Jun 03, 2013 | 04:04 PM
Women, Mao Zedong famously observed, hold up half the sky. The Great Helmsman might not have spied the Internet on the horizon, but women are holding up their end when it comes to e-commerce, too.
The number of U.S. women entrepreneurs using B2B e-commerce website Alibaba.com surged 40 percent in 2012, to 1.6 million registered users. While women still only number one third of all U.S. users, and 22 percent worldwide, the gender gap is closing fast. Global growth in female Alibaba users outstripped new registrations by men by 50 percent in the second half of 2012.
The reasons for the surge is fairly obvious. Starting a home-based e-commerce business is relatively easy, relatively inexpensive and doesn’t require clock-punching at a distant office, factory or shopping mall. For women who have bumped up against the glass ceiling, or those struggling to balance the demands of a corporate job with the desire to have children, e-commerce offers an alternative path to career success.
“It gives us a chance to have it all,” says Julie Degnan, founder of Cakes and Kids, a San Francisco Bay area company that sells children’s party supplies. “Women used to have to choose: am I going to be a mom or a career woman? The fact that you can run a successful business from home and still be a mom and a wife has changed things immensely.”
A mother of three school-age children, Degnan in 2010 returned from maternity leave to find her services no longer required. It was one of six layoffs she endured, the final career hiatus inspiring her to start a business that put her skills as a cake decorator and corporate experience in online marketing to equal use.
Three years later, Cakes and Kids sales are doubling annually and Degnan is in charge of her own destiny. “I’m not going to say it was an easy choice to quit my last job because I gave up a large salary,” she says. “But now I have things up and running its a no-brainer: I can be CEO of my own company and be home for my kids at the same time.”
Mamma’s Got a Brand-new Brand
Motherhood and a pink slip were also the inspiration and impetus for Kate Castle’s start-up, launched in Winchester, England. The mum of two had her bright idea—the BoginaBag portable toilet—when her kids needed to visit the distant loo at a campsite in the dead of night. Then she too was made redundant, having moved to part-time hours while she raised her family.
“They were forcing me to go full time or leave. A lot of women and mums are pushed into that position and it’s a real shame,” she says. “There’s only a short amount of time before your children start school and it becomes easier for you to put more hours in, but it’s nice to have the opportunity to be around for them when they’re younger.”
With the BoginaBag selling well online and through camping stores around the UK, Castle is not finding her working life to be any easier, but at least she has some control over her schedule. “I work more now but the hours are far more flexible around what my kids need. I might work in the evenings but it means I can go to sports day or the school play.”
As ‘mumpreneurs’ both Degnan and Castle had to fight to be taken seriously. “I ran across some attitude: ‘Oh that’s a nice little hobby you’ve got’,” says Degnan. “It was when I quit my job people’s eyes really opened and they went: ‘Wow, she must be selling quite a bit’. There’s a lot more respect as it has grown—people acknowledge that you really have a business.”
“You have more to prove,” agrees Castle. “A lot of men in business are used to working a very structured, full time, nine-to-six job. They find it difficult to understand that you can take something incredibly seriously while not necessarily being committed to those hours.”
As a young, single woman making her way in two male dominated industries, Abingdon Welch encountered different challenges. After qualifying as a pilot (where women make up just 7% of the numbers) she decided to launch her own line of aviator watches, frustrated by the dearth of designs available for women.
Stumping up $60,000 of her own money to start The Abingdon Co., Welch bucked the stereotype of women being conservative in business. “I can’t say I’m risk averse because I’m a pilot and over the last six years I’ve sent hundreds of thousands of dollars overseas, but it’s calculated risk,” she says.
Her advice to new women entrepreneurs: “Step out of the comfort zone: it can’t get bigger unless you do.” Just control the risks you take by researching suppliers thoroughly. “Ask for referrals and recommendations. If they are a decent company with solidity and history behind them they’ll be happy to provide them.”
