5 Tips for Being a Successful and Happy Entrepreneur Mom

by Lisa Suttora on May 8, 2011

I don’t often blog about my life as an entrepreneur mom. I frequently want to, but there’s only so much time in the day to blog, and ecommerce strategy posts usually take precedence.

But since it’s Mother’s Day, I wanted to reach out to all the other entrepreneur moms (and those who are thinking about becoming one!) to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day and share some of the tips that I have used to balance life as a mom & business owner over the past 8 years.

I left a high-paying corporate job in 2001 to strike out on my own as an entrepreneur. A lifelong entrepreneur at heart since age 8, I had always wanted to own my own business, but never had the courage to do so. I grew up in a family where the message was, go to school, get a good job, work hard and you will be rewarded. I didn’t know any other entrepreneurs and thought for sure they must have some “special gene” which I was pretty sure I didn’t possess. Figuring if I did have “it” I would be able to start a business without being scared.

Having my two children changed all that. Tired of leaving my son with a babysitter (even though she was great) and dreading the prospect of starting child care all over again with my infant daughter, I decided to make the leap. I was going to “work from home” in my own business.

I wanted to be home with my kids every day.  And I’d seen all the stories about work at home moms with the kids playing happily by their side while mom built a brilliant business on the computer.  :-) I also felt that if I had a dream this big and didn’t

Bellie & Noah – 5 months after I became an entrepreneur!

pursue it – what was I modeling for my kids? By doing this, I was showing them how to pursue their dreams someday.  (Which by the way, actually has impacted their lives in a positive, now that they are old enough to understand it.)

An added factor in the equation was that I am a single parent. So leaving the safety of a corporate job, with vacation, benefits, insurance, was not a decision I took lightly.  (In fact, for anyone considering this, I highly recommending starting the business first, and then when the income starts to come in, make plans to leave your job.  It’s much less stressful and a financially more sound decision.) But I knew if I didn’t do it all the way – and get off the corporate gravy train, I wouldn’t do it at all.

Choices, Guilt, Rewards, Choices, Guilt, Rewards, Choices… (Well, you see where this is going.)

The first thing I discovered about being an entrepreneurial mom is that things don’t work like the pictures in the magazines. The vision of the kids happily playing with Legos on the floor next to you while you’re on a business call is not a reality. When your pre-schooler sees mom, he thinks “Mom is available to play!” not “Oh mom is building her Internet business, I’d better give her some time to work.”

And the photo of the beautiful baby sitting on entrepreneurial mom’s lap while mom types on the computer and builds her empire? Nope! Babies love to pound on keyboards when they are sitting in your lap.

Uh oh.

It quickly became apparent to me that I was going to need…childcare. Child care!?!?!  But that’s why I left corporate America!  So I wouldn’t have to do childcare anymore.

I fought it for several months, before I could see that this situation was going no where fast.  I wasn’t making progress on the business, my oldest was getting frustrated with mom’s “available unavailability” and I wanted to hold the baby.  But I knew that in order to generate an income, I was going to have to start treating my business like a business.

It was at this point, I began to realize what it was really going to take to be a successful entrepreneur mom…

The 5 Tips for Being a Successful and Happy Entrepreneur Mom

It’s what I tell all my coaching clients and the principal my Business Growth Group is founded on:

Entrepreneurial Mom Tip #1. “Treat your business like a business and it will pay you like a business. Treat your business like a hobby and it will cost you like a hobby.”

Once I made the decision to treat my business like a business, and set a specific schedule for work time (and yes childcare time, although not nearly as much as when I had been in corporate America.) my business started to grow rapidly.

I had made the choice. It was rewarding to see the business grow. But I also had tons of mom guilt.

Why? Because now my kids  knew I was “home” all day and they wanted to stay home with me too.  I can’t tell you how hard it was to bring them both to the babysitters each day. Those big brown eyes looking up at me, and what I really wanted to do was take them to the park.

Oh and just to add mom guilt on to more mom guilt…  I loved my business too.

And that was the dawning of the realization. As an entrepreneurial mom, you’ll never feel like there is enough of you to go around. You can never give 100% of you to all the things you want to do. And it can demoralize you until you look at it with perspective.

