Never Grow Up Boutique has been going through a bit of a mid-life, existential, identity or even a conscious kind of crisis lately. Have you noticed?
Don't worry. We're fine. We're just trying to find our way in this new "New" in the BIG online world. It's a lot different than the climate of our hometown store front.
Truthfully, every business goes through it. Just like life, business has highs and lows. Just not all businesses are as *on the surface* as we tend to be I suppose.
We find it better to be honest and candid about our intentions and goals, for the most part. We want to bond with our customer base of a mutual *we're just people too* understanding. We're parents. We're people. We're adults. Hey! We're just like you! We're just navigating things in our business a bit more publicly than say your favorite Big Box store would. But, we hope that's why you're here and that you're here for it all <3
So what's the latest? Here goes.
Never Grow Up Boutique, or NGUB as we refer to it often, is a business. (Duh. I know. Stay with me...) By that we mean a Business, not a non-profit or charity. We're in this to make money. That sounds yucky and most businesses wont say it for fear of it being taken the wrong way. But, it's the truth. Are we looking to be rich, buy boats and private islands? No. Hardly! We're just trying to make a career out of something we love. A career that feeds our family, keeps a roof over our heads, and plans for the future of our children. That's what a career is, right? Right. That's why you go to work everyday too. Right? We're the same.
As a business we have goals (see above list) and work toward those with each step we take. Our goals are not only achieved by happy customers (which is my favorite part, of course) and sales, but by competing in the industry in which we find our little niche. The economics of today play a HUGE part in our success - or failure - and sometimes (all the time) that's a struggle.
There's been nothing more eye opening to how consumerism works than to be in the trenches. That's coming from someone with a Business Degree too, ya'll. (Psst... there'll be a blog post shortly on my feelings surrounding economics... sounds riveting, I know... but it'll be good. Promise) For the sake of this, let's just focus on the industry of Baby & Parenting products. Within that of course includes our little flower field of Natural Baby & Family, but let's focus a little more broad for the sake of conversation.
Any marketing pros here? *Echo Echo* Anyone? Well, not me. But, let me tell you what I do find all too often, not only as a business owner in this industry, but as a parent who SHOPS in this industry and it ain't pretty. Yes, you have the beauty that is wholesome, family-owned businesses working toward a greater good scraping by, barely making ends meet in some cases, working toward a higher calling. But, more often than not those lovely beings are squashed and shielded under something much larger in our industry. Something that gets you (maybe not YOU, but you know what I mean...) everytime. Great marketing. Who has fantastic marketing? Big Box of course. Big Marketing means big money. Who has big money? You guessed it. Not the little guys.
The "ain't pretty" part:
Marketing in this industry is geared heavily toward the Boss - Mom. Maybe a Stay At Home Mom #sahm or maybe a #wahm work at home mom or maybe even a working mom. These roles are badges of honor and all to often used to pit one against the other in the war that is Mommy-ing. Marketing is no exception. But my point is, all companies know that Mom is often the one making the call on what products to buy for their family, so that's their focus. That's just good marketing.
Or is it? Here's where I'm struggling.
This is that crisis of conscious plays in. I'm a mom. I've given birth a few times. I've been there for the before, during and aftermath of bringing a new life into a family. #whoa But that experience causes me to reflect on my strategies as a retailer.
Follow me here...
It starts with the pregnant or expecting mom. Her heart is overcome with emotions of the future growth of her family and all she's experiencing with her own body changing. Daily she has new questions, plans of the future and tries to troubleshoot accordingly. This is also when she's bombarded with marketing ads promising to be the best *insert product* to help with all those troubles. Additionally, based on those purchases you're now in for a surge of ads regarding the future - will your breastfeed or formula feed? Will you cosleep? and on and on. But, whatever your answer or plan, be sure there's a product they've got that will be BEST for that plan.
Then on to being a mommy. It's glorious isn't it? How could you love a little being so incredibly much? You love them so much that you'll only buy the best products, top-quality, most expensive, latest and greatest, right? Well of course. Believe it or not, there's a surge of marketing professionals just waiting for that due date! Why not? Who else is ready to make perfect full-brain-powered decisions than someone who just welcomed a baby into their life. Right? hmm.
So, you see where I'm going with this, right? Right. It's all a game.
It's just good business with good marketing. This is how profits are generated, right? No shame in the game. I get it! How else would you find out about fantastic products? How else would you learn a parenting technique that differs from how you might have been raised? How else might you learn that there is help for something you're struggling with? It can be great great educational and information marketing with a plug for a product that fits your needs.
The part I'm struggling with is the fault in the "step too far". The too far nobody seems to want to talk about. The predatory game of targeting moms for financial gain based on a *supposed* need.
This is where I'm at in my mind-struggle.
I never envisioned NGUB as a get rich quick scheme - seriously. Frankly, I can see this truth in SO MANY small, family owned, Natural Parenting shops. Honest, dedicated family-loving naturalists looking to spread their love of natural parenting products through an honest living.
But, then why are we dropping like flies? Is it just a lack of funding for good marketing like big box?
Here's ONE OF THE REASONS why I think it's happening - because this fly is losing it's wings.