Welch’s relationship with the factory that produces her timepieces has grown beyond her expectations. “These guys are my family now. My supplier from Hong Kong has made my dreams come true and I treat him like another father,” she says. Only Welch, who itches to get up in the air every day, has never had to board a commercial flight to visit her new ‘relative.’
“All of my products have been sourced online,” she says, including a new jewelry line that the Oregon-based entrepreneur is working on with a New York manufacturer she found on Alibaba.com. “I wouldn’t be here without online sourcing.” Next on the sourcing agenda: an Abindgon-branded line of travel goods.
It’s the same story for Degnan, who expanded her business beyond handmade fondant creations by reselling party supplies sourced through shopping website AliExpress. “If I had had to get on a plane and fly to China to find those products—as a woman on my own I would never do it,” she says. “But I can hop on the computer, converse very effectively with people thousands of miles away and get the products shipped right to my door.”
Castle had visited Chinese suppliers with her previous employer, the U.K.’s leading hardware retailer, and would have had few qualms about going back. “As a culture they have a lot of respect for females in business and I’ve dealt with quite a few women within China,” she says. Her problem was more practical: “I didn’t have the budget to travel for myself like when I was working for a big company.”
Online sourcing ensured BoginaBag made the transition from great idea into finished product. “If I’d had the idea five years earlier I would have struggled to produce it,” says Castle. “The U.K. is no longer making those kinds of products yet there wasn’t the set up for people sitting in their kitchens to be able to contact the factories.” Online sourcing “has enabled all kinds of people to make connections with suppliers who can make products for them,” she says.
Sources of Inspiration
As well as sourcing and selling online, women in e-commerce are replacing the old-boys network that used to drive business relationships with new girl-powered forums. While a lack of female mentors is a problem in the corporate sphere, women entrepreneurs are forming strong support networks online.
Degnan has built a virtual network that includes party planners and other fondant sellers who could easily be classed as competitors. “I’ll send some of these folks items for photo shoots and they’ll give me recognition on their blogs,” she says. “It’s partly about getting my name out there but partly about having connections with women who do something similar to me. If I have new product ideas I bounce them off these women and get feedback.”
Castle has a dragon for a mentor, having enticed a prominent U.K. businessman to invest in BoginaBag when she appeared on reality TV show Dragon’s Den—ironically turning down offers from the two female “dragons” on the show. Castle passes on her own experiences at entrepreneur workshops, where two thirds of the participants are women.
Welch is keenest of all to mentor the next generation, setting up the “It’s About Time” scholarship, which flies one girl each year to the Women In Aviation Conference to inspire them to follow a career in science, technology or aeronautics.
“We don’t do it for the publicity—if we did I would be doing a poor job as there have not been a lot of stories about it,” says Welch. “When I was 14 my life changed as a result of hearing a couple of pilots talk on career day. I want to make that opportunity available to other women.”
Whether in the cockpit or at the keyboard, shooting for the sky certainly sounds more fun than just holding it up.
July 24, 2013 No Comments
Do you remember our June Facebook promotion where you were asked to nominate your favorite charity and every one who entered would receive a red wrist band with ‘I Care’ embossed on it? Well, it was a big hit and 18 charities are appreciative of the free mercahndise they received. Thank you for entering and helping others!
Shortly after we mailed the wristbands, we received this Facebook post from Tony Tannahill: “Thank you very much for our I Care DollarDays wristband!” He also include this photo.
We appreciate the photo so everyone can see how they arrived to over 5,000 people who care! Once Tony posted, several people sent their thanks as well. Thank you Tony, and to everyone who entred the June Sweepstakes!
Hope you’ve entered this month’s photo contest! Just share a photo showing kindness and you could win in the $5,000 merchandise giveaway? Click on the image and it will take you to our Facebook page where you can enter!
July 22, 2013 No Comments
We have winners!! Eighteen of them!
DollarDays would like to personally thank the 6,000+ people who nominated their favorite charities in our June “Nominate Your Favorite Charity” promotion. All of us at DollarDays would like to thank you for taking the time to help make a difference in the lives of so many!
Drum roll please!
