Here at Bannor Toys we truly believe in small businesses doing big things! Each Monday we will give you the chance to get to know one of our favorites. Today we would like to introduce you to Kendra of Swankaroo. This mama and small business owner shares with us how the success of her business directly relates to the success of her relationships at home, and we couldn't agree with her more. We love Kendra's honesty and her ability to relate to her audience. Everyone please say hello to Kendra of Swankaroo...
Name: Kendra Oakden
Who's in your family: Husband - Jared, Children - Evelyn, Warner, Clive, and Roslyn
Favorite way to spend your free time: Free time - what's that?! Haha, between being a full-time mom to 4 kids and running Swankaroo I find free time to be very rare. BUT, I try and take Friday nights off and "date" my husband at home; translation: make a big batch of chocolate chip cookies and watch a movie :)
Age when you started your business: 27
Tell us about your business in 3 sentences: Swankaroo is proud to be a handmade operation that gives parents and children a classy alternative to "sporting goods" and purses available in the commercial marketplace. Every little youngster has an adventurous mind and independent spirit and constant exploration and curiosity requires a sturdy knapsack for days on the go. Whether it be diapers, sippies, dance slippers, baseballs, or acorns collected on a walk, a Swankaroo mini-backpack and/or purse will help foster a child's independence and sense of responsibility by personally carrying their belongings and freeing up some extra space in Mom's diaper bag!
What made you start your business, what did you leave behind: When my daughter was two, my diaper bag was becoming weighed down with gear for her and her little brother. Recognizing my daughter's new found sense of independence, I thought it would be beneficial for us each to get our own bags. After several unsuccessful attempts at searching the retail marketplace for a backpack that a) wasn't too big for her toddler frame, b) covered in glitter and Disney characters, and c) fit her personality, I decided to venture into the world of creativity and innovation and maker her a personalized backpack - one that was functional yet swanky :) And Swankaroo was born! I didn't have to leave anything behind and I was excited for this new opportunity to be able to stay at home with my children but also have a creative outlet and platform to share goods with others.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers/expanding your audience: Gosh, in the beginning Instagram made my business blossom! It's slowed down in its ability to connect with others since the algorithm has changed, but it's still my only social media platform. I've thought about expanding to Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and all other conceivable social media outlets to draw in more business, but knowing myself and how much I'm on my phone as it is, I'm resisting taking the leap and sticking to just Instagram.
Single most important decision you've made for your business: 18 months into my business I outsourced my pattern and design to a local warehouse. They were in charge of production from the beginning to the end. While it was great to be able to free up some time, I found that for me personally this created more stress as my turnaround times actually became longer depending on my que in the warehouse's production line, communication and language barriers made it frustrating at times for changes to be made, and after 14 months I decided to take everything back into my own hands. I was worried about how I would handle the production again all on my own, but so far the work has been worth the control I gained back over my business. I've been so much happier knowing everything is back in my hands.
Something about you not many people know, business or personal: You may be surprised to know that Swankaroo is run out of my 6ft x 10 ft bedroom closet! No big gorgeous studio for me :) My husband is my right hand. He applies all the snaps on your packs, cuts all the fabric and leather, applies tags to your goods, and packages your orders up! We are a team on this, and I couldn't run Swankaroo without him!
If you could go back to the day your business started (whether it was intentional or by accident), and have 15min with your former self to communicate any lessons you've acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes and heart ache, what would you tell yourself? Don't play into the numbers game. The number of followers you have doesn't necessarily equate to the number of sales you may get. I found that my "sweet spot" was probably between 10K-15K. Don't spend so much time trying to get that number on your profile higher. Just focus on customer outreach and genuine engagement with those who are truly interested in your work.
How did you distinguish yourself from your competitors? When I started back in 2013, I really hadn't seen anything like my backpacks for little kiddos on the market place, so I didn't have competition to start with. In the past years I've seen some imitators, but no "rivals" have really come my way.
Best piece of advice you've gotten that you still follow? This isn't necessarily advice, or even business related, but when Jared and I were engaged a man who was wise in his years commented that we were an A+ couple. That quick passing comment has always stuck with me and has been evident in everything that I do. To be A+, I need to communicate and collaborate together equally with my spouse. I've found that when there's harmony in our marital relationship, everything else becomes easier to manage. It doesn't make problems go away, whether that's in my business life, wife life, mother life, or his career life, BUT if I want to be successful in any of my endeavors, I need to make sure he's on board to and that we're equally pulling weight. That sounds way off, but it's actually kept me grounded many times throughout the years :)
My favorite quotes is: "That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but our power to do it is increased." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
The biggest lesson I have ever learned is: family is the most important work. It definitely takes work and balance, but family comes before anything else.
My favorite business tool or resource is: ShipStation and Quickbooks! ShipStation has made my inventory and shipping process so easy to manage, and QB is the easiest way for me to keep track of my expenses and taxes!
If I could go back in time 10 years ago I would tell myself: that life will not go as you planned, but happiness and fulfillment will still find you!
Where can we find you?
Couldn't you just see yourself being besties with Kendra? We think she's pretty awesome, too! So awesome, in fact, that she wanted to share a shop credit to Swankaroo with one of our blog readers and we are going to match it! To enter, please follow the steps below...