Happy November, everyone! I am so excited to be introducing yet another great business for our Need it Now! Small Business Series. This week, we’re featuring go-comb! Based in Brooklyn, New York, go-comb specializes in wallet-size combs that are perfect on the go. They are sleek, stylish and super convenient.
I got to chat with Heather Burkman, the genius behind go-comb to hear about how she got her start as a small business owner. Her combs have been featured in People, the knot, People Stylewatch, and Real Simple, just to name a few. Check out her story (and a very special exclusive offer for readers of ATP! at the end of the post!)
How did the idea for your business come about? How did you get started?
While out to dinner with my uncle, he took a black plastic comb out of his wallet to fix his hair, and stuck it back in, awkwardly hanging out the side. Not very practical, and certainly not cool.
Being a fan of simple solutions, I designed the go-comb. I learned how to prototype at a local hacker space, and began selling on my own — tweaking the product based on buyer feedback. Eventually I began to outsource production so that I could focus on marketing and growing the business. Today I have a healthy retail business through my website (go-comb.com) and Amazon, and many wholesale accounts through gift and museum shops and online shops across the country, Canada, Europe and Australia.
What does a day at the office like?
I work out of our apartment in Brooklyn, NY. I wouldn’t say I have very “typical” days, but my work often includes designing new styles or custom combs, communicating with my customers and wholesale accounts and keeping the production of Go-Combs on schedule.
I also believe in balancing my day with a few non-work things, whether it’s going to yoga, taking a long walk with our dog or grabbing lunch with a friend. Many days I’m too busy for these, but I feel the benefits of balance positively affect both my personal and business life.
What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
While daunting in the beginning, I’ve grown to embrace the responsibility that comes with owning a business. I know that when things are accomplished, it’s because I worked hard, and if tasks are delayed, it’s usually because I chose so. I feel motivated every day, and I know how the work I’m doing will affect the business; at a large company it’s harder to see the direct results of your efforts.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced being a small business owner so far?
The responsibility has its benefits, but also its challenges. I’ve built my business with the goal of outsourcing as much as possible, so that I don’t need to hire staff or lease a large space. That being said, there are still many parts of running my business for which I have sole responsibility. It’s nearly impossible to take a vacation without working a little — no one who can step in while I’m out. It’s common to do some work on the weekends as well. Finding a new work/life balance has been challenging but I feel I’m getting there.
What piece of advice would you give others looking to start up their own business?
Starting a business is a serious, time-consuming and expensive endeavor. And many businesses fail. While some may say, “Don’t wait to start your dream, take a leap of faith!”, I’m on the cautious end of the spectrum. Before quitting your day job and putting all of your eggs in an uncertain basket, I would either:
A) Secure funding so that you can start and run the business for at least a year, before you expect profits.
B) Start your business on the side, spend time doing your research, confirm there’s a viable market for your business, and build it as you go. Once it’s clearly viable, take the leap to full-time.
I did option B, and after a year and a half of running Go-Comb on the side, I was confident that the revenue I was bringing in would be able to sustain the business once I quit my job. I also faced the biggest learning curves while I had a financial cushion, so if I made a mistake or something took longer than expected, I didn’t have to worry about paying rent that month.
What goals do you have for your business? What can we look forward to in the future from your business?
I’ve built a solid wholesale business, with Go-Combs carried in over 100 gift and museum shops across the country and online. I’d like to see the next level of scale, moving into larger, national stores, so I’m working on expanding the Go-Comb product line with a wider range of price points.
As a special surprise to readers of All Things Pretty, we are pleased to offer 10% off of your purchase through November 9th (11:59pm EST). Use code ATP2015 at checkout!