Welcome to Our New "From The Basement Up" Podcast
Have you ever thought about giving up the security of your job and chasing your dream or taking an idea and running with it? It’s terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. The potential for failure looms in your mind while your heart dreams of soaring successes and being your own boss.
If these are thoughts you’ve entertained or you love to hear about others who have taken the leap and created their own success stories, then we have a podcast for you. From the Basement Up takes a look at groundbreakers and community makers who decided to branch out on their own and give life to their business ideas. You’ll meet people who embraced their inner dreams, squashed the nagging fear of failure, and developed the grit necessary to succeed.
How Name Bubbles Began
Meet Michelle Brandriss, a self-described wannabe artist turned biz-gal. Michelle is one of those success stories, someone who quit a solid job in advertising to start a kid’s name label company. In the middle of her hectic and demanding life, working the 9-to-5 and beyond and raising her young son, she had an idea. What if there were labels for kids’ clothes and supplies that were cute and lasted through pretty much anything? That’s what Michelle wanted to create. Talk about sticking power: it wasn’t just the labels that would have an incredible ability to stick, it was the idea, and she couldn’t shake it.
It was then that the little seed of an idea grew and became Name Bubbles. These adorable labels are super-adhesive and incredibly durable. They last through tons of wash cycles and continue to look as fresh as they did in the beginning. Not only that, but they make it easy to identify who the owner is, so clothing, toys, expensive technology, shoes, sporting equipment, and more make their way back home. They’re a great product that turned into a great business. With a dozen employees, multi-state manufacturing operations, and orders coming in from around the world, Name Bubbles has gone from an idea to a successful business.
Michelle and others will talk about what it’s like to give up that steady job when raising children and go for it. It’s not easy, but Michelle says it’s been one of the greatest joys of her life, and she’ll be sharing that experience with you. She’ll also be our host for From the Basement Up and introduce you to other people who have decided that their ideas need the opportunity to become a reality.
Learn How You Can Follow Your Dreams
You’ll hear about small businesses and ambitious enterprises that started as an idea and how they grew into reality. Learn about the hurdles along the way and even some failures. But with each struggle comes the knowledge necessary to overcome. This podcast isn’t just a peek into the inner workings of entrepreneurs; it’s also a primer on how to succeed and develop the grit necessary to follow your dreams.
We’re living in an interesting time when the world was forced to learn to work from home. Companies needed to let go of their old-fashioned ideas of a 9-to-5 day or risk failure, and employees are quitting in such numbers that it’s been dubbed the Great Resignation. What happens when so many people decide that punching a clock isn’t giving them what they need to be happy? They choose to pursue what will make them happy, to follow their dreams, and live their passion.
From the Basement Up takes you on a journey with these determined souls who had their ideas and believed in themselves enough to go for broke. Throughout their stories, you’ll realize it’s not about people who know all the ins and outs of business, who serially build businesses; it’s about people who were willing to learn everything they needed to know, people who accepted that failures would happen in order to grow.
What better time to launch From the Basement Up than now as Name Bubbles celebrates its thirteenth anniversary. From an idea that started in the basement to a successful company with more than a decade of business experience, it’s time to expand even more through sharing the wealth of knowledge Michelle has accrued throughout the years. Through this podcast, we’re hoping to open up and invite others to learn what it takes to make it on your own, follow your “big idea,” and get to that next level of professional fulfillment. You can follow us on our journey and tune in every week here! Or, you can search “From the Basement Up" on Spotify, Apple, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Ep. 1: Michelle Transcript
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Hi, I'm Michelle Brandriss, a wannabe artist turn business gal. Over a decade ago, I quit my job in advertising and I started a successful kids' name label company. So, I can tell you, I had no idea this journey would be what it is and I wanted to share it with everybody. So, I've started this podcast, and this is actually my first episode. So the podcast is From The Basement Up. Thank you so much for joining, and you're going to hear Emily.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Hey, I'm Emily.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: And she's going to be interviewing me during this podcast. Really it's just to see what the journey was to get Name Bubbles up and going. You are going to hear my story started balancing work between my son's nap times and Thomas the Tank Engine all those years ago, and really how to learn, how to stand out in a crowd, and grow this business into a multi- state operation. And we ship orders all around the world now. It hasn't always been easy, but we've grown and we definitely want to learn and share. Actually, we want to share the lessons we've learned over the last decade with everyone, and we hope you enjoy it. It hasn't always been easy, but I've grown, and I'm excited to share the things I've learned along the way. I also want to encourage others to find their super power and make those positive choices, the hard choices, those hard decisions. It's hard to believe in something and move forward, but no matter how small those little steps are, you can do it and you can make it happen. So, we're going to be interviewing other business owners and entrepreneurs through From The Basement Up, and really, we want you to learn what it takes, what it takes to be an entrepreneur. So thank you so much for coming on board and listening to From The Basement Up. Ready? So, welcome to From The Basement Up. I am Michelle Brandriss, Founder and President of namebubbles. com. And I started this podcast with my niece, Emily Flanigan.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Hi.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: And actually I had Emily help me out with this. This was our passion project. I told her I really wanted to start interviewing people and work with people who have started a business or a nonprofit, really to see what their journey was and to share their journey and hopefully to inspire other people to do the same and start something on their own. So, I think the best way to really start something on your own is hear what I other people have gone through. So, today's episode is going to be about Name Bubbles and how I got Name Bubbles going. So, Emily is going to be interviewing me and asking questions and as you'll see, Emily and I are really close, so there might be a lot of giggling. So, I do apologize about that, but we are being very serious at the same time.