Entrepreneurial Mom Tip #2. You can’t give 100% of yourself to everything. There will be choices. Things you wish you could do, that you can’t. Don’t spend the years wracked with guilt. It doesn’t serve you,  your business or your children.

The best thing you can do is talk to your kids about this. Tell them how you feel. My kids are fully a part of my life.  If I would have loved to volunteer at such and such event, or wish I could have made the cake for the carnival instead of buying it – I share this with them. Sometimes they wish so too. But most of the time, it doesn’t matter to them.  What matters is that as an entrepreneurial mom, I am around enough to have conversations with them. They can walk into my office in the afternoon and show me a school paper. They can pop their head in the door and ask me how to spell something.

Which brings me to my next entrepreneurial mom tip…

Entrepreneurial Mom Tip #3. Don’t try to make everything perfect. Something’s always gotta give.

When I first thought about writing this blog post, I was surveying the condition of our house.

On the kitchen counter lay the contents of yesterday’s lunch boxes.  Sure my kids know to pick stuff up and put it away, but I was working at my desk when they got home from school and well… the sunny weather and basketball hoop outside were calling their names.

Dishes from dinner dotted the kitchen.  Normally the kids and I pick up after dinner together, but last night we headed straight to a function at my son’s school (chocolate cake courtesy of Costco) and there wasn’t time to clean up.

As I looked around the house, I was tempted to get stressed.

“Why are there dirty socks on the mantle?”

(Note to self – Remember to talk to 13 year old son when he gets home.)

But then I looked around the room some more.

This is a picture of what was supposed to be a business white board in my office. Except my kids kept coming into my office and writing messages to me on it. After a few weeks of telling them “This whiteboard is for business, quit writing on it.” I got another whiteboard for business. I’m glad I did.

My daughter’s beautiful art project in one corner of the room, brightly colored markers sprinkled all over the carpet.

The basketball from yesterday’s game, strategically placed right in the middle of the doorway between the living room and dining room.  How many times did we walk around it this morning and yet no one (including me) put it away?

Signs of life,  fun and living.

And the home of a entrepreneurial mom.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t always look like this…  There was that one day last month when the house was spotless … ;-)

There are days I go directly from teaching a webinar on search engine optimization for websites to driving a carpool full of laughing 9 year olds and middle schoolers.

In 2008 when I spoke at eBay Live! in Chicago, the kids came with me. While I worked, they were at eBay Live Camp.  We had a blast.

During times like this I feel on top of the world!

And then there are the mornings where there is no food in the house, because I worked late into the night and didn’t get to the grocery store.

Or I wake up to a flurry of questions “Mom did you do this? Mom you said you’d do that! Mom can we do this, this and this today? Aw.. do you have to work today.”

Last month when I was speaking at the 2010 Ecommerce Summit in Las Vegas, they didn’t make it to their sports practices, a book project didn’t get done on time, but they did have lots of fun spending time with their dad!

Entrepreneurial Mom Tip #4. Involve your kids in your business and in your life and let them participate!

Kids from Front to Back: Bellie (mine), Indy (Lynn’s), Noah (mine), Houston (Lynn’s)

The message my kids have heard from me since very early on is that we are all in this together! They participate in my business, in keeping the household running smoothly (i.e., chores!), they know the names of many clients I’ve worked with over the years, read my blog posts, and are always on the lookout for product trends!

This is a picture of the kids and I with Lynn Dralle, the Queen of Auctions when we all got together last summer at Lynn’s mom’s house up in Bellingham, WA. While the kids played on the beach Lynn (a successful entrepreneurial mom) and I did a teleseminar on eBay’s Fall 2009 changes. (You can get out latest audio on the 2010 Spring Changes here.)

My kids love the fact that I am an entrepreneurial mom. They are proud of what I’ve achieved.  And they feel like they are part of that success.

And now that they are 9 and 13, I see them applying skills they’ve learned from watching me in their everyday lives.

They hear me talk about persistence and how it’s the number key to success – and they draw on that when they are facing a challenging task at school.

Over the years, they’ve heard me talk time and time again about making choices.  And how the hardest choices are between two worth options. They find comfort in this when they have a hard decision to make.

