Thegreenglovedryer is the green energy solution to drying gloves, mittens and more ... and it's made in America. Karen Smoots took the challenge of drying wet winter accessories and turned it into a burgeoning business.
What prompted your decision to become an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship has always been in my blood. From a very young age, I always enjoyed taking on leadership roles—guiding and helping others and paving my own way. I've never been afraid of a challenge, of trying something new, and have possessed the spirit to do something big. I knew that my invention would help other moms across the country, so I felt I had no choice but to share the solution.
What have you done to create and grow a successful business?
The business structure that I have created with Thegreenglovedryer is unique. I knew as a startup company that it would just be me. I had no funding for employees, marketing, PR, et cetera. Growing a business at the pace I hoped to, I knew I could not handle it alone. I had to have a plan.
I approached my manufacturer, WL Molding of Michigan LLC, with a unique product, never been done before at this facility. The concept was easy: Thegreenglovedryer comes off the press in manufacturing. There are 60 seconds between each mold. We need to utilize this time. Therefore, with the creative minds at WL Molding of Michigan and the collaboration of their business manager, Connie MacDonald, we came up with a perfect process: Manufacture-Assemble-Package-Ship, all at one facility. It was the perfect solution, which now makes WL Molding our manufacturer, our fulfillment center and our distributor—operating in one location. This process allows our business grow at a pace that can accommodate and fulfill orders from many different sized partners.
What is the greatest or most interesting lesson you've learned so far?
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is that building a network of support around you is crucial to success. Being a solo entrepreneur is challenging, because you don't have a team on a daily basis to strategize with, discuss ideas and help manage all the facets of the business.
I've learned that success does not always convert to sales. Entrepreneurship is a process. It's like building a house. The land first, then the foundation, then the frame, then the walls, et cetera. You can't pick out the furniture, wall coverings and paint before the house is built. I realize that every small accomplishment and recognition is helping to build the business.
Finally, learning to say no and trusting your gut is an absolute necessity.
What are a few of your favorite things about being an entrepreneur?
There are so many things that drive me about entrepreneurship that it is difficult to only name a few. The most rewarding part thus far has been building and developing relationships with some of the most creative and genuinely great people with the same drive, commitment and energy level as I have. I am confident that these relationships will be lifelong. I have also had the opportunity to meet wonderful moms, dads and business partners who inspire me daily to keep going, live your dream and—most important—pay it forward to other entrepreneurs who are starting this journey. I truly enjoy paying it forward to other entrepreneurs by inspiring them, helping them and offering any help that will help them along their journey.
What sets you and your business apart from others?
My enthusiasm, dedication and my willingness to learn. I realized very early that listening had to be a daily, lifelong skill I had to perfect. I am always willing to accept criticism, because without it how can I learn. I want to succeed in my business and I want to grow, but equally important is to see my partners who took a chance on me, Thegreenglovedryer and this business succeed as well. I want them to be as successful as our company, and I will go to any measure to make sure this happens. I am a small, mom-owned business who cares about my partners involved, just like any mom would for their own family. I guess it's the mom instinct that makes this business unique.
What advice would you offer those who ponder following their dreams?
Dreams are just that: dreams. We all have them, and we all hope they come true. Entrepreneurship is taking the chance—just don't go into without doing your homework. Research the market, your competition and everything involved. Ask questions.
The words "what if it fails" should never enter your vocabulary. Failure is not an option with a well-thought-out plan. If you are entering this adventure with the last-resort option, it's probably not a sound decision. Make sure you have a plan that you will still be able to have a roof over your head, pay your bills, provide for your family, et cetera. If your answer to these questions is "maybe" or "no"? That doesn't mean it won't happen; it just means maybe your plan needs longevity.
Becoming an entrepreneur is not a job: It's a lifestyle, it's a new DNA, it changes the way you think about everything in your life. Make sure you're prepared for those changes!
Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. They don't stop at "no"—and they persevere through risks and rewards. When West Michigan Woman sought nominations of local woman entrepreneurs to feature as our cover story, the response was outstanding—as are the women our readers selected. All are in the earlier stages of their endeavors. All have a story to tell. To read the published article introducing these women, click here.