EMILY FLANIGAN: If you guys want us to be serious. But then we can also joke around. Yeah. Let's just jump right in. And Michelle, CEO and Founder of now three companies started from Name Bubbles, started from the basement.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yes, I did start from the basement. Actually, Name Bubbles is the flagship. And it's interesting because it really started out with a very simple idea. And I was working in advertising. My son was in daycare, and I was dropping him off at daycare, the entire process every morning with the Sharpies and the masking tape, washing out his baby bottles, making sure everything was clean and the masking tape and the Sharpies were falling off. So, I was looking around to what other moms were doing, and they were ordering labels from a label supplier out of Australia and out of Canada. And I looked and I'm like, " Wow, that's cool." And I had a lot of things embroidered with my son's name. I was one of those moms that loved doing that. I just loved the labels. So, I started order and then I started thinking, well, there was kind of like a renaissance going on at the time of these new baby products in the baby market, and I just decided I needed to try this out and make labels, and that was really the start of it. My husband thought I was crazy. He's like, " What are you talking about?" So when you have a decent job, a good job with a good salary and suddenly you're like, " Honey, I'm going to quit my job and start a label business." I mean, he just thought I was just not all there. And I explained to him that I'm like, " I know moms will want this. I can find it. I can do it better, and I can make them more stylish." So I was... I did have a little bit of an art background.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Yeah. I was about to say you should rant on that for a second, if you can, because for me, it's not a background. You were the artist growing up.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Okay. So, thank you. I wish. I'm kind of a wannabe artist to be honest. I would've loved to have been an artist, but the one thing about that, it did teach me to see things differently, and it taught me to focus. So, I can say that any art anybody does is great. It's just really hard to make a living in art.
EMILY FLANIGAN: But you did it.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: In a way, yeah. So, we're making some pretty cool name labels and cute styles and shapes and I love it. But that was really a tough move from being in a nice job and to say, " Hey, I'm quitting." And that was really it. My son was 18 months old. I started... My day routine really was we would get up in the morning and obviously breakfast, get things going, play time. And then I would always give myself a little bit of... I got him into preschool, which was fantastic. Because I had to pull him out of daycare because I could no longer afford daycare because it's so expensive, especially when you're not working. So, I was able to find a preschool that could take him a couple days a week. So I would go over to the YMCA and drop him off at preschool, come back, work for a couple hours, go back, pick him up. We would do lunch, some afternoon play. If he'd have nap time that was like, " Oh, a couple more hours of work," or not, who am I kidding? An hour of work. And then I was lucky there. Dinner time and then we would usually do something in the evening, get him down for bedtime. And then I would be working literally till like 01:00 in the morning. And that really was my schedule for, I want to say that first year getting the company up and off the ground. So, it was a busy, hectic time. And then once the company launched. Again, a lot of Thomas the Tank Engine videos were playing. Oh my gosh, I think I can still sing the song. I probably know all of them. And I have to say that's the most hazardous railroad track ever. The trains were always crashing, but it was a hard, interesting first couple years.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Throwing shade at Thomas the train.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: But the lessons are very good. They have very good lessons. I just wouldn't want my son working on that railroad. We got through it and then I was able to get Cooper into full- time daycare. And at that point I was able to really start focusing the regular 09:00 to 05:00 and doing that. But it did take a good two years until that was actually happening. So when Name Bubbles started taking off, my son was actually right around first or second grade, and I told my husband, I'm like, " I think this is time for us to look at his afterschool care and his routine." So, he ended up coming home and being the stay at home parent. So, it was an interesting first five years of Name Bubbles. That was fun to have happen, but scary at the same time.