One day my daughter said to me “Mom, it must feel really good to create a successful business out of nothing – just starting with an idea.” My son chimed in “Yah, I think that’s so cool. I have this idea…”

They get it. They see it. What I set out to do.

Entrepreneurial Mom Tip #5. Don’t try and do everything yourself. Ask for help. Hire help. Accept help when offered. Learn to say no. (I’m still working on these.)

For a long time I took pride in being super-entrepreneur mom. I did it all. And did it all pretty darn well. But about a year ago, I realized that “it” was continuing to expand. And even I have my limits of what I can accomplish in one day. And if I wanted to grow my business, be a good mom, and not burn the candle at both ends and in the middle, I was going to have to start bringing people into my life to help.

It takes a village to raise a family and build a business.

Whether it’s an offer from a friend to pick up the kids after school on the days I have a 5:00pm webinar or hiring someone to clean the house every two weeks (which I did and it’s been some of the best money I’ve ever spent!)

It also means learning to say no.

It means saying no to things I do in my business that eat up time, rather than grow the business.

It means saying no to things that people “expect” me to do but that are not in alignment with my personal or professional goals. Time is my most precious asset.

It means that even though my nature is to give and give  of myself to my customers, clients, potential customers,  friends and family (because I want to)  until there is nothing left – I need to say no before it gets to that point.

And so do you.

There is only “one of you”, entrepreneurial moms.

And you owe it to yourself to take as good care of you as you do everyone else!

So a very Happy Mother’s Day to all entrepreneurial moms, grandmoms, and aunts and sisters who are moms!

You are special beings, on an amazing journey.  And this is your day.

-Lisa

PS: I woke up earlier than the kids this morning to write this blog post. As I was writing at my desk, I heard the rustling of paper, whispering and giggling…

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Laura May 9, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Great article! My children are all grown but the advice is still applicable. I pray your Mother’s Dayu is the best ever!!

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2 Denise Preston May 9, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Thank you for sharing yourself this morning, Lisa! You are an inspiration to me & so many others. I don’t know what I’d do without you. And what beautiful children you have!

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3 Philip May 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Wow, great post Lisa, and oh so true. Could also apply to stay-at-home dads that are homebased self-employed too. Have a Happy Mother’s Day.

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4 Sharon Weicker May 9, 2010 at 5:29 pm

What a great blog! Children absorb everything and it is so great to have a good role model! Although my kids are grown, they still ask all about how my business is progressing and they put their 2 cents worth into everything I am trying to accomplish. Yep, it takes a whole family to build a business………

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5 George Nieves May 9, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Hi Lisa,

First off, Happy Mother’s Day! What are you doing working today?
This is a very inspirational post, not only for entrepreneur moms, but for ALL entrepreneurs. We can all relate to the information in this post.
It has some real gold nuggets to absorb.
Thank you, you’re a true professional!

Best regards,
George Nieves

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6 shamim May 9, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Happy mother’s day. As always great article. Thanks for all the information you share with us, have learned a lot from you.

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7 Gary Moss May 9, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Thanks for the great blog! I’m just getting started so it’s all trying to figure out what right now, but I’m reading your book and hoping to be off the ground in the next 6 months or so. Keep up the good work! Gary

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8 Jeanne Kolenda May 9, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Hello my friend,
I’m sitting here with my laptop in the den while hubby watches TV, catching up on all the blogs that I knew would be wonderful today. Yours certainly is at the top of the list. I absolutely LOVE it when business people put on a personal face once in awhile. I’m WAY past the “mothering” stage and I’m into the “adult friend and coach” stage, but I wish I had had someone like you to encourage me many years ago. I know that you’ve touched a lot of hearts today, including mine. Thanks for being YOU. I look forward to keeping in touch with you. Thanks also for participating in the Online Revenue Builders 90-day intensive. I need another 90 days to digest it all. You’re doing a great job. Happy Mother’s Day!
Hugs,
Jeanne

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9 Ekram May 9, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Lisa,
Happy Mother’s Day to you too. You have no idea how much this blog touched me. I am a mother of four (the oldest one is six and the youngest is 7 months). I am an ebay seller, a soccer mom, and I’m taking your product sourcing class, etc… and I was feeling guilty about a lot of things. But i will follow your advice because you are an inspiration to all of us….. I love my kids and I love my business and I love to watch it grow.

