I first met entrepreneur, Cheryl Koo-Leung, when she won the She Takes On The World & Stylish Copywriter contest back in April. Since then she has been hard at work growing her second company, Pink Panda Fabrics.
Can you tell readers about yourself.
I’m a work at home mom who owns and operates an online designer fabric store, Pink Panda Fabrics. I also run a web consulting business. I’ve always been a “work in an office, work for someone else” kind of gal. I had consulting gigs on and off while I was an employee for someone else but I didn’t become my own boss until this year. I’m a creative left brained woman — love stats, logic, software development, numbers, scrapbooking, cake decorating, sewing and cooking. My goal was to find consulting contracts so I could work from home and take care of my daughter. I found some contracts to generate steady income and somehow decided to build a fabric webstore in the process! Juggling both businesses is quite chaotic but I love having a flexible schedule.
You graduated with a degree in engineering so what made you want to start a fabric store? What was your inspiration?
My daughter was the inspiration behind this venture. When she was born in 2008, I spent a lot of time surfing the web for things to buy her — clothes, toys, a cool diaper bag… okay that was mainly for me. I wanted things to be one-of-a kind, fashion forward, modern and functional. I came up empty handed and decided I was going to make her clothes and toys myself. I would sew while she napped. I had my plan all laid out! I started searching for fabrics that I liked and couldn’t find a store in Canada (online or brick and mortar) who sold them at an affordable price.
I ended up buying from a store in the US and when the package came I was shocked. Along with the price that was listed on the bill, I had to pay another 50% for customs! The sticker shock and the non-existence of my daughter’s naps led to my A-HA! moment. Instead of trying to design and find time to make a product, I’d be on the supply side. I figured I couldn’t be the only Canadian looking for these types of fabrics.
How do you create balance as a work at home mom? How do you separate work life and personal life?
Prior to starting these businesses, my husband and I sat down to figure out what our priorities were. Our top priority was to spend time with our daughter and each other. We wanted to create a work environment that would allow me to stay at home full time with her and to have a flexible schedule so that we could attend classes during the day.
As I’m new to both things, working at home and being a mom, I don’t think I have completely mastered work-life balance yet. I do try to follow a “loose schedule” every day which includes 2 – 3 hours at a class or playdate with my daughter and 3 hours working on my two businesses. The rest of the day is spent taking care of my daughter, cooking, cleaning or spending time with family and friends. Lately, I have been going to bed at 3 am mainly because Pink Panda Fabrics has really taken off a lot faster than I had anticipated. Now I’m trying to figure out how to re-balance everything.
It’s hard for me to separate work life and personal life as I’m constantly thinking about both businesses and figuring out if there is a way that I can continue both without having such a late bed time. I’ve been going back and forth about whether or not to stop consulting because I want to focus my energy on making Pink Panda Fabrics even bigger. I have many ideas on how I want this company to grow — now I just have to find time and the right people to bring my ideas to life.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is to not do everything yourself even if you know how to do it. Prior to starting Pink Panda Fabrics, I was a web developer. I could have built the site myself but I didn’t have the time. I interviewed a few designers and developers and eventually hired a team in Seattle to build it for me. I could have saved a lot of money doing it myself but that would take time away from my daughter. As they were developing the website I focused on marketing and getting the word out about the store. In the end I realized if I had tried to do everything — building, marketing, sourcing products –it would have taken me double the amount of time to get the business up and running.
What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs or work at home moms?
Don’t be afraid to start your own business! Overcome the fear and you will never regret it. Have confidence in yourself and stop thinking and start implementing your idea(s). There are tons of sites, message boards, and forums that can assist you with starting your own business or finding a work at home opportunity. SheTakesOnTheWorld.com is a great resource on how to get started and stay motivated. I’m a subscriber and I love reading your posts! Sometimes I wish you would update more Natalie but I know you’re quite busy yourself! I’m thankful that there are people like you who are able to share their tips and advice — it has been extremely helpful!
Thank you Cheryl. I appreciate that! I wish I could update more as well and I promise I’ll try but sometimes my schedule is just too full. What is a day like in your heels?
I actually don’t wear heels –anymore. It’s all about the flip flops in the summer and in colder weather I wear running shoes as I’m running to the community centre, at a park or at someone’s house for a playdate. I check email in the morning to see if there’s anything urgent that I need to do, take my daughter out for 2-3 hours, come home and have lunch with her, try to get her to nap and work as fast as I can while she naps. I package orders, check stats, and do my web consulting work. I prepare dinner while she plays by herself nearby and that’s it! Recently there have been many days that I have to work after dinner but I’m trying my best to balance. Hopefully I’ll be able to figure out a way soon because I’m exhausted! If anyone has anyone has tips, feel free to share!
Do you have a favourite quote or personal motto?
Actually my favourite quote is one that you tweeted a few months ago by an unknown author:
“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
This is so true! When I have a bad day, I reread this quote (I have it written on my vision board in huge letters) and get myself motivated again to keep on plugging away. Eventually my efforts and sacrifices will pay off.
That is one of my favorite quotes on entrepreneurship. It definitely keeps me motivated through the tough days. Thanks so much for your time Cheryl and I wish you all the best with Pink Panda Fabrics!