EMILY FLANIGAN: So, walk us through in those first two years, specifically that you just mentioned, how did you balance it? What was your day like? When did you finally sit down and the time that you had designated to working on your business started growing? Instead of just being a hobby, it was your hustle.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yeah. Well, okay. It was never a side hustle. It was always the full hustle. Yeah, I definitely didn't do the side hustle thing until it worked. It was all in and it was really focus. It was being flexible and focused. So, I had to dig in hard. It was a little scary, I will say the first few years. So the first few years Name Bubbles was getting off the ground. Those were the scariest years of being an adult. My husband was very supportive, which was great, but it does put a lot of pressure on a relationship when you're starting a new business and you walk away from a great job. And that is something that I definitely want everybody to be aware of. However, the one pivotal thing that happened for me was one day I was traveling all over the country for the company and I was at focus group, focus group, focus group, one after another. And my son had a double ear infection and 102 fever. And it's Sunday, it's Easter Sunday, and I have to be somewhere for a Monday morning meeting. I mean, who does that? That's so terrible. So, I am walking out the door and my little boy is on my husband's chest and they're watching football and I had tears in my eyes, and I'm just sitting here going. I was so lucky to have him, and I've always known that. I was extremely lucky to have him. I had him late in life and it just, oh my goodness. It was everything I'd ever wanted, and I'm not spending any time with them because I'm always on these focus groups and out there. So, I really wanted that flexibility, but that was that catalyst that just said, " This is it. I'm doing it. I want to start my own business." That was the pivotal point for me. And I think everybody that starts a business or test typically has something like that where something happens where they're just that aha moment. They're like, " What in the world is going on?" So, I definitely had one of those. And at that point on, I started telling my husband, " I need to do this. I want to do this." And he thought I was nuts. He was like, " Who would want to do this? You've already got other people out there." And I'm like, " No, there are people... I'm buying from people in Canada. I'm buying from people in Australia. This doesn't make sense. There's a space here. There's a hole here. We can do this." So, that's really where it started. I was very lucky that he's just like, " Okay, let's go for it. Go ahead, quit your job." And then that was it. I don't think I slept those first two years because you don't, you really don't. It really was-
EMILY FLANIGAN: You had a baby.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: It truly is having another child. It really is. And it's problem solving one thing after the next. This was not an industry I knew anything about. I had to learn everything. So when you're learning the manufacturing side, I did know how to do e- commerce but it's a totally different level of e- commerce it's your own e- commerce company. So, it was every single thing. And then you're wearing multiple hats. You're doing customer service, you're handling HR, you're handling the business side of it, finance, and it really is quite challenging. So, that is the one thing for people starting out. Just realize that the time commitment is very extensive and you do have to be all in. There's no, you can't just be part way toe in the water. You're jumping into the deep end and that's the way you have to go with it.
EMILY FLANIGAN: So, then looping back to a second ago when you had to... It was like a learning curve. You who had to relearn everything. I'm jealous because no one on the podcast knows, but my undergrad is in law, and I'm getting my master's in legal studies now. So when I'm doing marketing stuff and working on the podcast stuff, it's like, " Gosh, what am I doing?" But you came from a little bit of a marketing background. So when you talk about your learning curve, how did you learn what you needed to and what were the missing spots between having that background and then bringing it to fruition in your entirely own business?
