The US Small Business Administration recognizes October as Women’s Small Business Month. On each Tuesday this month, we will highlight local women who are business leaders. The 10-million women-owned business in the US hold tremendous value, generating $1.4 trillion in revenue and employing 8.4 million people, according to the National Women’s Business Council.
Carla Harris, chair of the National Women’s Business Council said this month is “a time to acknowledge and applaud the talented, dedicated and driven women whose entrepreneurial spirit helps drive our nation’s economy forward.”
Danette Martin, owner and founder of Sweetums Signatures, is the first area business leader in our series!
Check out Sweetums Signatures’ Facebook page, or the business’ webpage for more information.
Describe your business and how did you get started?
I launched Sweetums Signatures in January of 2007. Driven by my love of family and entrepreneurial spirit, I purchased equipment and started designing and producing decals for family and friends. It was very primary for a few years. Unhappy with the hours and travel required for my corporate job, I took a leap of faith, left my job and poured my time, energy and passion into my new business. Along the way, large format printing was added, allowing Sweetums to offer printed vinyl banners, signs and custom canvas wall art. As orders grew, myself and my growing team outgrew the basement workspace and in 2015 moved into the new shop. With more space and a desire to meet customer requests, a DTG (Direct to Garment) printer was purchased in 2016, allowing Sweetums Signatures to add a new product offering – apparel! The business expanded once again in 2017 when the tent and event rental business my father started became part of Sweetums Signatures.
Sweetums Signatures serves customers through their website, their Etsy shop and as a supplier for retailers such as Overstock, Wayfair, and Amazon. Local customers can stop at our shop where we are in the process of adding a retail section. We are expanding our space to move Helga the garment printer into, allowing for a dedicated retail space up front. We also set up at several Ohio based festivals to sell our Homegrown line. All of Sweetums products are high-quality and customizable, with fast shipping on all orders. From something that started small, I have grown Sweetums Signatures into a successful business that serves clients down the road and around the world.
What is the hardest thing you’ve encountered?
The “thick skin” that is sometimes necessary to be a business owner, especially a woman-owned business owner is something I feel that I lack at times. I started an online business, hoping I would not have to interact with local customers at first. Not because I wasn’t confident in the product I was creating, I just wasn’t confident in myself. I was afraid of facing a customer complaint or critic at the bank or grocery store. As my business has grown, so has my certainty in myself, but it’s difficult to not take things personally. My business is a huge part of me, so I do take it personally. As Sweetums has matured, I am so very fortunate to have the best team of friends on board to take on my customers so I can focus more on growth and managing my business.
What advice would you offer to other women who might be interested in starting a business?
Big dreams don’t happen overnight. It’s important to take small steps. While I would have loved to build a huge shop and purchase a lot of equipment from the start, the thought of going into deep debt was not appealing. I started out in an 8 x 18 office, then moved into my basement in 2012, then a shop in 2015. I financed myself along the way. I have had countless defeats and bad decisions, but each wrong direction just gave myself some research into what I didn’t want to do the next time around. I think a lot of people have this mentality that working for one’s self means independence and “working your own hours”. If that’s what you’re looking for, don’t start your own business. It’s hard. It’s really hard. You will work more hours than you ever thought you would. But if you have a true passion for what you are doing and really believe in what you are doing, you will succeed. Just keep swimming.