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10 Lisa Suttora May 10, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Hi Ekram,
Happy Mother’s Day to you too! – You’re AMAZING and don’t forget that for one minute! You are the center of the universe for 4 little children who adore you and that in and of itself is a full time day! Add to that an eBay seller and a soccer mom and you are doing wayyyyy more in one day than an corporate executive in a penthouse suite does in 90 days.

You have so much to be proud of yourself for, and nothing to feel guilty about! Whenever you need a reminder, just come back and read this!

You can have it all – be a good mom, and grow your business. But you can’t devote 24 hours a day to each. Since there is only 24 hours in one day. :-) So what you have to do is literally schedule business building time and “me” time on your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself to work on your business, and take time out for you.

Now I won’t say that you can always keep that schedule. You may schedule Tuesday night at 8-10pm to work on your business and the baby has other plans. :-) BUT, have the structure of a schedule and making it REALISTIC is the other thing that really helps me balance it all.

And I struggle daily with being “time optimistic” (which I am working on) I’ll commit to doing all these things that can’t possibly happen in one day.

But what I do – is schedule tasks in – and then I see that I allocated an hour to do “X” and it took 3 hours. Next time I block out a more realistic amount of time.

So the more you can structure a schedule for your day, the easier it will be to manage both being a mom and your business.

Also, I found when I would tell my kids “Mommy is working from 3-5pm” (and of course this works much better when they are old enough to understand the concept of time and also tell time.) and then stuck to that, it helped a LOT. Even now, it’s a much better approach than saying “Just a minute.” or “I’ll be right there.” 200 times. :-)

Ultimately what your kids want are your hugs, your smiles, listening to them when they are happy, being there for them when they are sad. And to be able to spend time talking & being with you. Even if it’s in the car on the way to soccer. In fact we have some of our best talks in the car! And of course to know how much you love them.

So I hope today you celebrate all that you DO.

And if you stay focused on working on your business CONSISTENTLY – even if it is just an hour a day – you will build a solid business.

-Lisa

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11 Ekram May 14, 2010 at 9:16 am

Lisa,

Wow, thank you so much. I think I will frame your reply and read it every morning for a dose of inspiration :-) I know I speak for all us when I say we really appreciate your genuine caring and positive attitude. I love being your student, and hopefully ONE DAY, I will be one of your case studies :-) Have a wonderful day and thank you for putting a smile on my face this morning :-)

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12 Bronwyn May 9, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Hi Lisa,

Firstly thank you for the great blog, and Happy Mothers Day back to you. This article really struck a cord with me, especially about treating my business as a business – again thank you!!!

Kind regards
Bronwyn
Townsville, Australia

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13 Serena May 10, 2010 at 1:57 am

Hi, Lisa! Sorry, but I got to your blog post late, so a happy belated Mother’s Day to you! I hope you really got to enjoy it with Noah and Bellie. They are so cute, and so sweet to leave you such great messages :0) Hats off to you and Lynn and all the entrepreneurial moms out there. I just don’t know how you juggle it all and still keep your sanity! You are such an inspiration to me and everyone else :0)
BTW, I know I owe you an email update, but have been so swamped/overwhelmed, that I haven’t gotten around to it! I will get to it as soon as my time frees up, hopefully in the next week or two!

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14 DeAnne May 10, 2010 at 6:01 am

WOW! Inspiration! Some days I don’t feel like I can do this but you’ve just shown me the map. Thank you.

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15 Jeanette Cates May 10, 2010 at 9:15 am

Lisa – thanks for sharing your sage advice, as always. I’m just now getting here to read it because I took yesterday off to enjoy some of my kids and grandkids who came up to see me. I whole-heartedly agree with you – it’s tough some days, but so worth it.

I created my first business when my kids were in early elementary school. They thought it was great because we were the only family in the block with a computer, electric pencil sharpener, paper-cutter. They even charged their friends a nickel per copy to use our copier, rather than have to run to the local copy shop!

