Sparklefly Candle Company Spotlight on Indie Business Network

by Anne Marie Esposito, President and Founder, Sparklefly Candle Company, Inc.

In my ongoing quest to bring inspiration to your day; Sparklefly Candle Company has reached out to some other amazing entrepreneurs to share their stories and products. As always, I encourage you to explore these small business owners with me and remember to shop small this holiday season and all year round.

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”
― Helen Keller

This week I deliver to you, Donna Maria of Indie Business Network. Donna Maria is a coach, mentor, inspirational and my most precious resource. I have grown personally and professionally from knowing her and being part of her outstanding network of business entrepreneurs. What better way to close out my year of inviting you to learn more about other "Indies" than to share her story and what she does for all of us? Check out her story!

Q: Tell me about the Indie Business Network and how you got started?
The Indie Business Network is a for-profit trade organization that offers mentoring, coaching, and product liability insurance to Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs. Here's how it started:

After I learned how to make my own soaps and cosmetics, I quit my job as an attorney in a Fortune 500 company to make and sell products full-time and open my own retail store outside my hometown of Washington, DC. (I do not recommend this corporate-to-entrepreneur transition strategy, by the way ...)

I had fun teaching people how to make their own cosmetics and selling my handmade products and products made by other Makers. I ended up self-publishing a book with recipes, and Storey Books eventually tracked me down and asked me if they could publish my book. Of course I said yes, and I began writing Making Aromatherapy Creams & Lotions in 1998. After a year of working on the book, I began to notice that more more people were coming to me to learn how to start and manage a successful Maker business than were coming to buy my products. I knew a shift was in the air, so in January 2000, about six months before the book was published, I launched the Indie Business Network -- then called the Handmade Toiletries Network.

I started off by reviewing products and meeting with members on the phone to answer their questions. I eventually turned the advice I gave into the Indie Beauty University, which is now a complimentary 12-hour course offered to all Indie Business Network members.

Over the years, IBN has grown to serve not only soap and cosmetics Makers, but creative entrepreneurs from all walks of life, including candle makers, perfumers, confection Makers, and more. We host the weekly Indie Business Podcast, the annual Indie Cruise, and other virtual and physical events to inspire our members and the communities they live in.

Q: What is your favorite aspect about being a small business owner?
It's hard to choose a favorite thing, but if I had to select just one, I would say it is the ability to build a career around my life instead of the other way around. When I worked for someone else, my life was built around my employer's expectations. I had to be in the office when they said I had to be there. I had to dress a certain way. I had to attend events to promote their brand. My own personal growth was constrained by what as appropriate and beneficial for them.

As the leader of my own business, I dictate what is best for me. For example, I create my own work hours. This is especially important to me because I have children and I need to be available to them. I built IBN's requirements around my life requirements. The core of IBN is consistency so I don't want anyone to get the idea that I just change whenever I feel like changing. I always keep the interest of my members and clients first. But if my life changes, I an tweak IBN to fit that. It's a great blessing in my life to operate a business that helps thousands of people be successful while also fulfilling my personal life mission as well.

Q: What should a member expect from the IBN experience?
The Indie Business Network is designed to be self-guided, so members can access the resources we offer when it works for them, and they can focus on the areas that are most helpful to them at particular points in their lives.

We do have a schedule we follow to release new resources. While it changes from time to time (because we add new things), and I don't have room to share everything, here is an overview of what you can expect if you join IBN.

Success Calls - I interview hand-picked guests about their areas of expertise. Our guests help members in various areas that contribute to their success both personally and professionally, such as how to use social media to promote their products, how to expand their confidence and self-esteem, how to approach wholesale prospects, how to label products according to government regulations and more. Guests have included FDA officials, New York Times best selling author Chris Brogan and Personal Power and Confidence Coach DeLores Pressley. Our Success Calls usually take place on the third Tuesday of the month. All calls are recorded for members who cannot attend live.

Q+A Access Coaching Calls
- these are live Q&A call where members join me and one of my hand-selected guest coaches to answer questions submitted by IBN members in a live interview format. Member coaching usually takes place on the third Thursday of the month. These calls are recorded for members who cannot attend live.

Product Liability Insurance - once you join IBN, you have access to affordable product liability insurance that becomes effective the same day you purchase it. You'll need an insurance certificate to get your products onto retail store shelves and into the most lucrative craft and trade shows. You'll also enjoy having it in case someone else claims that they were injured as a result of using your product. Our coverage is $395/year for $1M in coverage or $450/year for $2M in coverage.

You can get more information about our Product Liability Insurance Program here: http://www.indiebusinessnetwork.com/join

Exclusive Private Member Forum - immediately after you join IBN, you are invited to become a part of our exclusive private member forum where we Mastermind success topics and small business strategies 24/7. I am there personally, along with hundreds of other members who learn, share, and grow together.

Q: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing an independent business owner?

After 15 years of helping people build sustainable businesses, I am absolutely convinced that "the riches are in the niches." Especially in today's noisy environment where everyone has a microphone and more people than ever are trying to maintain businesses of their own, you absolutely must have a discrete product line that is targeted at a specific segment of the market. This is the biggest challenge for many people who are excited about sharing their products with the masses. You have to start small so you can start bringing in the cash flow needed to grow early on. Go deep instead of wide.

Staying focused in a world where there are distractions everywhere is another challenge. Turning off social media. Setting boundaries around yourself so even family members understand that you must have uninterrupted time to lead your business. Creating standard operating procedures and systems that help you be efficient. None of this is especially hard, but each one requires enormous amounts of discipline and focus.

In my opinion, these are the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs today.

Q: Who or what has been the biggest inspiration for you?

My biggest inspiration is my members. Every day, I immerse myself in learning what they need and want so my team and I can figure out a way to deliver it to them. They are hard working, talented, positive people who are determined to create products that help their customers live better and more enjoyable lives.

IBN members like you, Anne Marie! You inspire me every day to get up, be my best, and not take a single moment of this wonderful life for granted.

My personal and professional motto is: "Break all the rules, Build your own corporate ladder, and Create the Live You Love!" IBN members to that every day. It is a joy to serve them and help them leave a legacy for others to follow.

Q: Do you have any special events or news coming up that you would like to share?
#IndieCruise Mastermind, my annual signature event, sets sail on February 8, 2015 for a week of fun and focused Masterminding in the Caribbean. All creative entrepreneurs are invited to join us as we dig down deep to set the tone for a successful 2015 and beyond. http://www.indiecruise.com

Thank you for this opportunity to share Anne Marie!