Plan the Work, Work the Plan — ideas are great but action is better. Don’t just be brilliantly creative, put down an action plan of steps and make those steps happen. Believe me: it works. While there are so many productivity tools out there, I’ve found one that is simple and, for me, incredibly powerful and effective.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Betsy Wild, CEO & Founder of We Craft Box.
Betsy Wild is a Mompreneur, CEO and Founder of We Craft Box, an award-winning monthly craft box subscription program for children ages three to nine years old. We Craft Box is committed to delivering creativity and connection through shared crafting experiences for children, their parents, grandparents and family friends. Betsy is a creative expert with over a decade of creative director experience and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Fine Art, Illustration. She lives with her husband and three children in Florida.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this career path?
Of course, and thank you for having me! From an early age I knew art and creative was what really drove me. My mom would tell a story about us as little kids at a restaurant waiting for our waiter and playing with play dough, the other kids made pancakes and balls, my mom turned to me and asked what I had made, I showed her the parrot I had made, with multiple colors, wings and all. She says she knew then she knew a life of creativity was for me. Art and creativity is something my mother and I share as she is an artist as well. My fondest memories are of crafting with my mom.
I was fortunate enough to live near Ringling College of Art and attended many classes there growing up, then attended Art Center College of Design, one of the top commercial art schools in the world and received my BFA. From there I worked my way from illustrator to graphic designer, manager and to finally being a creative director in a product development company that specialized in making fashion apparel and designed good for companies like Disney among many others. During those 10 years I had started a family of my own. And when I came home from the hospital with my second baby boy I realized that I wanted those amazing creative moments with my own children that I had with my mom, but with a new baby and career I didn’t have the time to research, shop and prepare. Time is precious and I wanted all the time I could enjoy with my son.
Now don’t get me wrong there are some wonderful kits out there, but most of them are encouraging some form of STEM, and not what I was envisioning. I wanted those messy kitchen counter memory making moments with my son, him and I together… Like I had growing up. So I started with a prototype for fun, talked to my friends and complied my research and got to work. I applied to an accelerator program, The Tampa Bay WaVE and got in! From there I was able to work on a rebrand with a now friend, Shane Needham at Coconspirator, and connected with many mentors that have helped me and We Craft Box grow along the way.
When I saw that We Craft Box was more than just something for fun I decided to resign from my job and dive in full time. The business was for my family and the decision to leave my career and full-time job was also for my family so I could be more flexible and be with my children, as we now have three wonderful wild boys.
We Craft Box has been a passion filled journey in being able to do what I love and sharing it with other busy families. The bonus for me personally are the reviews and feedback we get from our customers. It gives me the warm fuzzies to hear things like kids that are facetiming their grandparents and proudly showing them their creations.
In my spare time I can be found in my home studio, painting and sculpting or out in nature exploring with my boys.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
COVID has had interesting impacts on everyone. In the time of lock downs, I wanted to be sure we could do everything possible to stay operational and deliver our craft kits to thousands of our subscribers as everyone was looking for activities for their children to do at home. My awesome We Craft Box team and I were quick on our feet. We maximized space at our warehouse and between ordering a few PODS and the help of our amazing vendors we were able to order and have product delivered before warehouse closure began. We were able to safely operate and get our crafts to families who were seeking creative activities for their kids stuck at home.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The thing I love most about having a monthly subscription box business is having the opportunity to change things up every month! And this was a tremendous help when I began this wild adventure.
I love adding special accents with my kids on pieces of their art. Whether it’s collaging a bit of fabric or tissue, some pearlescent paint, modeling paste or a pop of glitter. It can be a nice finishing touch that the kids love, and it gives their artwork additional depth.
I love glitter, gosh who doesn’t… Parents! That’s who!
I launched We Craft Box in October of 2017 with my first Arts and Craft kit being a Halloween kit. I created the samples myself and sent out several prototypes to friends and some beta testers. Then I went to do the box with my own kiddos, then ages 2 and 4 and realized the mistake I had made.