First Place, a $2,000 shopping spree, was given to DoSomething.org and nominated by Mike Absher! The $1,000 Second Place shopping spree went to 21FriendsDS, nominated by Jose Reyes. And Third Place was awarded to MonkeyDoProject.com by Phil Goodson.
Each of the following won $100 shopping sprees at DollarDays.com!
- Talk About Curing Autism, nominated by Tracey Nelson
- Limestone County Churches Involved, nominated by Pamela Nash
- ASPCA Abilene, nominated by Michela Brown
- Missouri Humane Society, nominated by Eileen Carlson
- St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, nominated by Mary Keip
- American Heart Assn, nominated by Jessica Para
- G-Rod Foundation, nominated by Terrie Warren
- The Travelin’ Rat, submitted by Danielle Stanley
- National Council of Jewish Women-Back to School Store, nominated by Andrea Newstead
- Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary, nominated by Diane King
- Chemung County SPCA, nominated by Tammy Ford
- Jay’s Hope, nominated by Wanda Epperson
- Susan G. Komen, nominated by KC Angelina
- HRC, nominated by Alicia Stanley
PS. Wristbands have been mailed to all the valid address we received! Enjoy and thank you!
July 3, 2013 No Comments
You don’t even have to get out of your chair. Just click on this image and you will be taken to our June Facebook Sweepstakes.
This month, all you have to do is nominate your favorite charity and they will be entered to win in the $5,000 merchandise giveaway. There will be 18 winners total, with a $2,000 first place prize, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third place. Fifteen will each receive $100 in merchandise. Winners don’t EVER have to pay a penny. No shipping, no taxes.
June 12, 2013 No Comments
By guest blogger Laura.Colado of Bongo International
One of the perks of having a small business is that you have more freedom to personalize interactions and follow-ups. However, many small businesses actually fail to use this to their advantage by formalizing processes for customer engagement. Instead of attempting to prematurely “corporatize” your business, indulge in the personal touch that a small business brings to the table.
Fox Business Small Business Center has published a short list of five ways that you can add a personal touch to your small business. This can be accomplished with an array of initiatives such as hand-written thank you notes and a true open-door policy for customers and employees.
Read the full list HERE, and start interacting with your customers on a more personal level today!
June 4, 2013 No Comments
The results of DollarDays’ May Facebook Contest are in!
Our 107,000+ fans told us who their favorite teachers are and why. One thing we know for sure is that there are a lot of amazing teachers in this country. We are pleased that we could provide $5,000 in merchandise to help our 18 randomly selected winners buy school supplies for next fall.
And the winners are:
First place winner $2,000 in merchandise: Lisa Ildefonzo of Sandpiper School
Second place winner $1,000 in merchandise: Colleen Furlong of Kingsborough Elementary
Third place winner $500 in merchandise: Julie Ahern Andrew Cook Magnet School
Our fifteen $100 in merchandise winners are: Kelly Shelby of Linda Herrington Elementary, Erika Breton of Lincoln Elementary, Brian Taylor of Holy Innocents Grammar School, Scott Green of Kennett High School, Breanna Williams of District 279, Zinda McDaniel Brooks County High School, Katherine Perea of Cimarron Springs, Leda Mares Searles Elementary, Dave Burgess of West Hills High, Stacey Smith of St. Francis de Sales School, Melissa Bruno of BirchLane Elementary School, Kim Cole of Covington Elementary, Janeen Weigel of Lincoln Elementary, Ashley Horner of Lickdale Elementary and Anna Kramer of Diamond Canyon School.
This month, our DollarDays Facebook $5,000 giveaway is for charitable organizations. Be sure to visit DollarDays Facebook fan page to nominate your favorite charity.
June 3, 2013 No Comments
Here’s a great value that moms and dads everywhere will appreciate.
We know school is out for summer and the last thing you are thinking about is back to school supplies, but we wanted to share this with you because it’s an incredible value ($100 retail value—what you’ll pay this August if you buy everything separately) and a time saver. But it’s only available through June 30. So, you might consider getting the backpacks now instead of August. We’ve also had many organizations buy them for charitable giving. They sell for $35 on our site, but you can get one for $25 by entering promo code BP4KIDS at checkout!
