly doesn't feel right, don't be afraid to stop and go another way. Treat it as a learning opportunity, not a failure.
The Cue Sticks business has provided Nancy with that creative outlet for helping and teaching others that she truly needs in her life. Being able to run this from home allows her to spend quality time with her kids and have flexibility and freedom to work her own hours. That was exactly the plan when she put her first Cue Stick on and was reminded daily about her goal of starting this business.