In my brain, I can't fathom selling a new mom on a product she can do without. I can't sell a PP mom every single cloth diaper print a company can come out with, knowing rightfully that she's buying based NOT on a cloth diapering need, but more on a purchasing need.
I too am a *insert natural parenting product*-Mom. I'm not in this retail niche for the collecting every color, every new release and never touching them for their intended purpose. Not here for spending hours scoring every BST or group to stash away highly-sought-after prints for resale later. I wont condone layaway style purchasing of an item that a family didn't NEED and couldn't really afford.
This all to me expresses a need of a mom/buyer to fulfill some other kind of void. Something else to provide a high (if you will) temporarily to bandaid a bigger issue. And as the "supplier" of the drug I feel immense guilt.
I know, I know...
Sounds absurd, right? I said it already. We're not a charity, we're a business. A business is in business to make money. A retailer makes money by sales. Afterall, who am I to decide between a need/want, a family's financial burden or lifestyle choices.
I'm nobody to decide anything for any family. I don't know anymore about a online shopper and their family than they do of my own.
What I am though is a mom. I am a person. I have a conscious. I've been where they are. I've made good and bad choices. I also see the retailer side now and the targeting. It's sick. It turns my stomach. Really. This is the stuff keeping my up at night wondering if my dream of having a business, but maintaining my conscious is even possible!
It's not great for business. Maybe that'll even be the downfall of NGUB. But, if at the end of the day I can feed my children knowing I didn't take food off another's to do it, that's all I need.
I'm also a mom part of too many groups. (We're all guilty of that to some degree) I see/hear the conversations happening. The cult-like followings. The infatuation with a product & probable releases that nothing else seems to matter. You know what I'm talking about.
Some may be saying "it's just a diaper bag" or "it's just a diaper", it's not that serious. Well, on the opposite side there are mom's saying "I need to collect them all". Every release. Every print. Every exclusive.
Why? Now you know why.
So, what now?
Here's what NGUB is: Never Grow Up Boutique is a family business. Our overriding goal is to empower parents to make mindful choices in products for their natural family lifestyle.
Here's what NGUB is NOT: we're not feeding the beast. We WONT be the retailer you go to at the timestamp drop of every release. We won't partner with manufacturers who prey upon moms. We're not in this for collectibles.
We're in this industry for natural parenting products. Products of resourcefulness. Products of usefulness. Products that make parenting a little easier. Products that bring family life a little closer to nature. Products that nurture a love for our planet and conservation. Products you can feel good about having in your home and giving to your family.
We offer the convenience of online shopping for the 24/7 parent and quick shipping to your doorstep. We offer love, support and guidance through those tough times should you need a little "You've Got This" during a rough day. We price our products according to the manufacturer retail pricing structure and offer sales when authorized by that manufacturer. No gimmicks here. We offer payment options for larger purchases to ease the family budget and allow your family to have a needed item in hand. And yes, we charge a fee for use of a multi-payment plan on small purchases. #sorrynotsorry
In our whole "Start Over" from the close of our Brick & Mortar to navigating in the online world, it's hard to not have the "We're not in Kansas anymore" feelings. We're no longer face to face with our consumers. We're no longer part of family's and having daily face to face conversations about a fulfilling a specific need. But, we're not going to forget our purpose.
Our goals remain the same. We're just playing on a MUCH BIGGER field now.
So what sets us apart? (I mean, besides the obvious stuff stated above?) Nothing, I suppose. Nothing except that we're real people who run an honest business. Now-a-days that's seeming to be few and far between. (Sad, isn't it?)
From fly-by-night Co-Ops (legit or illegal.. beware), "pallet" sellers, insurance buy-out sellers, etc... you know what I'm going for. They know that if they can get their bottom line number small enough to catch your eye, they can make a buck or two - sometimes more. But legal? Probably not. Paying taxes? Most likely not. Benefiting your community or beyond? Doubtful.
Other people aren't my concern. Well, they can't be. I would be up all night frustrated about how it's killing small businesses, or any honest business like ours. All I can do it control who we are and what we present to you:
When you shop with NGUB you're shopping with a family. A family that is on-the-surface regarding the products and manufacturers we partner with and why. You're shopping products hand-picked and trusted by the owners (that's me!) for their quality and sustainability. As a mindful parent, you can trust NGUB knowing we've done the legwork to only provide you products you can be as proud of as we are in our home. We're signed contracts with only partners that care about your family, your planet and providing you products produced ethically and/or sustainably in fair working conditions.
There. We hope that's enough that you chose not only to shop with us, but to share this with your friends & family that they too shop with us! It all keeps the dream ALIVE that NOT JUST the big guys can win. Little guys can too.
It feels like day one of the store front opening. So much invested. So many what-if's and hopes for a dream. Our hometown. Our local market. Over the last three years we were building something great toward those goals. Almost 99% of our customer growth was LOCAL and organic. We were seeing hopes become realities and our investments being paid back.
We've essentially started over. In a whole different world. And it's BIG. And sometimes, it ain't pretty or as comfortable as your hometown streets.
Here we go again. *Fingers Crossed*