Well with a post title like this, I could go on forever, but I'll try to keep this short and sweet! It was 10 years ago this month that RuffleButts was officially born. I actually started working on the business in March, but it was April that RuffleButts was officially my 1st born. In the past 10 years, to say I have learned a lot would be a bit of an understatement. Entrepreneurship has been a journey of growth, more than I ever could have imagined. A journey of both personal and professional growth! So, here's my quick summary of 10 lessons I've learned over the years:
1. Be thankful. I have learned that when I live and work with an attitude of gratitude, it makes me happier. When you're young, it feels like everything will be here forever and time goes slow. It will not and it does not. Don't take anything for granted, it can change in an instant.
2. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I have operated from this philosophy from the time I was little, but I find that not enough companies apply it to the world of business. I attempt to treat our customers and our team members the way I would want to be treated and I believe over time, it has helped our business earn their trust.
3. If you are not outside your comfort zone, you are not living up to your full potential. I think this one comes with age and experience. If life or work seems easy, you are not growing. If you are not growing, you are just standing still. For me personally, I am bored when standing still.
4. The things most worth having do not come easily. Marriage, kids, business, friendship. The things most valuable in life are the things that take the most effort and commitment. They are also the things totally worth it.
5. You have to give a lot to get a lot. Applies to everything listed in #4.
6. Perspective is a beautiful thing. If you look at everything through a lens of negativity, that is exactly what you will see. Look for the positive and find happiness. Sometimes you need to allow yourself one day of pity-party and then suck it up and deal with it. No one controls your perspective other than you.
7. If you haven't failed a lot, you likely aren't going to win a lot. If you want it, you have to work for it. I have never met anyone super successful that has not failed. I fail daily and I try again. Quitters never win, simple as that.
8. This business means the world to me, but my priorities are #1 God, #2 Family, #3 Work. #2 and #3 are gifts from #1.
9. I can work my tail off, but I can not do it alone. I am so fortunate to be surrounded daily by kind, caring, compassionate, supportive and hard-working individuals. I absolutely could not do this without them. Although, I am still learning how to ask for help when I need it.
10. Always give more than is expected. To your customers, to your boss, to your family. I have been shocked over the years in business by how many people only deliver the minimum and then cross it off their list. It is easy to stand out, go the extra mile. There is a great quote about that...go the extra mile, it's never crowded. This is so true!
I can not put into words the journey that I have experienced over these past 10 years, but I can say that I am beyond grateful to have experienced it! ~Amber
"How on Earth will I talk about myself for 3 hours?" was my thought when this super sweet reporter asked to schedule 3 hours with me for an interview. First of all, no one wants to hear my whole life story, right? And, I'm not sure I have enough interesting stuff to fill 3 whole hours!
I was stunned to look down at the clock to see that we were actually 5 minutes over! Seriously, did I just talk to this reporter for 3 hours about the start of RuffleButts?? The amazing thing was that she is so good at her job, I felt like I was chatting with a long lost friend. That, and the fact that I was telling the story of my 1st born, my dream come to life. I am so busy running the daily life of this business, it is extremely rare that I take a step back to review the journey. My journey plays out with a mix of drama, a total comedy, and even a little horror (like when my first RuffleButts shipment arrived only half sell-able!). I just never thought that my story was interesting enough to share with millions...but am COMPLETELY flattered that they think otherwise!
So, to take a step back...that reporter that I speak of is Lori Weiss. She is an amazing writer that covers stories that are very close to my heart. Marlo Thomas has this incredible series on the Huffington Post called It Ain't Over...Till It's Over. The series is also shared on AOL...huge!! The series shares stories of inspirational women of all ages and walks of life. They are all interesting stories that pull you in and remind us that anything is possible at any time. It was when I received a phone call from Lori that I was blown away to even be considered for this series! I have talked about it here on the RuffleBlog for years, but it has been a passion and goal of mine since day one, to share my story (the journey, the celebrations, and the tears) in hopes of inspiring others and sharing an honest journey. We are all at different places with different dreams, but we all share similar fears, obstacles, and intimidations. When I started this business I was not lacking for the glossy entrepreneur story found in magazines and on TV daily, but what I struggled to find was good old honest advice and feedback from someone who had fought from the same trenches.