The two boys tore into the kit and were so excited to open and touch all the items, including two large tubes of black and gold glitter. It was as if our kitchen has been transformed into a sports area where a football team had stormed onto the field from the locker room. Party cannons were fired, and the cheering was deafening. And the glitter was everywhere. On the tops of cabinets, in the dog’s hair, stuck to our feet, and my toddler’s sticky little fingers too. While we were able to salvage some of the glitter and did finish our crafting time, I spent a good long while afterward cleaning up, and still find bits of glitter in corners of the kitchen to this day.
While I can assure you memories were made that day, I learned a lot too. From that day on, I have tested my crafts with my boys and haven’t included big tubes of glitter like that again.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have two very important mentors and friends that have made an impact on myself, and We Craft Box. The first is Robyn Spoto of SPOTON, she was the leader of the woman’s forum and took me under her wing. She was not only encouraging and empowering as a female founder herself, but she was also a mother, and understood how hard it can be to juggle it all. Robyn helped with marketing, strategy and personal growth with productivity hacks… my favorite being my Productivity Planner that I still use and my daily planner to keep on task… there’s something about writing it down by hand in ink!
The second person that helped me was Shane Needham with Coconspirator. It was working with Shane where he guided me in taking a deep dive into the core of what my business was really bout that helped shape the rebrand and messaging of We Craft Box.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still must be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
This is a great question. 40% of U.S. businesses are woman-owned, and we collectively generate 1.8 trillion dollars in revenues annually. So why indeed are only 20 percent of funded businesses led by women founders? I think it breaks down into two broad categories: the first is assumption led, and the second is based on the reality of the multi-hat lives women lead.
In terms of assumption, the startup world is largely led by men, with I believe the assumption that successful businesses will be launched and led by men. This assumption feeds an eco-system of largely male founders, investors and mentors. Is this sexist? Well, yes. Some of it conscious bias, and some of it simply not thinking about the impact of ingrained belief.
This thinking has been entrenched across generations, but we are seeing some positive change. Feature series such as this help spotlight the growing role of women in the entrepreneurial world and the growing presence of women-led investors, mentor groups and more will generate both additional success and a change in assumptions.
The second broad category reflects the reality that women were, for generations, placed in charge of household and family. While we have really made strides in joining the world of business and entrepreneurial initiative — there has been a 114% increase in female entrepreneurs over the past 20 years — divisions of labor have not kept pace.
While many men do pull their weight in both home and workplace, research shows that for many women, they bear the primary burden of both keeping home fires burning and managing a career or business. Research shows that women do two hours of housework more than men!
So the big question is how to change? I think it’s a matter of two factors:
- Women need to stand firmly and speak up loudly and proudly that the “double-duty” bind of managing home and workplace can not continue. We often are our own worst enemies in that we double down and simply do the work instead of drawing a boundary. To change society, we must change ourselves. In doing that, we can tackle the next big obstacle:
- Changing the mindset of others: Our partners, family, workplace, men have been conditioned to expect that women will be all things — maternal and domestic plus revenue-generating and income producing. This is a pain point that requires consistent and insistent pressure. Speaking up, speaking out, sitting down and pointing out disparities in work burdens and expectations, holding firm in our request for parity in pay and funding- it’s not an easy road but it is a necessary one. The silver lining is we are seeing progress as women grow to be an ever greater force in the marketplace.
There’s a saying that we should “follow the money.” The good news is women entrepreneurs generate money in the form of revenues and jobs. This is a significant positive impact on society and if we hold firm in both education and persuasion we will continue to make inroads.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” — Vincent Van Gogh
As an artist I love that quote, as an entrepreneur I fully believe that the “biggest” thing we can do are the small things.
