Everyone Loves Buttons Inc. recently celebrated 17 years. This home-based, button-making business was discovered purely by accident. I had no prior skills or knowledge of the industry but I strongly believed that somehow a $200 investment in a hand button machine would eventually paid off.
My husband worked as a manager for Budweiser and was thumbing though a magazine one day, seeing a photo of a machine that could make buttons. Our business was born. I had a lifelong hobby of collecting buttons and made my first one at 15. Once I learned how to assemble buttons, I acquired graphic design skills by taking a class. While taking care of our baby, I worked as an activity director in the day and at night I was a buttonista extraordinaire. (84)
I already possessed skills that helped get the business off the ground during the first few months. I had my bachelors and masters degrees in social work from San Diego State University. As a former social worker, I acquired clinical, research and managerial skills and realized these were key elements in both obtaining business and managing it. My keen ability to immediately connect with people over the phone enabled me to interview prospective clients and figure out who was likely to buy my product.
I was able to cultivate clients while doing graphics, die cutting and manufacturing much more efficiently. I put in countless hours calling potential clients, generating mailings and attending Chamber of commerce events while still taking care of a baby. Once I even pounded the pavement downtown with a stroller in tow. I delivered buttons to my local clients and I wanted to take the opportunity to meet them in person to get a deeper sense of what their needs were. As a result, this idea shaped my entire philosophy to this day. Our customer service approach is based on the clients needs.
After acquiring enough business income to make payments on an electric button machine, I single-handedly produced 100,000 buttons during our first year in the middle of the living room of our two bedroom apartment. I sent out some samples and a brochure and had the good fortune of acquiring both Michaels Arts and Crafts. In two weeks time I produced and delivered 30,000 three inch buttons.
In 1999, we obtained a second button machine since business was increasing due to our first website and advertisement on Yahoo at that time. We moved to a condo (had three machines in our garage) and eventually to a commercial space.
In 2007, I applied for and got my national certification as a Women Business Enterprise. ELB also ventured into the world of politics and online stores during the last election cycle. During the economic downtown, we expanded our product line to include other promotional products and developed other markets.
My advice to those just starting out in business is to believe in yourself, use your resources wisely, work hard and never give up.
– Maura Statman