I enjoy working and always dreamed of running my own company. My stepdad is a successful businessman in Russia, so I grew up looking up to him. I worked at his offices when I was in high school helping with all sorts of things, from vacuuming the floors and cleaning the dishes to filling in for the secretary who called in sick. Many of the business strategies and management tactics on which My Little Jules boutique is built, I learned from my stepdad.
What did you do before launching your own business?
Before I got pregnant with my first daughter Julia, aka Little Jules, I was an online marketing specialist helping companies build their presence online and engage with customers. After finding out I was pregnant, I decided to leave my full-time job, but continued working a few hours a week as an independent marketing consultant. When Jules was about 9 months, my husband Peter was laid off from his job. It happened right after the economy went down, so it was a pretty scary and uncertain time for our family. We decided to take matters into our own hands and start a family business. Jules was an inspiration for us. Since I loved dressing her up in the cutest outfits I could find, opening a girls clothing boutique for busy – and picky – moms like myself seemed like a perfect solution! My Little Jules boutique was named after out first-born Julia.
How did you fund your business?
We were lucky to have some money saved up when my husband was laid off. We also owned a rental condo. We went through all of our savings and sold the condo to fund the business and pay the bills before we started seeing profit. We also had to borrow some money from our parents when the business took off and we had to expand our inventory and hire people. Since none of us had a “real” paying job, applying for a business loan was out of the questions at that time.
How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent in your home office?
During our first two years both my husband and I worked about 50-60 hours a week each, all of those spent in our home office. We now have a commercial space and a few people who are helping us with the business, so our workweeks are closer to 40 hours. I still spend a few hours a week working from home in the evenings or on the weekends, especially during busy times like the holidays.
How would you rate your success?
I’m a perfectionist, so I believe there is always room for improvement, you can always do better. For me, success is measured by the number of happy customers. Providing the best shopping experience before, during and after the purchase is our number one goal here at My Little Jules. Providing a great work environment to our employees is another priority. We want our employees to feel like part of the family. Their opinions, ideas and concerns matter to us. And, of course, the ability to support our family and, at the same time, spend time with our kids is also important. Successful business is only one part of the equation. I measure my personal success by how well I am able to manage and balance all aspects of my life.
What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?
Managing my time was extremely difficult in the beginning. As I have mentioned, we worked 50-60 hours a week. During that time, we also had our second daughter Emma. So, between two small kids and the business, Peter and I had close to zero time for ourselves. As some point, I found myself exhausted, overworked and stressed out. That’s when I realized that we had to make some changes to our personal and work lives. We moved the business out of our house and hired people. That helped us separate personal life from work and cut down the number of hours we had to put into My Little Jules ourselves.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
The two most important things are having a good support network and being prepared to work very hard. We would not be able to get My Little Jules where it is now without the help and support from our family and friends. From watching the kids, to helping pack and ship orders to simply listening to me whine about how tired I was, our friends and family were always there for us when we needed them. I also did not anticipate how much effort and dedication it would take to grow our business.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
It is easier now that the business is out of the house. Before we moved out, I found it very helpful to have a dedicated office space, a place I could “leave” once my workday was over. I would also change my clothes after the workday was over, it would help me transition into my family and me time. Planning and to-do lists are very helpful as well. I plan our family meals ahead of time. I start each workday by writing down all the things I need to do and ranking them by their urgency and importance. My husband and I also have nights off. Every week I take one night to myself. Whether I want to meet up with a friend, catch up on some projects or just soak in a bathtub – it is up to me.
Connect with Tatiana Chemisov and My Little Jules…
- Website: MyLittleJules.com
- Facebook Fan Page: MyLittleJules
- Blog: julesgotstyle.com
- Twitter: @MyLittleJules