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Okay. That's a good question. So, one thing I do want people to know when you start out, you really do have to put a summary together and task list and goals, but really realize that things are done in baby steps a lot of times and small bites. I say this all the time, you can only eat so much at a time, take a bite, chew it, think about it, and those baby steps. Just keep moving forward and think about out where you're going next. That was the big thing. Now, marketing has changed so much online. It's insane what's gone on because now Name Bubbles actually, yay, we're a teenager, which is really exciting. We turn 13 this month, but you have to also understand that I at a year of launch too. So, 14 years ago, the internet was at a completely different place. Online advertising was completely different. So, I did have to start and learn a lot of these things. So, my first website was in Flash. I mean, Flash, you couldn't even see it on an Apple product. It was ridiculous, and it was just learning how to manage technology issues, website issues. It really is multiple hats. And then of course learning how to manufacture and what needs to be done, finding the supplier, finding the product. So there was quite a learning curve, but I can honestly say the learning has never stopped over this 14 years. I think that's why I like it so much. I think that's why I love having my own business because every day is a challenge and you really have to be flexible and know that you're never going to be in a comfort zone. You've got to stay out of the comfort zone always and push. That is one thing. The other thing I've always realized that when you become complacent, a competitor is going to come along and you've got to pay attention. The other thing that's so interesting is Google. I advertise on Google. They'll change their algorithms or Facebook does, and it's quite you've got to find those specialists and you've got to find those third party consultants that really know what they're doing to help you stay up. Because you can't know how to do everything. You can do one or two things really well, but you need to rely on people who know what they're doing. Just it's not doable and it's not manageable unless you do that.
EMILY FLANIGAN: And reliable people who you can learn from.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yeah, absolutely. And that's the one thing letting people out there know, your gut feeling is probably right. A lot of times I question, "Oh, I'm being judgemental or I'm not being fair." But a lot of times my gut feeling was right and I should have listened to it. It would've saved a lot of time and money. People are going to say what they want you to hear. So you've got to pay attention and pay attention because you're the one paying the bills and make sure that you're getting your value out of the money that you're spending on.
EMILY FLANIGAN: So, that goes for people that you've experienced interaction with throughout all levels, correct?
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Oh, sure. Absolutely. Outside the business 100% and then also inside, too, and that's something right now I have actually 16 employees, and the company actually was larger at one time. We were able to automate things and I definitely wanted to automate as much as I could. On the production side it made sense. So, the company actually had a contraction for a little while, but we're starting to grow again. I do keep a lot of things out of house. I keep a lot of the marketing side out of house. At one time I had a lot of marketing in house and I just found that it was much more efficient to keep that side of the business out with the specialists, especially the way the internet has grown, and people really seem to develop specialized areas. If it's going to be online advertising, if it's going to be email marketing, more search engine optimization. Those are things that I really do find the specialists that I like and I work well with, and that's the other thing. You want to make sure you work well with people. So one thing that we did, and this was something that was really close to my heart for a very, very long time, and it was to create a giving program for Name Bubbles. So we call it Labeled For Good, which is quite fun. And that actually started in 2010. Name Bubbles launched in 2009. This was always something I was like, " I want to be able to have a company that can give back and give back to different nonprofits that I'm interested in." So, over the years it's grown and we've continued this. So, it's really quite cool. We allow, we have four nonprofits through the year and Q1 is right now, it's WIN Women In Need and that's based in New York city, and I give a dollar from every clothing label purchase to the nonprofit for the quarter. So, minimum commitment is$10, 000, but of course we want to exceed that and do much more. So, the second quarter is The Hole in the Wall Gang, and that is actually the HH ranch up in, and that's another local nonprofit. And what they do is they service children who have terminal diseases and might need to have a nurse or a doctor there on site for the entire camp experience. And this is something that the camp covers. They cover the whole thing for the child, which is really fabulous. And then the third quarter is Blessings in a Backpack. I've done that one for a few years now and I love that. Just making sure that the kids have food over the weekends, a backpack that they can take home full of food. And then of course the fourth quarter is Toys for Tots. That was really fun to do. That was the first time this last year in 2021 that we worked for Toys for Tots. And I see that continuing on through the years. So that's, that's been fabulous.
EMILY FLANIGAN: So that's something that has been in your mind from the start of Name Bubbles blueprint?