They’re all adults now and each of them has been involved in my current business along the way – in fact, two of them are currently working for me part-time. It allows me to interact with them on a different level than just mother-daughter. We’re now colleagues.

So entrepreneurial mom (or dad) is a lifelong jouney that you and they will enjoy all along the way. Congratulations on your great start!

Jeanette

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16 Maida May 10, 2010 at 10:02 am

Fabulous insights Lisa. As a former family therapist who has re-invented myself now as online retailer, the advise stands for ALL working parents who juggle so many balls at a time. Building a business during these important child rearing years is not easy, but you’ve done it! Your kids are beautiful.
Thanks for sharing & encouraging all of us. I actually have granddaughters now that come with me to auctions and love to help in the “store.” After all, how many Nana’s have a basement full of toys & dolls :)
Be well, Maida

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17 Connie Ragen Green May 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Noah and Bellie are gorgeous – and so fortunate to have you as their Mom. I was not around entrepeneurs until I was an adult, so my perspective and experience reflect that.
Imagine if all children could see and understand the possibilities of having their own business at an early age, instead of striving for a job that might not live up to its expectations later on.
Connie

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18 Maureen May 11, 2010 at 4:31 am

Perfect timing and just what I needed to hear. I’m working on building my business and keep getting tangled up in the messy house guilty mom syndrome too! I have “hired” an employee who comes and works 1 day a week with me and brings work home with her. She refuses pay because she says it’s fun. She’s also my mom!

I love the photos of you, Lynn and the children. I am a QC member and was on the call last summer when you were at her mom’s house. I’ve since signed up you a few times, but I can’t seem to find time to actually log in and learn anything. I suppose a schedule would help. I like the, “mom is working from 3 pm to 5 pm” approach. My children are teens so they SHOULD be able to grasp that concept.

Thanks for all you do and happy mother’s day!

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19 Carla May 11, 2010 at 11:41 am

Thanks for such an honest and realistic approach to meshing these two loves! Keep sharing, we need your insight and guidance in this field. Some of us have more heart than actual knowledge, and this is where your practical advise and expertise comes in. I am going to get there if it is the last thing I do, LOL!!
Thanks Lisa!
Carla

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20 Michelle Black May 16, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Lisa, thanks so much for the great advice (again). You are truly my personal inspiration!
Michelle

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21 Nikki August 28, 2010 at 6:16 am

ooohhh! Thanks for making me feel better about the house chores not yet done as im always thinking of work and at the computer! I also feel very guilty at the time i give the kids. Must make an effort to do something each day with them!!! At least there are plenty of others out there in the same situation! xxxxx

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22 Sarah February 6, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Great Blog article. I saw all those moms with the baby in arm while creating their trendy perfect businesses. But you are right we still need daycare we still can’t do everything ourselves and we shouldn’t feel guilty about it whether we’re business owners or corporate grinders. Thank you for sharing that. I needed to hear that. God bless you and your family.

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23 Lisa Suttora February 7, 2011 at 2:16 am

Hi Sarah,
Yes the pictures you see in magazines of the kids happily building Legos at your feet while you work away (and look good)! are a myth. In a way it’s even worse being at home, but not being available to your kids. Because you are constantly having to tell them “not right now”.

What’s worked for me is to be very clear (when they are home) that I am working until 4:30pm and at 4:30 they will have my full attention or help with homework etc. Then I make sure I pull myself away from my computer at 4:30pm, help them with homework ’till 5:00pm and let them know I am going back to work until 6:00pm (for example).

It’s not perfect – I often wish I could clone myself. And the guilt does creep in. But I’m also starting to see that my kids recognize what I do and they are proud of it – and are starting to understand that “mom has created something here and she is passionate about it and dedicated to it” and I’ve seen them start to think out of the box in terms of what they dream of doing in their lives.

I think they are growing up believing that they can make their dreams a reality.

Of course, I don’t think they think about that on the mornings before school when I didn’t get to the laundry and there is no ‘good food’ in the house for lunch. LOL! It’s all a balance.

