When Allison Krongard started WallCandy Arts, she was making sales calls and shipping the product from her living room. After two years, that became "total insanity" and she outsourced the job.
In order to avoid insanity from taking over her home life as she juggles the demands of running a company that sells whimsical wall decals, she has now also outsourced many of the mundane but necessary tasks of running her household by having hired help seven days a week.
That gives this successful businesswoman time to spend with her children and filmmaker husband, and the flexibility to be a volunteer counselor at her son's camp when he is having trouble adjusting, or to do such things as make pinch pots with her kids.
Read on to find out how Allison managed to live her dream on an idea inspired by the empty walls of children's rooms and find out how you can win a little bit of WallCandy of your own.
Name: Allison Krongard
Town: East Hampton, NY
Number of Kids, Names and Ages: Lilly Lion Krongard, 4.5 years, Brandon Leo Krongard 2.5 years
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How did you come about creating WallCandy Arts? Did the idea come from a personal experience with your children?
I didn't have children when I started WallCandy. I got married a little later than most of my friends and spent a good amount of time with their kids. Since I was working in the interior design industry, friends would often ask me to help them decorate their children's rooms. I spent a year looking for a product like WallCandy and couldn't find it. In my mind, it was the perfect solution and I couldn't believe it wasn't out there.
What did you do before this? Was starting a business something you'd thought about?
Before starting WallCandy Arts, I worked at Knoll, Inc., the furniture manufacturer, for about eight years. I was content working for someone else. But after spending so much time researching modern children's wall decor, I felt compelled to bring this product to market. I sold my apartment in NYC to raise the money and jumped in.
What advice can you give other moms (or dads) with entrepreneurial ideas?
I tell anyone who will listen to go for it. If you have a dream, you must do your research but if the concept is still valid after you've completed an in-depth analysis, do it.
When you started the company, how did you get from an idea to actually getting something to market?
In total, it took me nearly two years to the day. During that time, I met with a multitude of material companies, attended printing conventions, adhesive conventions, tested countless products...it was hard to find something that worked perfectly. I had 17 qualifications that the material, backing and printing techniques had to have.
Once I had it down, the level of quality was there, the process was tight and I was ready to actually make something, I bought QuickBooks software, printed up my business cards, started calling stores and shipped orders around the world from my living room. It took nearly two years for that plan to reach the level of total insanity and that's when I hired my first fulfillment center. (A fulfillment center is an intermediate company hired to warehouse the product, prepare orders in accordance with the various logistics guidelines that stores impose...and ship them out.)
I'm sure there are many ways to bring a product to market, but here are a few thoughts to get a mom with an idea off to a reasonable start: Use all the research tools at your disposal to make sure the idea is really valid before you spend any money. (That means) if it's out there, you have a better way to do it, if it's not out there, that's because you're actually the first to think of it (not because the market is too small or there isn't enough opportunity for profit).
The internet is an excellent tool of course, as are friends and relatives in business. I would also suggest attending one or more of the major baby/kids trade shows around the country. There you'll see the key players in the market at work. Perhaps there's an opportunity for a co-branding solution where you piggy back on the resources of a company where your idea could find a home. Alternatively, you might come across a manufacturer with the capability to make it for you if you want to manage the distribution yourself.
There's always the worry that someone will just steal your idea, but I'm a firm believer in the power of honorable business practices and I've only been burned twice (in eight years, not so bad) by being open with my ideas and putting my faith in others.
I don't want to over simplify an arduous (yet doable) process but I'd start with the research and see where it takes you.
What is the most satisfying part about your business?
The most satisfying part about my business is the freedom. Freedom to execute on my ideas, freedom to live comfortably in a safe and happy place, but most importantly right now, owning my own business gives me the freedom to go to camp with my two year old and play soccer until noon if he's not ready to say goodbye.
I'll end up working deep into the night, but I love that it's my choice and as I write this I'm wondering when the pinch pot we made last week will come back from the kiln, and if tomorrow is our day to feed the fish. My daughter is thrilled to be at camp and immediately skips off with her friends. But my son is really struggling and having the freedom to become a part-time assistant counselor for the next few weeks without having to ask permission or explain to someone means the world to me.
Do you work in an office or at home? How do you deal with childcare? Did that change over the evolution of your company?
My husband is a filmmaker and also at home. He's with the kids a lot while I'm working, but my secret is for making sure the house is stocked, everyone has clean clothes, good food, revolving age appropriate toys, play dates etc...is to have help 7 days a week.
I realize that's a lot of help and I usually keep that bit of news to myself but the truth is, there's no way I could be the mom I want to be and run this business. Both are 24/7 jobs. If there's a way to do it all, I haven't figured it out. I'm not good at everything.
We know how challenging it can be to balance a family and a career. What helps you create balance?
In describing my life at this moment in time, the word "balance" doesn't leap to the forefront. The four of us are together a lot. We share a great deal of laughter and love, but we could work on "balance".
What do you like to do to relax?
To me, the beaches of Long Island are without equal. The perfect sand and light over the ocean is so colorful and clear, it's mesmerizing. Egypt Beach at dusk is my special place.
What is your favorite WallCandy Arts product?
Without a doubt, my favorite design is anything in chalkboard. I love the look and functionality of chalkboard paint, but have never used it because it's so permanent. Everyone in my house uses WallCandy chalkboard.
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Allison is offering one of our readers a chance to win a set of any WallCandy Arts product. Visit the WallCandy Arts website and comment below — stating which item you would like to have. We'll pick a winner at random on August 22nd. Good luck!