Helping people in small ways, when and where they need it, can be some of the most affirming and life-changing actions you can take. Think of it; each time an individual, or a founder, takes a step towards a better life — for their business, family, neighborhood, then they are moving towards a better life overall. If you are able to play a part, however small, in helping them achieve their goals, then you have been instrumental in their success.
After all, success in business, in helping a child learn, in getting a friend through a tough time, these are all things that create a better life — and what is a better definition of success than that?
So, being part of a movement where we as individuals and society stop and take a moment to help someone on their way, multiplies success and becomes much bigger than any one of us.
Or at least that’s the way Vincent and I see it!
PS as a mother and entrepreneur, this is an additional, very specific bit of help that I think is critically important and I’d like to include this as well: As employers I feel more flexible schedules are helpful for parents, and a shared commitment between both parents to supports the kids rather than all tasks falling in the mother’s lap.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder, but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
It’s interesting to differentiate between women and men in the role of founder and entrepreneur, however, much research reveals there are substantial differences in areas of confidence, experience and motivation to launch. This is crucial in the early stages of the startup. However, successful female and male entrepreneurs share a great deal of common characteristics which makes ongoing growth very likely.
However, setting that aside, a key finding is that women tend to focus on experience and training in order to create a quality offering, men overall focus on money and opportunity. What does that mean?
It means that women, overall, do create different types of company cultures and offerings. Their focus is on creating quality, on delivering excellence and nurturing results — not just seeking to seize financial success. The delightful paradigm is that focusing on excellence does create financial reward and growth opportunity.
I look to my own company as an example. I launched We Craft Boxes because I saw a need for a complete, self-contained crafting experience that solved parents’ problems around offering craft creativity for their children. I thought out every step of the process to ensure that any parent’s challenge to offering such an experience for their children (or grandparents and other family members!) was solved by one of our kits.
The response to us going the extra mile to provide that well thought-out crafting experience has been phenomenal — we’ve enjoyed double and triple digit growth since our launch.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
You don’t have to go after funding! Depending on the type of business you run you may or may not need funding right away, or at all. We started small and lean and have been able to scale as a bootstrapped company.
You don’t have to be an expert. Learn and teach yourself as you go. You don’t have to be a professional or have CEO experience to create your company and run it. As an entrepreneur, especially in the beginning we are typically scrappy and doing everything we can to get our ideas off the ground and running… you are constantly evolving and learning
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
Do I think anyone can have a great idea for a company or product, YES! Do I think everyone can manifest, create, nurture and grow their ideas, no. A founder is a self-starter, driven, determined, and takes action. Of course, here are many different types of people and personalities. Some people are the driven self-starters, that are constantly looking for the best result and willing to evolve and change to get there. And there are other key players who are persistent but like to be give set boundaries with structure. And the truth is its critical to have both within your company, as these personalities create a sense of balance.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need to Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
It turns out that what works for me works for a lot of people. It’s a distillation of the common threads that run through the myriad different tools and approaches that have been published and discussed for many years:
Done is better than perfect — Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. So often your quest for perfection keeps you from any kind of progress. The interesting thing is that putting things off or waiting for that perfect moment is often a delaying tactic to avoid confronting the possibility of failure. Recent research supports just this theory.
One way this can manifest is a desire to “check all the boxes” before you actually *start* a big project like starting a business. When you are in startup mode there are so many “to-do’s” to cover that it can be easy to set up a series of hurdles that ultimately stop you from moving forward — especially if you are on a quest to have so-called “perfect” results.
My personal mantra is “done is better than perfect.” The silver lining to this philosophy is that it opens the door to learning as you progress, get things done — and yes — occasionally make mistakes. But, mistakes can be learning experiences!
Always improving — in business and in life, change is a constant and drives dynamic improvement as you learn and grow. You can and should make changes as your business grows and your marketplace evolves. The drawback here is that if the change, or the task needed to handle your next business phase seems too big or overwhelming, it can be easy to procrastinate.