When I decided to do Shark Tank last year, a big part of that decision was to share our true story with the world. To show other mompreneurs that it is totally possible, but not without a climb. I came from nothing, no experience, no connections in the industry, no trust fund. I started this from scratch and am still climbing my mountain (with a super talented team and family beside me today). I have learned a lot of lessons, many the hard way, but it is 100% possible and I have never doubted that. With that said, I have faced every emotion possible, and intimidation certainly was a huge hump I had to put behind me in the beginning. It was when I realized that every successful person that I admire was a newbie at some point, I became determined to make it work. I likely shouldn't admit this, but it is probably monthly that at some point in the day I wonder what in the heck I am doing playing with the big boys. I feel inadequate, uneducated, inexperienced, and in over my head, to be quite honest. It is in those moments when I either go to Mark (my husband, partner, and best friend) for a pep-talk or I shake it off and keep plugging away. I refuse to give in to those thoughts...and to be quite frank, I don't have time for them!
If you are reading post this with a dream ahead of you, please go read the series. It is not about the experience, the connections, or the glossy story. Don't get me wrong, those things certainly help sometimes, but it really comes down to your will and your attitude. How determined are you? These stories that have captivated me on Marlo's series, they are not of women who had those things, they are of women who had a dream and went for it. Dreams come in all shapes and sizes, they are not necessarily an entrepreneurial dream, but all dreams are worth living. A lesson I learned watching The Little Engine That Could with my kids last night: If you think you can, you will. If you think you can't, you won't. Either way, you are right. A valuable lesson at any age!
It was as I read through the article that I realized we're actually doing a really good job in staying as green as possible. Of the 10 things on the list, we're doing 7 of them!
1) Recycle. We have ~6 paper recycling bins throughout the office, and anything paper / cardboard that we can recycle goes into them. We also have a bin in the kitchen for metal/glass/plastic. All of our cardboard boxes we receive from inbound shipments are cut-up and put into our recycling dumpster out back and picked up every two weeks. Sure it's a cost to have this service, but it's absolutely worth it.
2) Don't waste energy on unnecessary lighting. We definitely do our best to shut-off lights when not in use - and even direct some of the warehouse fans to blow cool air into the office-space vs. running the air conditioning. We have all employees turn off their computer monitors and desk lights nightly.
3) Reduce paper use. We've installed .PDF 'printers' on all of the computers in the office, combined our 'picklists' to include multiple orders per page, have duplexing units on our two main printers, and generally try to print as little as possible.
4) Move away from bottled water. We've had a Britta in the office since day 1. Sure it's a pain to make sure it stays filled, but I know I always cringe when I see shoppers at Costco with a cart full of bottled water!
5) Programmable thermostat. One of my first changes after moving into the new office space was to install one. They're great, easy to setup, and well worth the $20-$40.
6) Choose green products. From our printers that have powersave modes, to the energy star refrigerator we purchased for the kitchen, we've got this one covered.
7) Recycled print cartridges. They (usually!) work as well as the originals, and are definitely cheaper too. We've got a pile of to-be-returned empty cartridges in the supply room - once we have enough stocked up - we'll bundle and ship them back to be re-reused.
I'm sure there are some additional items that we can instill / install in the offices to make us even more green, but I think we're off to a pretty solid start. I'm proud that our team is diligent about keeping up with our environmentally friendly efforts. In fact, our 2,500 square foot office with the equivalent of 14 full time employees generates on average only one large garbage bag full of trash a WEEK!
Whether your living by yourself, with a large family, in a small or enormous office - there's always something that can be done to help better reduce, re-use, and recycle. How many items are the list can you check off?
~Guest Author, and RuffleButts COO: Mark