CastCoverZ! Shows Us the Power of Focus & Tenacity.
You may remember that I featured Annette Giacomazzi, founder of CastCoverZ, in 2010. I wanted to shine the spotlight on Annette again because of the extraordinary progress she has made in her business over the past twelve months while simultaneously battling Cancer and caring for her family.
Mom Invented: What has changed over the last 12 months in your business and why?
Annette: With my family's blessing, I made a commitment at the end of last year to devote all my available time to my business. I accomplished this by resigning from any volunteer board work, declined low-paying marketing and research contracts and streamlined all my attention into only three areas: business, family/marriage, and my health. Everything else (vacations, volunteer activity, charity and social events, hobbies, coffee with friends, etc...) was taken off the calendar for the year. I even ended one-sided relationships that were draining. In other words, I was pruned, so I could be fruitful with my resources (time, talent, money, and energy).
But, the one decision that defined my vision and refined my efforts was subscribing to the Power Mentoring Program offered through Mom Invented, earlier this year. This wasn't just an investment in the health and direction of my company, it was also an investment in me. Tamara Monosoff had the daunting task of mentoring 6 women, all in different stages of their businesses, to clarify the important tasks and/or activities that contribute the most value to our respective businesses. She beat the drum of having laser-like focus and the power of self-discipline. I gladly picked up the drumsticks. Even now, I continue to hone and use the skills I learned, daily, and it shows in the quality of my work all the way down to scheduling my time. I developed a business plan and a mission statement that I refer to constantly in my discussions with the press and with customers. More importantly, I use my new mission statement and my "ideal customer profile" to make decisions daily for my business.
As a result, even though the national economy is still sluggish, we are seeing amazing growth at CastCoverZ! We have accomplished major goals in the first 6 months of 2011. We matched our 2010 sales in May, hit our average order amount goal for the year in June, we increased the number of website hits 2.5 times and received remarkable exposure with mom bloggers. We are now often the #1 spot on the search engine rankings (not paid search!) which has grown organically. We secured European distribution, orthopedic trade journals are now featuring CastCoverz! which adds tremendous credibility in the medical community, added a number of new products, leveraged social media, redesigned our logo, tag-line and sales collateral, updated our website and added an employee. Most importantly, I'm no longer taking money out of the family savings! Now, on to paying down the debt and then paying me!
Annette: The most critical lesson is you must meet your customers where they are. In my case, my customers, primarily women and most likely moms, are often inconvenienced, frustrated, worried, and even frightened when a member of their family has broken a bone. My story has appeal ("mom of child who has broken bones 8 times, turns accident into the creation of a business..."), but it is my customers' stories that are important now. My customers feel like someone truly understands their questions and worries. Who would have thought that the knowledge and experience I gained through my small, but mighty daughter's multiple orthopedic events would have led to this?
Another interesting sidebar is the business is evolving into a totally different entity than when I started. At start-up, in 2009, it was only CastCoverZ! branded items I offered: brace, splint, walking boot and cast covers. But, in the summer and early fall of 2010, I added companion products that bring additional comfort and relief to an orthopedic patient's experience. I am not only a USA-based manufacturer, but I became a distributor of these other related products too, which helped increase my offerings to customers. Because I defined my mission --my promise to my customers-- to be: "CastCoverz! provides fun and functional products that comfort orthopedic patients", I could embrace competition and competing products with no ego. Companion product sales now represent over 50% of my product sales. On the flip side and because the purpose of business is to make money, I don't have to have all the retail sales of CastCoverZ! branded products, either. I am wide open to other businesses selling my products.
Annette: In 2010, I was recovering from cancer. But, what was truly difficult, was my 15-year marriage was at a very low point at the end of the same year. In addition, my husband was not CastCoverz biggest supporter. I was facing formidable odds. In my case, focusing my attention was therapeutic. I knew what was important and did only those things that contributed positively to my business and my family. Life actually got simpler and more rewarding because we circled the wagons.
Mom Invented: What surprised you?
Annette: Two things: First, the repeat business. And this is very funny, too, because my daughter has broken 8 bones. I would be one of my own best customers! Secondly, there is an old adage, “a rising tide floats all boats.” As I generate press or gain exposure, my competition realizes benefits, too. That’s due to the fact that customers or doctors will say, “oh, just Google cast covers (vs. "go to www.castcoverz.com).” I may or may not be #1 in organic search or even #3, at that moment, so they click on a competitor's listing. Or some people will click on the sponsored ads (the shaded box at the top of the page or to the right) not realizing that businesses pay to be there. But, I firmly believe that with 60,000,000 orthopedic events in the U.S. alone, every year, 7,000,000 being fractures, there is enough business for all of us. In addition, I am not afraid of the competitive marketplace. That's one of the reasons America is such a great nation. It truly motivates me to ensure that my customers will have an easy, fun and rewarding customer experience so they refer their friends or come back!
Annette: My faith has helped me weather a lot of storms. Years ago, I was relieved to learn that I was actually NOT in control of the universe. The only things I could manage were my thoughts, responses, and the activities that filled my time. That's it. This was comforting and empowering. As a result, I persevered through some mighty deep valleys. But God doesn't give you gifts and talents to be wasted. So, I'm practical, too. With that being said, it's a toss-up between setting measurable goals that are a stretch but achievable, and surrounding myself with supportive, smart and experienced people. For example, mentors like Tamara who aren't afraid to respectfully keep me on course by continually asking questions like, "Does this direction make sense considering XYZ?" Another example is contracting only with suppliers, or people that want to see me succeed. Finally, recognizing what activities add value to my business and then doing it!
Mom Invented: What else would you like to add?
Annette: Tamara and I not only worked together, but she became a customer, unfortunately. Unfortunately? That's because no one is a customer of CastCoverZ! unless they or someone they love has had an orthopedic event. In Tamara's case, it was her 7 year old daughter who broke her ankle, for the second time, while I was engaged in the Power Mentoring Program! I rushed out a CastCoverZ! care package and they loved it all. In fact, some great stories came out of their CastCoverZ! care package! Bottom-line, Tamara had a unique perspective of not only being my business mentor, but as "mom, the customer." She is my ideal customer profile. We learned a lot, together. In addition, she opened doors for me at her local orthopedic surgeon's office which in turn is part of Oakland’s Children Hospital System! Tamara is the Oprah of business and in essence said, "opening doors is one of my favorite things!"
Annette: Sales are still inconsistent and sometimes the phone and/or the server goes quiet for an afternoon. But, instead of fretting about it, I grab a meaningful project that adds value to my organization. Two of my goals are to add another country to my list of global distributors and to secure a trial with a mass merchant which means tackling the challenge of retail packaging. I also need to find more ways to ask Orthopedic Surgeon's and other specialists e.g., podiatrists, sport medicine centers, etc. to refer patients to our website. I love balancing the mix of old marketing such as out-bound: direct mail, handwritten thank you cards, phone calls, etc. vs. the new in-bound: lead generation, social media, blogging, Tweeting, FaceBook, etc. Bottom-line, I'm focusing only on providing quality products and activities that add value for my customers. I can clearly see that by being customer-centric, my company will continue to grow in a meaningful and very profitable way.
Thank you, Annette. We are cheering for you!
If you'd like to learn more about CastCoverz! Please click here!
14 Responses »
- 5 reasons you should read Expat Women Confessions now
- Remember our feature of CastCoverz? Check out the big deal she just signed! | Mom Invented
- Annette Giacomazzi, Unyielding Mompreneur « The Entrepreneur Review
Leave a Response