To tackle this challenge I use a Japanese approach called Kaizen, meaning “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” Rather than making huge overhauls, look for small improvements you can make over time. These bite-sized tasks can be less overwhelming and over time can add up to big change, as well as being easier to tackle than that one big project that feels so intimidating.
This philosophy allowed me to be flexible and make changes when I discovered my target market wasn’t who I thought it was going to be. When I started my subscription craft box service, I envisioned my kits being used by busy parents and their kids. Instead, it’s very popular as a gifted item from grandparents and others. The appeal of our craft boxes resided in its ability to help grandparents, family members and friends connect from long distance. We rebranded and made changes to our product line and continue to make changes as our market dictates.
Find Your People — entrepreneurship can be lonely, just think of the term “solopreneur’ and how solitary that could sound!
Luckily, support can be had — and the best support comes from others who have gone before you or are concurrently sharing your experience. If it’s just you or a small team, having a resource to go to for ideas, insights and simple commiseration can be so important.
I’m a member of an accelerator program and a small “mastermind” group of female entrepreneurs who own and run subscription box services like my own model. Our mastermind group has regular, scheduled meetings, but we also continually get and give help on topics ranging from shipping to marketing, sourcing and more. As my group consists of moms, we also get the bonus of how to manage family life while we grow our business.
My accelerator program helped me connect with a branding expert that helped me figure out that what I was really offering was — you guessed it -: connection. Everything else flowed from that. Our name, We Craft Box, is about doing things together, connecting home and family. That goes beyond parents and children, so our kits come with two sets of quality materials for four or five activities now because we want everyone who is part of the family community from babysitters to siblings, neighborhood children to friends and extended relatives to have the opportunity to have the joy of creative experience and connection.
Plan the Work, Work the Plan — ideas are great but action is better. Don’t just be brilliantly creative, put down an action plan of steps and make those steps happen. Believe me: it works. While there are so many productivity tools out there, I’ve found one that is simple and, for me, incredibly powerful and effective. The Pomodoro method.
Using the Pomodoro Method (an incredible recommendation from a mentor) you eliminate all distractions. Everything. Mute notifications, put a “do not disturb” sign on your office door, let the kids know you’re not available (unless something requires bandaids or immediate intervention) — and give all your attention to one task for 25 minutes. Literally, set a timer (that’s where the name comes from — the tomato-shaped timer used for making the perfect pasta sauce).
When the 25 minutes is up, get up, stretch your legs, and come back refreshed to start another timer. The beauty of this is that you concentrate — but for a very finite and relatively brief amount of time. Perfect for a mom and entrepreneur being pulled in multiple directions. You’d be surprised how much you can get done when you devote 25 minutes of hyper focus to a task.
Pomodoro task session help you carve out time for focused creativity, the perfect approach as creativity tends to come in bursts, not in eight-hour work day waves.
The ultimate tip for entrepreneurs is that there is no one right way to do things. The key is to find the things that work for you and use them with commitment and focus. The tips I’ve shared here has helped me and others, and I hope they help you. But don’t let my list become your obstacle; use what works for you and move forward quickly and, I hope with success and joy.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I do think in working on the connection between children, their own creativity and family in the home (or via facetime with grandparents or extended family). We are helping families unplug and foster creativity and imagination in our children and strengthen family bonds, all of which make emotionally stronger more creative thinking children.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I have an idea for a new project, and the basis of it is to create a movement where people are prompted to create something simple, yet meaningful, an send that physical, scribble or sculpture or what have you in the mail to someone. It may be an uplifting quote, a funny drawing or a beautiful still life study. But it’s something created by hand and physically delivered to someone. That feels intentional and special.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
One of my all-time favorite creatives from childhood to today is Tim Burton. I admire his career path in starting as an animator at Disney and evolving to create the whimsical worlds and visions in illustration, story and film. He has been an inspiration to me.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.