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24 Molinda May 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Lisa,

Happy Belated Mother’s day. Also, Happy Mothers Day today, as you are still MOM! I revisited so many hours reading your post, remembering my sons growing up with a Real Estate Broker for a Mom.

Life is love and a circle. Now, I am a grandmother with a New Idea and with you as my coach and my family as a foundation, I know I will replay some scenes perfected! I reached one destination in life. It’s time for another journey. You are an awesome guide.

Thank you for the Blessings and the Sunshine you share!

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25 Tanya May 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Hi Lisa –

Just reading your post now – so Happy belated Mother’s Day!!

Even though my Mom didn’t think she was an entrepreneur she was always involved in volunteer work where she was on this committee or that committee (she was cookbook chairman one year and darn if that cookbook didn’t take up our whole living room for about 4 months!). She always invovled the family in her projects and it taught us at a young age the value of converting your own ideas into viable projects.

We are now a family of entrepreneur’s – my brother and sister are already entrepreneur’s, and I’m just starting down that path myself with an idea that pestered me for 5 years (yikes!), before I finally gave in and have started to pursue it.

Thanks for the great tips on how to manage being a successful mom and successful entrepreneur all at the same time. My favorite is the idea of a housekeeper – now that’s an idea I can get behind!

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26 Lisa Suttora May 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Hi Tanya,
Happy Mother’s Day to you too! I love what you said about your mom! And you’re right, she wouldn’t have considered herself to be an entrepreneur, but that’s exactly what she was doing!

So glad that you are bringing your idea to fruition! Sometimes it takes a while to step into the world of entrepreneurship. One thing that happens when we venture into starting our own business is that no matter how well-adjusted we are, the process of starting and running a business can bring up a lot of “stuff” – issues of confidence, perfectionism, shyness, time-management, you name it!

But don’t let that stall you! It’s all a part of this wonderful journey you are about to embark upon. In fact one of the best pieces of advice I heard when I got started back in 2001 was “The real wealth that comes from being an entrepreneur is not the money you make, it’s the person you become along the way.” Truer words were never spoken!

So go for it! And yes to the housekeeper! Every two weeks I feel like the refresh button has been pushed on life! :)

-Lisa

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27 Jane Schraeter November 30, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Totally Awesome!!!!

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28 Lisa Suttora November 30, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Thanks Jane :)

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29 Bobby Yorty November 30, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Lisa,
Hello, Ive read your emails to me for years but just never had the time to look hard at my dreams.Now, im a disabled veteran and not able to work and Ive always wanted my own ebay store but I just don’t know how to go about it.Im getting $3,o68 a month from the VA, its not much but its more than I was making at a job so even though we still need more income im wanting to do this for to show my family that I cant let my disabilities keep me down.I need to feel that im contributing from something im doing rather than just from the check that’s deposited each month.Over the past 10 years ive sold just here and there on ebay and have make about $6000 in those 10 years but I know I can do way better than that.I cant do a lot of physical demanding stuff ,I have copd among a lot of other things so I tire easily and have to rest a lot.SO, im interested in an online store where a company or companies will drop ship the product to my customers.Ive looked on the internet and there are a lot of places out there and I need a few good places that are honest and reputable companies.As well as that I don’t have a clue really how to even open an ebay store so any pointers of where to start will be very much appreciated.I know how busy you are and I know a lot of people want you to answer their emails so I do understand if you cant get back to me.If God leads you to a reply I will waiting.Thank you for your time and for being an inspiration to us all.

Bob.

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30 Lisa Suttora November 30, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Thank you Bob, I appreciate it! Given everything you’ve described, I really recommend that you consider selling on Amazon via FBA. (Fulfillment by Amazon). They will ship the product to the customer for you and handle all the customer service.

You would still need to source product and ship it to FBA, but it’s a better approach than trying to drop ship. Both Ebay and Amazon make it very hard to drop ship products to your customers and still meet the marketplace standards. Also, drop shipping products really cuts into your profit margins.

The most difficult part of the process of selling on Amazon will be sourcing good products, but you could definitely start off with sourcing via retail arbitrage (buying discounted products from stores and reselling on Amazon) so that you can put together some inventory capital before you start buying products wholesale.

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