We’re getting up close and personal with mothers who are savvy innovators and businesswomen and finding out their secrets to success. This time, we got the scoop from Jennifer Varner, CEO and founder of Pure-Ecommerce.com.
The Bump: Give us a quick elevator pitch of your business.
Jennifer Varner: Pure-Ecommerce has been in business for seven years. We build out complete, ready-to-go ecommerce businesses. So, basically, I take an idea and turn it into an Internet business. It allows someone with little to no e-commerce experience to get started online. All products are drop-ship, which means you don’t get any inventory, so when you order on the site, you send the order to the vendor and they fill it for you. It saves the person running the business time and money. The whole premise is to take someone without much experience and teach them how to set up, run, grow, and market an e-commerce business. Each business comes with 40 hours of consultation. It’s a complete business in a box.
TB: What inspired you to start this business?
JV: I used to hold my own e-commerce business, a maternity clothing business, which I sold. I had three kids, and wanted to stay home and be a mom. I was being sought after for consultation for other people’s business, so I decided to start making businesses and selling them before they ever ran. I thought that it was more simple than it is — I realized when people were starting out they had good ideas but didn’t know how to put all the pieces together. That’s where I developed the business in a box concept.
TB: What are your top three pieces of advice for women looking to start their own businesses?
JV: Number one, I would say choose something that you’re passionate about or could become passionate about. When I started I wasn’t passionate about maternity clothes, but I could see myself becoming passionate about learning about maternity clothes. So you want to be excited about the process.
Second, you want to become an expert in the area of your business. Educate yourself. You want to know every aspect of your business and the product that you’re selling. The more you know about the product, the better you can present it and sell it.
My third biggest piece of advice is know your numbers. The biggest make I ever made was avoiding the numbers. At any point you should be able to open it up and see whether you’re making money. You have to look at things — it’s a map that tells you where to take your business in the future.
TB: What was your biggest challenge? Biggest joy?
JV: The biggest challenge that I faced was becoming sick, which a lot of people don’t plan on. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was pregnant and had to go through chemo, so it was hard to run the company and stay focused. But, because I had trained my staff in such a way, they were able to go into emergency mode and run things for me. My biggest joy has been that when I was going through treatment I decided to double the size of my company. It was an opportunity to go full force. That next year we doubled our sales, we doubled our company, and we’ve been growing ever since.
TB: Looking back, is there anything you'd do differently?
JV: With my first company, the first one I owned, I would do so much differently. I overspent on advertising; I didn’t understand the metrics of running a company. I only focused on what I loved— I loved marketing, I loved buying the clothes — which is where many entrepreneurs find failure. Ultimately I could have lost that business. Moving forward, I’ve learned so much from my mistakes with my first company. Since then, it’s been a smooth sailing process.
TB: What has been the most rewarding aspect of starting your own business?
JV: Absolutely the fact that you can live wherever you want, especially running an e-commerce business. I live in Maui, I work from there; there’s nothing more rewarding. I’ve achieved the most free form of entrepreneurship. Pure Ecommerce lets me be free; I live exactly on my own terms.
TB: What inside scoop do you have that entrepreneurs never tell you about starting a business?
JV: How much work is involved. I don’t think people understand you have to be dedicated to the process and give it time. You’re not going to be rich in six months. You’ve got to be ready to work, but if you love what you’re doing, it becomes like one of your children. I can’t wait to get up in the morning and work. It doesn’t feel like work — it’s wonderful; you’re building something through yourself. I can put down 50 hours a week and it doesn’t bother me because I love what I do.
TB: What's a typical day in your life like?
JV: I get up and go paddle boarding in the morning. Then I’ll drive the kids to school and drop them off. I start my workday six hours behind my staff, because I’m in Hawaii. Around midday I work out, and then go back to work some more. I am lucky because, since the workday is six hours ahead, I get done quicker. I go pick my kids up again, and drive them to after-school activities. Then I make dinner and prepare myself for the next day.
TB: What’s the best part about having your own business – do you think it is harder or easier to balance motherhood and career than when working for someone else?
JV: When you’re working for somebody else, you’re playing by their rules. You have to have your child in daycare prior to coming to work. All the people who work for me can work whenever they want. They make their own schedules; a lot of them have small children. It’s less stressful for them. Personally, I don’t think I could hold a job in corporate America and have four kids until they’re older.
TB: How does being a mother make you a better businesswoman?
JV: When it comes down to it, motherhood makes you a better businesswoman because it drives you to be successful. Half of the reason you have a career is to support your children. They drive me to achieve success so they can witness it and be inspired by it. Being a mother also makes you a better, more ethical person in business. My children inspire me to be ethical in the way I conduct business.