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: It was, it was always there. I always wanted to have some sort of cause marketing extension to the company. And recently we've just started just things that you're giving back to the community. And as you start listening to From The Basement Up, I'm really looking for companies out there and people who are doing that. It may not be money, maybe it's time, but something in there, their blueprint of their company, or the heart of the company where they're giving back in some way. And I just think it's so important that it's something that we need to do. I think that we need to redefine success as a society, as a culture, and really look out for one another and have a lot more unity, and that's one thing I really definitely am looking for always. Who are those companies out there that I want to support and what are people doing out there to make a difference? So, when I was in the position to actually be able to do that, it really was one of the most rewarding things about being a business owner is having that extension and the cause marketing side to it. One other thing that we're doing is going green, trying to have that carbon neutral footprint. In the printing business it is so tough. There's a lot of waste. We're working with this durable product, so it's PVC, or it's like a vinyl. So, you want to make sure you're not throwing anything away. The upside of it is once that label's on something, it saves time and money. So the parents things are not lost. Things go into the lost and found. People know who's it is. They give you a call. They let you know. So, you're hoping that people aren't having to buy things over and over again, and they're saving time and money by these durable labels that go through the dishwasher. They go through the washing and the laundry, the washer and dryer. So, it's fantastic. But the one thing I've really wanted to do is make sure that our facilities were carbon neutral. So getting those solar panels on, tracking it. Purchasing green energy that our solar panels couldn't cover. So, that's something that is really, really important to me. The other cool thing is, so as far as the carbon neutral footprint, we're going to need to also duplicate this. So we do have good news. Name Bubbles actually just purchased. We purchased a building in Brighton, Colorado, which is so exciting, and I can't wait, and it's a beautiful old building, and it has these bright, beautiful windows. So, it's going to be really pleasant for the employees working there. And now we need to get those solar panels on that building or figure something out for the carbon neutral footprint on that building. So, just so everyone knows that's going to be launching or opening up for summer of 2022. I know, I know I'm so excited. So, we had so many orders last summer and I to this day, to my customers out there that had to wait. It must have been COVID. It had to have been COVID. I did everything that I typically do. We had three times the number of orders that we usually have and I forecast and I'm conservative and it blew everything away. I had to turn advertising off. And so, it's a great problem to have as a business owner, but then it's terrible at the same time because your customers are your most... You have to service your customers. You have to be responsible and follow through. So, oh my goodness, I felt so terrible. So, I purchased this building. We're going to duplicate our operations. So, we'll make sure that that level of wait never happens again. And I'm very excited that the orders will get to the west coast customers much, much more quickly. So, that's wonderful.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Just to reiterate a couple important, we'll call them blueprint measures that you wanted to include in your business. Limiting your carbon footprint, being an environmental advocate or environmentally conscious business owner and giving back. And so, just to expand upon the giving back portion, I wanted to talk about why. Why people do it, and why it is so important? I think that after the pandemic it was a wake up call for people to see all of this stuff that goes wrong. Or when you feel like you don't have help, it's easiest to start in your community. It's easiest to start small and it's easiest to start local.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yeah. Actually, I love that thought. I never really thought local before. It's odd, but once you start seeing how... The pandemic did change the way I look at things. It changed the way I work. It changed the way my expectations of employees to work. I was obviously operations. I wanted to make sure everybody was as safe as possible. So operations came in, had masks. My team was fabulous. I put out a reward. Basically, you would get paid to get a shot. So, if you got two shots, you got money for each shot. So, and then obviously booster shots people got more money with each shot. So, I want people getting their jabs. So, I was rewarding them for that. But then also when these crazy variants came they're looking out for each other. They have young families and they have kids that can't get... The kids are too young to get their vaccinations. So, everyone's wearing masks. I really just feel like the pandemic put this whole new spin on everything for me, where it is local. You've got to look out for your community, and you've got to create a community within your walls and within your business. And that's something that, gosh, you really see everybody that works for you and you care so much about them. Because I'm the boss, I may not always get asked to go everywhere. Everybody here says work family. I have employees who have been here for literally over 10 years. And a lot of them have been here longer than five years. So, as far as community goes having that giving aspect of the nonprofit, it was so important for me. I was just like, " We just really need to look out for each other or one another." And that's just the way I look at life in general. I am the type of person that if you are... I look at us as like beehive in a way. And if everyone's out there doing their part and looking out for one another, wow, wouldn't this world be a great place? I can't change the way anybody else behaves on this planet, but I can definitely change the way I behave and how I act and how I interact with people. So, if there's a way to give back to various nonprofits that are doing fabulous work and give some awareness for them, then I'm going to do it. Absolutely. I think that moms out there appreciate that and definitely people are giving out there and doing wonderful things.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Yeah. And I think too, obviously, I wouldn't know, because I haven't started a business in a small town or a community, but once you're here and you've established yourself in this town it's not just a town that you're set up in. It's your town, it's your colleagues, your fellow business owners, your fellow workers.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Definitely. It's neat. We live in a village. Actually, the tagline of our town is called a village of friends, and it really... I didn't know if you knew that.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Oh, I didn't, that's so sweet.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: We're based in Boston Spa. It's just like 10 minutes south of Saratoga Springs, which is a fabulous town, and that's much more fancy, but Boston Spa really is low key and cool. I want to say it's becoming the artsy community around the area.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Oh, totally, totally.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: So, I have a feeling in not too long it might get fancy here too, but it's quite fun and I really do love the town, but it's been such the perfect fit for the group of us. The team they go out, have lunch, know the local vendors, know the restauranters, and it's neat. We actually do rent a lot of stickers actually for some of the local companies, too. So, that's fun. And really just I've noticed actually a lot of the local businesses are all women owned business.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Really?