Just click on the backpack and it will take you to the description where you’ll discover the dozens of school supplies that are packed into this classic Marc Gold designer backpack. Be sure you enter promo code BP4KIDS at checkout to get the backpack for $25!
May 29, 2013 No Comments
“Here we are at the end of another school year, and once again, teachers throughout the US are facing uncertainty,” said Marc Joseph, Founder and CEO of DollarDays. “Will they have a job next school year, and if so, will their classrooms balloon to unmanageable sizes? Congress has not acted and now the impact of sequestration on federal educational programs is becoming a frightening reality.”
DollarDays, America’s premier online wholesaler, works closely with teachers and school administrators across the country, supplying the tools and supplies needed most in public education. We hear the horror stories of budget and personnel cuts from our customers in primary and secondary education throughout the year and the thought of deeper education cuts does not look good for our kids or our teachers.
Who are the biggest victims of the education sequester?
• Special needs kids and Head Start (the pre-school program for disadvantaged kids)
• Poor kids and Title 1 (federal support for low income school districts)
What are the consequences of education cuts?
• Special needs kids may not get the therapy they need
• School districts may become reluctant to classify kids with disabilities because of the cuts to this program
• Art and music programs may be reduced or cut to help the budget gap
Five ways Americans can help our teachers and students now:
1. Communicate with your representatives in the House and in the Senate.
2. Donate to National Teachers Assistance Organization for professional assistance for teachers.
3. At Donors Choose, public school teachers post classroom project requests and you can donate to the project that most inspires you.
4. At Start Donating, they match donors with teachers in need of supplies.
5. And at DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away $5,000 worth of products in May to help teachers across this great country; so please nominate your favorite teacher who deserves your help.
People become teachers because they want to help others and they want to make a difference. Our teachers need to focus on their passion, instead of worrying about if they will lose their jobs because our political leaders could not act to protect the educational system, which has been the backbone of our society. Let’s hope our leaders come to their senses before it is too late for our kids, and in the long run, the future of this country.
“It may seem like contacting a senator or donating supplies couldn’t possibly make a difference, but collectively, we can make a difference—a difference that will help our teachers, our kids and our country. Be sure to visit DollarDays.com and nominate your favorite teacher to win in our $5,000 school supplies giveaway—eighteen teachers will be randomly selected to win,” said Marc Joseph.
May 10, 2013 No Comments
Congrats to the Winners of our April $5,000 Pet Shelter Giveaway!
$2000 winner: Partners for Pets
$1,000 winner: Jefferson County Humane Society
$500 winner: Adams County Pet Rescue in Othello
DeKalb County Animal Shelter,P.A.W.S. Tinley Park, Haven of the Ozarks Animal Sanctuary,Pinal Animal Control,HELP Humane in Belton, MO, Clay County Humane Society,Trenton Animal Shelter,Windham County Humane Society,Oconto County Humane Society Oconto,It’s Meow or Never Animal Rescue,Lenawee County Humane Shelter,Eau Claire County Animal Shelter,THE ARK, National Mill Dog Rescue, One of A Kind Pet Rescue
Big thanks to all who entered their favorite pet shelters!
Be sure to participate in our “Nominate your Favorite Teacher $5,000 Giveaway” this month on Facebook!
May 2, 2013 No Comments
Click on the apple below to learn how to enter your favorite teacher to win in our $5,000 merchandise giveaway this month!
Why do we do it? Because people become teachers to help others and they want to make a difference. We need our teachers to focus on their passion and not have to worry about if they have enough classroom supplies. As our teachers finish this school year and start to prepare for the next, let’s hope this giveaway will make a difference to the 18 teachers who will receive merchandise from this giveaway. At DollarDays, we love teachers and want to do whatever we can to support them. Nominate your favorite teacher and show your support too! Thank you!
May 1, 2013 No Comments