Stephanie Swanson, Everychild, Woman Entrepreneur
Stephanie sent me an email after watching me being interviewed on the Jason Calacanis show. She laid out for me her business, Everychild, that she has built and was interested in some advice. Stephanie is one of the many women entrepreneurs that exist around the world that we never get to read about. In many way, she is the fabric of what our country and many others are built on. Hard working people who have built businesses that allow them to live their lives.
Stephanie spent the most of her early years moving from place to place inside North Carolina. Her father was a Vietnam vet who had a difficult time returning. He bounced around from job to job and the family came along. When she was in 7th grade her parents got divorced. At that time they were living LaPorte, Indian and then moved to Chesterston Indiana and that is when they put down some roots. Her mother worked as a social worker and taught at a private school. Stephanie says looking back and now understanding how little money her mother had gives her a whole new respect for Mom. She was able to raise her kids with everything we needed even braces. Her mother went back to school after her kids moved out of the house and became a minister something she always wanted to do.
Stephanie graduated high school and went to Ball State University. She worked as a waitress, at a laundromat and a bunch of jobs, anything to make money. She was putting herself through college and as she made money she would buy courses. She met her husband at college and he graduated but she never did. She was a jeweler, a metals major and had started to work as a tradesperson and finally decided that she should just shelf college for awhile and focus on her work. She wasn't so sure a degree would make a difference in the road that she had picked.
In Muncie, there was a jeweler in town who was doing what she wanted to do. She begged him for three weeks to bring her on and finally he gave in. She learned the retail trade while apprenticing for him. She stayed on for about a year and a half before moving into a larger jewelry store. At this point everything was done by hand there were no computers. She was 23.
Stephanie got married and they moved back to Chesterston. She had a hard time finding a job as a jeweler there and took a job at the local mall in a large jewelry chain where she did a little bench work for two years. Then one of her co-workers opened up a jewelry shop and brought Stephanie on board to design/bench/repair you name it work. She was also doing custom work on the side. She stayed for three years before becoming pregnant with her first child.
Stephanie had a terrible pregnancy. She got sick through out and had some serious health issues afterward. They decided after that they would adopt another child instead of having any more of their own. That decision started Stephanie on an entrepreneurial path. In 2003 her and her husband decided to become foster parents. You have to take weeks and weeks of classes. It is a major ordeal to be approved for this. Although there are now open adoptions the foster care has always been open. You might be chosen to take on a kid but that generally comes with having a relationship with their parents.
Stephanie and her husband were originally slated to take in a set of young twins but in the end they gave them a bi-racial six month old baby who was not well and needed a lot of care. Stephanie was happy to take anyone. The goal is to eventually reunite the families but with the child. But with Eric that never happened. Stephanie spent a lot of time getting Eric to where he is today. Today he is a happy 10.5 year old boy who has aspergers.
Stephanie stayed home for the first three years of Erics life as he needed a lot of care and therapy. Then she opened up her own jewelry store. In her business a store front is important. It was 2006. At this point she had a following but slowly that turned into a bigger following. She moved from the first location to a bigger location and then eventually a bigger location which is the store she is in now.
One night she was talking with a friend about it would be nice if there was a line of jewelry for families who adopted or had special friends. She thought she was on to something and stayed up all night coming up with the business plan. She got the idea, Everychild trademarked it (that took one year) and then got out to work. At this point she had grown into her third shop where she is selling her own jewelry plus Everychild jewelry and local artisans work. The Everychild line is sold in 5 other locations besides her own store. It her dream to grow this line and make it huge. The mother and child pendant has been around for 25 years and does hundreds of millions of dollars every year in revenue.
Stephanie spends time reading about entrepreneurs online and listening to what other people have done. She knows her product has lasting value and is trying to figure out a way to take it on the road. She has done a deal with her manufacturer which gives her leeway in terms of putting out cash to make the products. She has been featured in some local magazines which certainly has brought in more business. Women really connect with the Everychild product. We talked a little bit about how could she grow the business organically with a community of women. Perhaps thinking about a tupperware model.
It was really great to speak with Stephanie. She is passionate about her business. She is a lovely woman. She is taking some risks by thinking out of the box. As she says, an overnight sensation takes 25 years to build. Stephanie is a hard working entrepreneur and I am thrilled to be able to tell her story.