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yes. A lot of them. So, that's been fun to go in and see the new businesses that are popping up, and seeing the women doing the ribbon cutting. So, I love that. And just especially we should get out and start interviewing some of them, too.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Oh, absolutely. And to tell our listeners about that, we had a ribbon cutting this year.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: We did, we did. So, we actually, Name Bubbles just to kind of... I spoke briefly about the Brighton, Colorado facility. Name Bubbles is also expanding into a couple other divisions. So, that's what Emily was alluding to at the beginning of the podcast. So, it's actually called Labels To Last and then Sticker& Co. And Labels To Last is a label line developed strictly for adults. People in memory care communities or facilities. And then, of course, nursing home environments. And then Sticker& Co. is actually photo stickers and photo decals right now. So, wall decals, and we will be launching different areas of that coming soon. But once I started developing the outside facility in Colorado, Name Bubbles is so seasonal. It's a very seasonal business, and I knew I needed to develop that, the burn, I call it the burn side of the business. So, we make a lot of money from may through September and then not so much the rest of the year. So, Labels To Last and Sticker& Co. will definitely round out the revenue stream, and that will be much a big relief to me because that's something that's pretty tough to get through, but definitely those other two divisions are going to be up and running, and just in time for our Colorado development or our Colorado operations team to help out.
EMILY FLANIGAN: And just to rave about these things for a second, the Labels To Last labels I've already ordered for my uncle who has just moved into a memory care facility. Yes, he's so excited. His room number is the number on the buoy at our lake. So, it's kind of sweet. So, it'll be a fun little thing for everybody at the lake to see them. The Sticker& Co. stickers are at my desk right now, and whenever... Also, and I'll put this at the end of the show, too, but we have an Instagram page that if you ever want to look at something that we're talking about, there'll be posts there and links there where you can find what we're talking about, but they're really awesome, and yeah, very excited.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yes. We'll have show notes, and we'll have some of those details in there, but yes, Sticker& Co. is quite fun. You can upload your pictures from your phone, your computer, and the wall decals are removable and repositionable and you can stick them and restick them and restick them.
EMILY FLANIGAN: I mean, freshman year when I went to college, I went to CVS, printed out 100 eight by four, whatever the size is of pictures for my friends. And I wish that Sticker& Co. would've been up and running by then because I would've saved a bunch of tape, not ruined the paint on my dorm wall, saved about 50 bucks of fine money. So, definitely a cool invention.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Good. So, one thing I did want to say is this is the intro podcast, so you can get to know me, and really my whole goal of starting From The Basement Up is to encourage people who are on the fence, who are really thinking about branching out on their own and to get started. I realize it's scary because even 14 years into this and I know that it's a solid business, I still get scared, and there's nothing wrong with that. I think that it would be crazy not to be scared, but you just have to do it and do the best you can to educate yourself in every way possible. But I'm here to cheer you on and I'm want you to know that you can do it. Focus, dig in and you can make it happen. So, that is the one thing when we're looking at people that we'll be interviewing really finding out big or small because a lot of people that you hear on podcasts they have these giant ginormous gazillion dollar companies and really that may not be what everybody wants. It might just be carving out a small life with a really good job that fulfills you. So, it's really wanting to encourage people to think about that. To think about creating their own space that is really fulfilling and then talking to people who have done it and how they've done it and the mistakes they've made. So, as you're listening to this, obviously, I'm not going to tell you all the mistakes I made today or great decisions, but you will hear some of those come along and then you're going to also hear what other people went through and hear their journey. So, that is really where I'm wanting people to find an approachable space where they're able to listen in and be encouraged. And as I always say, it's baby steps and small bites and you can make this happen.
