December 17, 2009 by Angela Shupe

Reprinted from the Business Opportunities Weblog
Mini-Gumball Machine Favor

In a world where many people look forward to retiring someday, there are innovative women like Laurie Cohen that do things a little different.

Not only did she leave retirement behind to help a company rebrand itself but she has since slipped into a new role as an entrepreneur. Originally she started with just one website, ForBrideandBaby.com, but inspired by the success her business saw she expanded it to include an umbrella website, Celebrationz4u.com, that helps cover all of her off-shoot sites. Her network also includes BirthdayPartyKidz.com for kid’s birthday party supplies and HalloweenKidz.com where parents can find costumes for their children year-round.

Tell us a little about your business.

In 1995, I came out of “Retirement” to join the staff of Veeco Manufacturing, Inc., a family-owned, 60 year old business, looking for a new identity and direction. It took ten years, but Veeco now boasts the Beauty Industry’s finest website and a reputation for excellence.

In 2007, taking the cue from some of my friends and reaching back to find something I knew and could share, I developed my first website, ForBrideAndBaby.com. As a former children’s entertainer, mother of three brides and party store owner, I felt this was the perfect way to share my expertise.

With the success of ForBrideandBaby, I felt the desire to expand my business to include BirthdayPartyKidz.com where my current, and hopefully – new subscribers can find all the information necessary to throw fabulous children’s birthday parties and find and compare birthday party supplies. I also enlisted the mother of three young boys to create unique party activities and share them with my visitors. Now the grandma of seven, this site has been such fun to work on.

HalloweenKidz was a natural “offshoot” of BirthdayPartyKidz.com. Kids love to dress up and pretend, so I wanted to create a place where they could find costumes and props all year round. The site has grown to also include many holiday costumes like “Santa Claus” and “The Easter Bunny” and mascot and advertising character costumes, as well.

Celebrationz4U was developed in 2009 to serve as an “umbrella” for the other three sites. The main goal of the site is to incorporate 3 websites, all with 1 goal and to encouraging women share all life’s celebrations.

Any plans to add a 5th site to your network?

Possibly a blog where busy women can interact and share ideas.

What separates you from the competition?

The ability to compare products from many websites and “non-sell” down to earth language. The sites are written and speaks directly to busy women, not “about” them.

What are some of your most popular products?

Our party favors are the most popular. Favors that are more substantial and can be given instead of bags of candy and toys are #1. Our mini-gumball machine ranks the highest in sales for both Baby Showers and Birthday Parties. In fact our “Just One Favor” section on BirthdayPartyKidz.com is a best seller.

On ForBrideandBaby.com, our best sellers are Baby Shower Partygoods, Italian wedding favors and Bachelorette party accessories.

How has your business changed as it’s grown? What are some goals that you still hope to accomplish?

My business has changed tremendously as I have learned new skills. Once dependent on website developers, I now can look at a page and know how to make immediate changes that are what I want and not what a developer thinks is right.

The most important change, however, has been to decrease the quantity of products and increase the readability and accessibility of the site.

What are some of the lessons that your business has taught you?

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t try to do everything yourself. It may be expensive to hire an expert, but in the long run, it pays. Follow your heart and do what you love and what you do well and pay others to do the rest.

With all of different areas to your business, I can only imagine how busy that makes you. Have you been able to find a reasonable balance between business and your life? How?

Finding a reasonable balance between business and life is something I struggle with every day. At first, I had no boundaries. I worked 24/7. There were days I didn’t get dressed until right before my husband came home at 7:00 PM. I still struggle, but I have learned to set some boundaries (like having a “no computer” rule after 8:00 PM.), printing my daily calendar and keeping it in front of me all day long and making at least one social date a week to get me out of the house. Since my business is home-based, getting out and seeing the rest of the world is the hardest part.

Do you have any tips for future entrepreneurs that are just getting started?

Find a mentor, talk to other people who have done what you are trying to do and ask them to share their expertise. Make a business plan, don’t expect to stick to it, but constantly glance at it and “tweak” it. Think outside of the box, listen to your heart and if you can’t afford to do it right, do only part of it. Don’t do it half way, just to get it done. That is a waste of time and you’ll quickly run out of money!

Learn something new every day. Consider what you are doing as a learning process for developing a skill set that you may someday need or want to use. This will get you through the days of long work and low profits.