Katie O’Neill is the founder of Kt Steppers llc, making custom, unique and top-selling Childrens Step Stools. Kt Steppers have also been labeled the ‘steppers to the stars’ as her custom designed steppers can be found in many a celebrity nursery and home. Katie and her steppers have been featured on nationally recognized media outlets such as Martha Stewart’s Dreamers into Doers, E! News, KTLA Morning News, Fox5, San Antonio Living, ModernMom.com, Bethenny Getting Married?, Tia and Tamera on Style Network and various others.
Additionally, she is the editor of this popular blog, M.O.M (Masters Of Multitasking) and uses her contacts and promotional skills to help other small businesses get promoted.
Tell us a little bit about Kt Steppers and how you got started.
Kt Steppers is all about offering a unique, custom and personalized product for just about any occasion. Our featured product, the ‘steppers’ (or step stools) are hand-painted and designed per order, so you know it was made just for that special someone or event.
As you will see below, I worked from home and enjoyed keeping/holding a job but it wasn’t ‘working’ with my schedule or priorities, but the extra money was hard not to think about. So, I think the urge was there to figure out what to do or start that was my own.
I was always creative and loved art and drawing … so I received a step stool for my second son as a gift and had that ‘aha’ moment. A few months later the first “stepper” was conceived when a family member was looking for something unique and personal for her best friend’s son.
What did you do before launching Kt Steppers?
Before launching my own company or having kids, I working in the mortgage industry. After my first son was born, I was offered the opportunity to work from home. I wasn’t planning on going back to work, so this was a no-brainer, my own hours, make money, stay home with my baby boy … a win-win situation. But after a year in, it wasn’t so easy, there were quotas, meetings, more time on the phone, less time at mommy & me or music classes with my 1yr old. So, I quit completely, because it wasn’t what I (we) wanted.
How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent is your home office?
Too many and not enough hours at the same time. If I had to add up (because as a mom-owned, there isn’t consecutive hours of work actually worked in a row) I probably work on Kt Steppers 40-50 hours a week (Monday-Sunday). Hours in my actual office, maybe 1 hr all week! I’m usually working in the kitchen.
How did you fund your business?
Kt Steppers became a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in 2008 (June) and before that it was word of mouth and I had set up a basic website for pictures mostly, so we decided to invest $2,000 from our savings into building a website mainly and promotional materials. That was about it.
Last year Kt Steppers was featured on E News Online, how did this come about?
Well, our National TV Debut was amazing and a great end to the year! I tell my fellow mom-owned companies all the time, Twitter is a powerful tool. I basically sent a simple tweet to Giuliana Rancic in reply to her request for suggestions for her holiday Gift Guide Segment. But as she has millions following her, I wanted to make sure she saw my company and interest and decided to email her as well with my company info and products. She in turn immediately replied on Twitter and sent an amazing email to me. The rest we all were able to watch on E!News during the holidays.
Kt Steppers has received a lot of recognition from celebrities, how did you achieve this and what celebrities have endorsed your product?
Yes, the celebrity fans and recognition has been amazing. I decided about 1 year ago to go the route of ‘gifting’ my product to some Celeb Mom Icons to see if our steppers would be well received and to help promote basically to a different target audience that they are a great product and a must-have for any household with kids. I couldn’t afford advertising, so this was the first approach. Kids (celeb or not) need a ‘step’ up and to learn some independence, and our steppers teach & do just that with a personal touch.
It’s no secret, I reach out direct to them, their reps, assistants … and see if sending a gift would be accepted, introduce them to our website and go from there. I wouldn’t say that I have any celebrity endorsements, but I’ve had some great Celeb Moms tweet about our steppers being so great and a ‘must-have’ for kids. They’ve written on Facebook with similar statements, so it’s been publicized how they feel which is a great promotion for me as a small mom-owned company. I do have some testimonials on the steppers on our site and had Renee Baio ‘scoop’ us on Stroller Traffic as what Moms Love.
How would you rate your success from 0 – 10?
Well, let’s see … I started my own company, it’s still afloat, it’s popular, and getting press, and I haven’t lost money running it from day 1, so I would give myself a 10!
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
I have to admit, it’s getting a bit overwhelming. I used to be a ‘scheduler’/’planner’ but lately not so much. I use wipe boards and calendars actually to manage the day-to-days.
What are your 3 favorite websites or blogs?
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Use Social Media to your advantage. Sign up on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If it wasn’t for these resources, I don’t think my company and probably other mom-owned businesses would be where they are today as quickly if these tools were not available.
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