EMILY FLANIGAN: So, kind of an awkward time to ask the question I want to ask because it's coming off of such a good rant what I want to get at, but now, and we're even doing, we're listening to modules, we're going to our own courses online of how to start something you don't know how to do and all these resources for anything that you want to start are online. So, I guess and not throwing shade, but what support or what advice can you offer that people couldn't find anywhere else if they tried?
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: So, I guess it depends on what type of business you're wanting to do or wanting to go into it. So, I think one of the most important things for people is to really create your support system before you move forward. This is a really trying thing. It was exhausting. I feel like I had gained a tremendous amount of weight when I was going through getting my business up and off the ground. I really was. And a lot of it was due to eating to stay awake to get things done, to have the energy to do it, and just the level of stress. So, I had to really take a look at everything and get myself back in check on a physical level so I could be healthy to keep fighting another day, but really to enjoy life. And so, I think the support system is a huge thing. I had moved to an area. I live on the east coast. I'm originally from the west coast and my husband and I found this awesome town up here. We love it, but I really didn't know that many people. So, over the years, the support system has grown, but I really do wish I had relied more on people when I first got started. I think that's one of my key things because I think my health took a pretty big hit and I definitely don't want people to go through that process. So, that's definitely one thing. The other thing I definitely wanted to say is nothing's going to be perfect and perfect is the enemy of doing good and good things and perfect can stop you in your tracks. So make sure that you're not trying to be perfect. And in today's Instagram world, I feel like... I kind of like TikTok I have to say because at least it's real. People are goofy and they're being real. Instagram is this fake phony thing where everyone has to look like they're like a inaudible or something. It's just crazy. So, I do want people not to stop themselves because it's not exactly what they were envisioning. Just really dig in. You can do this, you can make it happen and just believe in yourself. And as I say, get your grit on. It's gritty. You have to just dig in and make it happen. So, that's my biggest thing. Find your support system and then just dig in.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Yeah, persevere. And maybe you could touch on that a little bit too like what you had to go through during the pandemic?
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Oh, gosh. Okay. Pandemic. I feel like that its own podcast, to be honest. Okay. Pandemic. Holy cow. Oh, my gosh. Honestly, I'm so glad I'm here. I'm so glad I'm here. So that first year because as I said Name Bubbles is a very seasonal business and no one was going to camp and we weren't sure if school was going to open up and I had a lot of young families, and people here, people were pregnant, and their babies were coming. So, it was skin of our teeth took out a lot of money out of savings to make sure we could get through it. And we had I think the governor had said here in New York, " Okay. Close down for six weeks." So, okay. We were closed the doors shut and that was it. That's wild. You can't make your labels. You had to shut the doors on the business. Hence, another reason why we have a Colorado operation. So, I've quickly learned, okay, you dig a moat around your castle and I'm like, " So, the Colorado's the moat." I mean, it was just like dig a moat. What can you do? What's option B? And I didn't have an option B ready at the time.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Option B was savings.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yes. Option B was savings. Yeah, that's a scary one. So, we were very lucky and around July our orders started coming in again for back to school.
EMILY FLANIGAN: 2021?
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: No, 2020. Yeah.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Okay.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: This is early pandemic.
EMILY FLANIGAN: I forget that I was in school during it.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: I don't know if you saw me at the time.
EMILY FLANIGAN: I don't think so.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Okay. So, just again, I'm talking about me and being stressed. I've recently lost a lot of weight. So, that spring, I remember going and getting my son his Easter basket.
EMILY FLANIGAN: inaudible Easter thing.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Well, I know it was an Easter... It was the springtime and this is right... I'm an early shopper, and I just didn't want it to be sold out. So, I got all his Easter candy and then we closed, which is terrible. So, I was in that Easter basket so deep, he didn't have anything left. I had to go back shopping again. So, that was the pandemic. But anyways, July, we had orders start picking up for back to school, and we got through. Back to school was small, but it got us through and people aren't sending their kids to daycare like they were. They're not going back to the office and children, little babies weren't going to daycare. So daycare labels everything took a big drop. And so, I just knew. I just knew we had to get through it. And one day at a time, you really cut back. You really, really cut back, and thank goodness, I am a saver. I'm still laughing when I think about it because it scares me. I will cry if I don't laugh so I laugh.
