September 28, 2011
Most would-be startups throw in the towel when their lean pockets can’t fund a big idea. Mallory Whitfield, the founder of Miss Malaprop, took an entirely different approach: she started a blog first. “I didn’t have the capital needed to immediately achieve my goal, which was to own a retail shop selling handmade products,” said Whitfield. “So instead, I decided to use my knowledge of social media, blogging and online media to create a brand and customer base first – on the cheap.”
Learn how Mallory Whitfield’s crafty and crazy designs propelled her to blogging fame and how she leveraged the buzz to build the company of her dreams.
||Mallory Whitfield, 27
||New Orleans, Louisiana
How I Got Started:
Miss Malaprop got its start as a blog in 2006. I didn’t have the capital needed to immediately achieve my goal, which was to own a retail shop selling handmade products. So instead, I decided to use my knowledge of social media, blogging and online media to create a brand and customer base first – on the cheap.
Approximately three years later, in June 2009 I started selling handmade and eco-friendly products by a few other designers at local events. I launched my online store in March of 2010. I’m still building towards my next goal: a brick & mortar boutique for handmade and eco-friendly goods here in New Orleans, where I live.
Best Success Story:
I’m lucky that I’m crafty. Some of my creations have garnered some pretty nice publicity. In 2007 I made an outfit out of recycled FEMA blue tarp for a contest sponsored by Etsy.com. I won 3rd place in the nationwide contest and the story got picked up on a number of sites including Boing Boing.
Similarly, my most recent design, a Mardi Gras costume got some nice buzz. I once covered an entire dress with stuffed animals, and it was featured on Craftzine and Neatorama.
Creating crazy clothing has been a great way for me to get some free press and links back to my websites.
Biggest Startup Challenge:
Lack of capital has always been a challenge, but I believe I’ve done a good job of overcoming that obstacle through some creative bootstrapping. For example, I built a strong brand using my blog and social media before expanding into a storefront. I also sought out free help and mentorship through various agencies.
My local small business development center helped me secure a state grant to pay for part of the initial web development and design costs of my e-commerce website. I’ve recently found a fabulous mentor through the Urban Entrepreneur Partnership, a Kauffman Foundation program. He has been helping me refine my business plan and crunch numbers so I can be prepared before going to a bank for a small business loan.
#1 Tip for New Entrepreneurs:
Just keep going! I am more and more convinced that most businesses that last more than a few years do so with a combination of sheer willpower and determination.
If it’s not something you’re absolutely passionate about, don’t do it because it will get harder and it’s too easy to give up along the way. If your business is something that really excites you and that you go to bed thinking about at night, just keep going and hacking away at it. Never give up!
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