What do 6-figure solopreneurs have in common? Is there a formula, a secret code for success? Probably not, but I'll bet that they do have a number of things in common. To discover some of their common qualities, processes, and skill sets, I set out to interview a few solopreneurs whose businesses are bringing in $100,000 or more in annual PROFITS. This series entitled, Six-Figure Solopreneurs: The Common Link, will feature amazing men and women who single-handedly grew their businesses to profitable, meaningful ventures and are willing to share the how and why of it all!
This week's guest is Sue Berk of Sue Berk Designs, which was founded in 2002 and is based in Dallas, TX. After hand-painting ceramic crosses for several years, the popularity of her products grew quickly, and Sue was overwhelmed with orders. After searching tirelessly for a factory offshore that could duplicate her delicate style, Sue was finally able to mass-produce, and soon was selling her products in over 1000 retail stores and on 20+ websites. New items were added to the collection, such as wood frames, and baby blankets. The collection features 57 ceramic crosses, 6 wooden frames, and 12 baby blankets. Sue Berk Designs products are sold in over 1000 retail stores across the United States, and on 20+ websites.
Q. Sue, when you started your company did you have a plan in place, or did you just 'wing it?' A. I had a definite plan in place. Everything did not always go as planned, but there was a definite plan! I am not a 'wing it' kind of girl.
Q. Looking back, what would you say are the two important personal qualities or characteristics that are most responsible for your success? A. Creativity and perseverance.
Q. Have you ever had a mentor or a coach? A. Not a formal one. But my mom was my hero, before she passed away. She was the most organized, efficient, person I know. She was also very creative. Not artistic, like me, but she had creative solutions for any problem. I learned a lot from her.
Q. Sue, what was the key motivating factor in your drive and determination to become your own boss? A. I always wanted to be my own boss and I don't like being told what to do! I was tired of the Corporate America thing. In my mind there was a lot of wasted money and time and I knew I could run my own company better. I just didn't know what kind of company I was going to start. The type of product and the way I got into it all kind of happened by chance. If you want to read more about this, check out the Dallas Morning News Article in the Press section of my website—she said it nicely and concisely.
Q. Was funding ever an issue for you? If so, how did you solve the problem? A. No, I socked away money before I started the company and used that to make my initial investment. I think this is a key reason I have been successful. I didn't have to worry about repaying a loan.
Q. What was your most challenging moment to date and how did you overcome it? A. When I placed my first order from the factory in China. Up until then, I had been hand painting crosses and the risk and investment was pretty small. Once I went off-shore I had to make the decision to buy about 20,000 crosses in one shot. I was afraid that maybe they wouldn't sell and I would lose all my money. It was a calculated risk. I remember my supplier telling me about re-ordering procedures and I thought to myself 'ha! I won't be re-ordering this stuff for 2 years.' Within 8 months I had to re-order everything. Business was better than I thought it would be! That's how I overcame it! (That and blind faith!)
Q. What is the greatest reward in running your own business? A. Being able to listen to whatever I want to on the radio all day (Sirius satellite), and being able to nurse my 6 month old son and work from the house while my nanny takes care of him. Also, people telling me how much they like our products or how meaningful one of our products was to them when they had a baby. Many of the people who buy our crosses/blankets/frames have prayed for a child for a long time, or have a child with issues, and our products remind them of what a miracle their child is to them. I love hearing these stories.
Q. Do you have a 'top strategy' for success that you'd like to share? A. Don't ever expect anything to happen without a lot of hard work.
Q. Sue, entrepreneurs are idea machines, and that's great. But sometimes too many good ideas can clutter the picture and stop progress. How did you harness your best ideas and bring them to fruition? A. For me, I give the customer what they want. If ever something is a slow seller, I discontinue it. It's nice to have a lot of products to offer customers, but too many is confusing as well. Listening to the customer is very important.
I am also very focused. I have a lot of creative ideas, but I always try to keep the focus on my goal.
Summing it up, Sue is focused, creative, hard-working, a planner, loves her freedom, was well financed and believes in herself - definitely a Million Dollar Mindset! Does this sound like you? Let's see what our other six-figure soloists have to say. Join me next week as the series continues!
MARLA TABAKA is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka