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Lemons to lemonade feature #24: Roxanne Beckford Hoge

Sunday, December 21, 2008
Roxanne Beckford Hoge, owner and founder of One Hot Mama, a site for parents and parents-to-be, and her husband recently committed to rebuilding their business after three years running it as a small, solo shop. The decision to keep the operation small was due to the birth of their twins in 2004.

Roxanne is mom to four children. In addition to twin girls, she has an older son and daughter.

The company established in 1998, which offers fashionable options for maternity and nursing wear and many other things, has grossed over $2 million in Internet sales and has a very strong brand identity, great customer service rating and high Internet search rankings. Roxanne admits they started the site as a labour of love. "We started the business in our home because I was frustrated with the lack of fashion and style in breastfeeding clothes."

Roxanne and her husband have maxed out their credit cards to relaunch their site and store, and they are listening to advice they read in a book by Seth Godin on ways to reach customers directly. They have started a blog, exhibit at trade shows, contact old customers, and offer free content that's valuable to their customers. Here is their story...

How has this economy affected you, your business and your family?
I can’t blame everything on the economy. I know why our business has slowed way down in the past couple years. We made a conscious decision, when we discovered that we were having twins, to close our store, run our operation once again as a home-based website and scale way back to concentrate on our family.

In August, my husband and I considered our options – to sell the business and get out, or to go “all in” and really build it back up to its early days of huge sales (when we only had one child). We worked like dogs all of September, and placed tens of thousands of dollars of orders for goods. Then things began to crash in October. Scary.

How are you making lemonade from lemons?

I’m taking solace from gurus like Seth Godin, who say "if you don't already have a business, now is the time to start one". The truth is that our vendors are very appreciative of our business. And we’ve been able to get advertising at bargain basement prices. Sometimes just by saying, “well, it’s not in our budget right now …” – which is true, but since the big boys are slashing their ad budgets as well, all of a sudden we can afford to get a half page ad in a national magazine!

The other thing we’re looking at is opening a store. Initially, we were dealing with the lemon economy by finding a new way to open a store – as a sublease in a larger store. Unfortunately, the day the movers came, the person who we were sharing the space with backed out.

That morning, I was on the computer for hours, removing all the directory postings with our new address and store hours. Then I decided to go back to one of the original locations we had liked, and that we could afford, and offer them a 1-year lease. The landlord not only offered us the lease we wanted, he offered free rent in December if we could take occupancy within a week.

We have been up to our armpits in paint and boxes for the past two weeks, but we’ve met our goal of being open by mid-December, and we hope that, as more people turn to breastfeeding because it’s free, they’ll come to us to make it easier.

Any encouraging words you would like to offer mom entrepreneurs?
Go with the flow. And when it’s not flowing, stop and reassess. I’m sure our business might have been bigger right now had I not taken three years off to have our twins. But the loss of market share is nothing compared to the gift of having healthy children who I can now send off to preschool with not a twinge of guilt.

To learn more, visit One hot Mama's website or blog. You can also visit their physical store in Studio City, California on Ventura Blvd right next to California Pizza Kitchen, or call 800-217-3750.