The struggle for a small business to survive is simply one of the requisites of beginning a company. But in this day and age, it’s become a little easier to survive, at least from a marketing standpoint.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners from all over the country can agree that social media has made their lives easier. It may be the greatest method created for people to stay in connection with each other, but it has also become a startup’s best solution during fund allocation.
“It’s obviously really huge for small businesses,” said Lyssa Surface, founder of Lillybit.
Lillybit is a small business based out of Kansas that creates fashionable, clutch-sized diaper bags. The business began in 2008, right at the forefront of the recession, forcing the young business to make tough financial decisions, including having its products manufactured overseas. Just like any small business, the road to success hasn’t been an easy one, but social media has been available to assist from a marketing perspective.
“We jumped on the Facebook bandwagon early on,” she said. “We conducted promotions, giveaways – it really helped increase our friends.”
She has also jumped on the Twitter and Pinterest bandwagons. Her Pinterest account allows her to pin her products and ideas from others, which helps her network with customers and potential business partners. She said it has also become a more efficient and cost-effective method than Facebook.
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Lillybit is currently partnered with Pampers and is being sold in Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby stores, an offshoot of Bed, Bath & Beyond.
The business appeals to the baby market, which is more widespread than just the parents of children. Since the Lillybit product is such a good gift idea, the market spreads to the gift market – also known as everyone.
Surface earned her MBA in Marketing and Business Management from Rockhurst University, a small, Catholic and Jesuit institution in 2005. She said she knew that she needed to know all the details about running a small business.
“It helped me be able to look at all the different information and how it all works together,” she said. “It gives you a more realistic viewpoint of what all you need.”
Surface shared some insight for prospective entrepreneurs.
“When you start your own business, you don’t realize all the pieces that need to come together,” she said. “Surround yourself with good people and mentors. Be able to not keep things so close to the chest, and say, ‘Yeah, we do need help.’”
She said her product continues to develop and improve and that she received many points of views on how the product should be made and what should be included in it. She said the first product went through approximately 20 different versions before they landed on a decision.
After those first 20 versions and four years of labor, the company, which began as a local business to sell to the citizens of Shawnee Mission, now has a distributor in Canada and has just landed a deal in Australia. Surface plans to begin offering her product line in the European market.
She said at times she is surprised at how successful her business has become, but that as she has continued to grow she has become even more passionate about Lillybit. And with that passion comes very tough self-criticism.
“As an entrepreneur, you beat yourself up,” she said. “‘What have I done?’ But I look at how far we’ve come. Our consumers have responded and we have great reviews. That’s the motivation to keep going. It’s also good to have your cheerleaders – your family and friends.”
Follow Dustin Bass on Twitter @dustincbass.