I recently interviewed mompreneur Katie O’Neill about her line of custom kids’ step stools, Kt Steppers. All of my kids have their own Kt Steppers step stools and they’re great. Check out our conversation below- Katie has some fabulous advice for fellow mompreneurs, and she’s giving away a custom Kt Stepper step stool!
What inspired you to start KT Steppers?
I truly love being categorized as a Mompreneur. You could say being a ‘MOMpreneur’ means more to me than words can explain. The summer before my junior year in college, my life, vision, and future plans all came to a halt. Headaches, vision problems, and lactation were just a few symptoms I encountered before I learned that I had a brain tumor. I don’t know many people who can say this, but I had brain surgery when I was 22 years old to remove a benign (thank goodness) tumor on my pituitary gland. It was so large that surgical removal was crucial; otherwise it would’ve continued to more severely affect my vision and pituitary functions.
Because of the tumor’s location and size, the possibility of not having children could have been very real. So, as you can imagine, I am very proud of my mom-owned company. I wanted a kid-friendly business since that is whom I spend my days, hours and minutes with, and can’t imagine it any other way now. I am a mom of two boys, now ages 7 and almost 5. They have become my support and inspiration for Kt Steppers.
What do you love best about your job?
My job is about creating, building a brand, meeting & collaborating with amazing other entrepreneurs and of course… being able to do ALL of this as a full time MOM. I would have to say that in this job, I absolutely love hearing how our steppers are received and that mom, moms-to-be and/or tots themselves just loved what we created and made for them … Kt Steppers is truly my third baby so hearing that is the same satisfaction I get from seeing my boys smile at me and say “I love You Mommy.’
What are the biggest challenges you face as a mompreneur?
I believe everyone can agree T-I-M-E! There never seems to be enough hours in a day. My day usually begins before 6am too. I have 3 full days a week to myself to get work done while both my boys are in school, so you would think this would be adequate (and it’s more than I had even last year), but I have a tendency to just add more to my plate… just a little each day/week (it’s a problem I have).
As a mompreneur, how do you approach risk taking? And how does being a mom factor into your decisions?
If you’re ‘in it to win it’ you definitely need to take risks or keep your biz a hobby. My approach, after being in sales for years, is don’t be afraid to hear the word ‘NO’. For every 10 ‘No’s’ there is a ‘Yes’. So, send that email, message, or make that phone call, the worst outcome is ‘No’.
Because I’m also a mom, I do factor in what the risk is… am I pursuing an event that will take me away from my MOM duties? Will fulfilling this order keep me from seeing my son’s game or play? I definitely calculate when/where/why to take that risk. If it will be a huge return for not only me, but my family, then there is no question on taking that leap and going for it!
Is the professional personal? Do you find that you sometimes need to create boundaries between home life and work life?
Yes, the professional is personal for me. I run a business that is geared to MOMs supplying a product for kids. I am my brand ‘Kt’, so it is 100% personal.
Don’t confuse the personal for unprofessional though. You also have to draw boundaries, especially with how you/your business is perceived. I do believe there is a line that can be crossed in today’s social media age. I want to be personal and show that I am human, connect on that level of being a mom to my audience, but I’m also promoting my brand.
What’s coming up for KT Steppers?
Right now, this month, we have some exciting news… we were a finalist in the 2012 Cribsie Awards – Cutest StepStools for Tots in Climbing Mode. We are up against some ‘bigger’ brands and the voting ended last week. We couldn’t be more thrilled and honored about this nomination and look forward to hearing the winner announced on April 2nd.
More exciting news is that we are looking to launch our ‘Initial Series’ Steppers shortly. They will be a great addition to our eco-friendly product line with standard designs and just an ‘initial’ to personalize for quick ship.
One more exciting tidbit… I will be featured in a book!!! I can’t divulge too much information, but after speaking at a fabulous entrepreneur focused conference last year, the organizers have asked to include some of my advice for the book for all to see and read (pretty exciting). Will definitely keep everyone posted.
What are your top mommy must-haves for busy moms on the go?
1. Not until last year did I own a ‘Smartphone’ and my goodness is it smart! I don’t really know how I functioned without it… it helps run my biz when I’m not at home (HQ) and also is a meltdown stopper for the kids (Angry Birds is a fave app).
2. The Crockpot for sure! After a busy day out and about or just working at home, to know that dinner will be done and ready with little or no effort is a lifesaver!
3. Having an organized ‘home-based’ calendar. My husband travels often for work, so knowing his schedule, the kids’ activities and my meetings all in one place is how we function and know where everyone is!
4. Lastly, I would have to say… having a supportive partner. If it wasn’t for my husband, we wouldn’t be as successful as we’ve become. He truly is my #1 fan and supporter!
What is one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring mompreneur?
Don’t give up! You may have started your business with only one goal in mind, but if that is not working don’t throw it to the curb, tweak it! See what is working and build on that. Don’t be afraid to scale your business. Just because you started one way doesn’t mean it will succeed that way. Oh yeah, breathe and enjoy the ride!
Thank you Katie!
Win a Custom-Designed Kt Stepper Step Stool
Katie is generously giving away a customized step stool for your little one! To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment below telling us your top mommy must-have, then “like” Kt Steppers Facebook page.
I’ll announce the winner next Monday, so start commenting!