Today’s “I Want to Be” Series features Kelly Lester who works from home full time running her business, EasyLunchboxes. In addition to her business, Kelly is a trained theater performer who acts and sings on stage and in films. She is mom to three daughters who are now in college, high school and middle school. Find out how to connect with Kelly at the end of this article.
How long have you had your business?
I started my business 3 years ago.
What led you to pursue it?
I was frustrated with packing lunches for three kids every morning. I had to dig through mismatched containers to find up to 18 different bottoms and lids--three sets for each kid. Then, there was the added annoyance of all those loose pieces in the dishwasher at the end of the day.
I searched for a better lunchbox and found a 3 compartment container with a lid at the dollar store. When that cheap container cracked in less than a year, I was frantic for a replacement but couldn't find one. That is when I decided to create a higher quality lunchbox system myself, and EasyLunchboxes was born.
Are you full time or part time? If part-time, do you anticipate switching to full time?
I am full-time and often work 100 hours a week.
How do you market your business?
In addition to my website, I began selling my products on Amazon.com in 2011, and within 2 months, my EasyLunchbox containers were the number one best-selling lunchboxes on Amazon. Amazon has even featured me on their home page, and that really helped business.
In addition to the huge exposure Amazon brings me, the really nice thing about my business is that I don't have to "sell" much. What I mean is, others do it for me and I, in turn, support them.
I have wonderful relationships with fellow lunch-packing bloggers who share tips, recipes, and enticing photos of the lunches they pack in my EasyLunchbox containers. These posts and pictures are seen on their blogs and on all the social media platforms and photo sharing sites. Pinterest alone has been the force behind my sales quadrupling.
Since I don't have to market myself or my business much, I take the time to support these bloggers by sharing their posts and pics on my blog, as well as on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. They enjoy increased blog exposure, which also leads to increased sales and brand awareness for my company.
We help promote one another, and those relationships are at the core of my success.
What is your favorite part of the business?
I love the relationship I have with bloggers. I belong to a group, Bento Bloggers and Friends, and they are amazingly supportive. We are on Facebook 24/7 with one another. The genuine enthusiasm and support from the lunch-packing community, as well my customers, is amazing. I am continually humbled and grateful for the lovely, personal connections and very close friends I have made thanks to EasyLunchboxes.
What one question do you get most from people about your business?
People just ask, "How did you do that?" meaning, how did I move from a mom who was frustrated packing my kids' lunches to the owner of a business that will net $1 million in sales in 2013.
The answer, quite simply, is Google. Whatever I needed to know along this journey, I discovered the answer on Google. I love to research and find answers. My problem-solving skills and a continual desire to learn and do new things is the key to staying on top of things and growing my biz.
What one myth or misconception do you want to dispel about the work you do?
I don't have a large staff. Most people assume that I must have several employees, but mostly it's just me. I have one very part-time employee who helps me a bit with social media, and my brother is in charge of implementing the website changes I would like, but I do all the rest.
What advice do you have for others who want to get into a similar opportunity?
Make sure there is a genuine need for the product you are selling. Also, price your product competitively so people will actually buy it.
In addition, be as approachable and gracious as you can be. I have always put myself out there along with my product so people can see that I am a mom just like them. That has really helped to sell my product. People don't want to just see the lunchbox container; they want to see the mom behind the container.
Finally, find what really works for you and capitalize on that. Invest your time and money on things that will help your bottom line.
How do you handle work/family balance?
I don't! I typically work 100 hours a week. I am lucky to have a very supportive family. I couldn't work this hard without their support. And my girls are older now, so they are very self-sufficient.
Having said that, I am trying to step back a bit and realize that I can let some things go and the business will continue to function. I recently took a full two days off for my daughter's Bat Mitzvah, and it was wonderful.
What websites or books do you recommend for tips?
Some of my favorite sites are Social Media Examiner, Social Triggers, and Social Identities. I also like Just Ask Kim. And Nathalie Lussier offers terrific videos on YouTube that cover a huge array of marketing tools and tips.