EMILY FLANIGAN: It's true.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: So, we got through it and that's what I'm going to say. But the next year, thank goodness we got through it. It was interesting because I had quite a number of people calling trying to buy the business-
EMILY FLANIGAN: I was going to say-
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: At COVID prices, and when you have young whipper snappers as I call them, calling you up and truly trust fund kids. Like can I buy-
EMILY FLANIGAN: Oh, my God, really?
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Oh, full on. Yes. And I'm like-
EMILY FLANIGAN: If you're out there.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Well, you just knew. How in the world would you have that much money at this age to buy the business? It had to be something. So, I just thought yeah, no. And so, that's stubborn. So, this is something that's really interesting. There's going to be a stubborn streak that I think business owners have, and you're going to find it. And that stubborn streak it was like I could just feel my heels just sinking in the ground. No, no, thank you. I was trying to be nice, but no, no thank you. We're fine. I had three offers during that time.
EMILY FLANIGAN: It's like the dog meme with the house on fire.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: It was, oh my gosh, it was crazy.
EMILY FLANIGAN: We're fine. We're fine.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: I'm fine. I'm fine. Actually, Ashley, one of the girls that works for me was sending that to me at the time. She did.
EMILY FLANIGAN: I think she talked about that in her interview.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yes. Again, you laugh, but you wanted to cry at the same time. So, yes we did get through it. And then this last year was bonkers. It was crazy. That was the year we had three times the amount of orders, and so there are two things. It could be the fact that people aren't... They're ordering now because they didn't order before. Our labels last a long, long time. So sometimes typically people come back every two years. That's how long it takes for them to get through our orders. So every two years they come back. So we had a year where no one was buying labels. So then maybe that was the next year they came back. But I also think everyone's buying labels because they want their child's... They don't want germ mix ups. They want their child's name on everything. So that has really taken off and it hasn't slowed down. It really hasn't. So, yes, we are still seasonal, but we're still really busy. So the Colorado purchase was scary after the whole COVID issue because part of my mind's going okay, is it because there was the delay? But the way things are going, I don't think it is. I truly think there's a new leaf where people are like, " I am labeling everything that goes out the store." So, it has been bigger than it really ever has.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Yeah. I think that's 100% percent it.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: So, it's been a fascinating journey, but that was my COVID experience. I just thank you. Every day it's like sending it out to the heavens. Just thank you, thank you that we're here. I really love what I do and I love my community here. I love my employees and we've been here together for a long, long time, and I think my average is, gosh, it's got to be eight years. People come on and I feel really lucky I have wonderful people here who I love working with. So, the fact that I didn't have to lay anybody off was just amazing to me. Just amazing. And there were five kids that were born. So, just lots of kids. So, it was, yes, we're getting through it. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, that's good.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Just like going back to the community. You got to start local. With something that happened, who would've ever imagined in 100 years that that would've happened and then it did. And then you're not only worrying about yourself, your family, your business. You're worrying about 16 families, 16 employees, 16 people that are your friends.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yeah, it is. So, now I don't want to discourage anybody from starting a business, but this was exceptionally a strange, difficult time. I don't think this is going to be happening again in our lifetime.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Knock on wood.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yes, yes. Knock on wood. Thank you. So, I definitely don't want to discourage people. Your employees they are your customers. Once you are a boss, you have two sets of customers and one is your employees and the other are the customers that keep the business going. So you are looking out for a lot of people and making sure that people are happy and that's a truly, truly important thing.
EMILY FLANIGAN: I wanted to ask too if you thought that one of the reasons that things were really picking up is because of Labels To Last and Sticker& Co.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Okay, good question. I haven't started advertising for either one of those divisions. So, not yet. They'll pick up more, which is exciting.
EMILY FLANIGAN: They are printing for them.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: They are printing. That is called, it's just organic that's happening, and I think people are... We sent out an email to our Name Bubbles customers about Labels To Last, and I have a feeling they're purchasing them for their parents. And then Sticker& Co. we have a placement on Name Bubbles that at the top letting people know about Sticker& Co. to buy those photo stickers, and that's where those purchases are coming from. We won't be advertising for Sticker& Co. until the spring time, but labels to last, we're going to start advertising for that in February.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Okay.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yeah. So, it's exciting. It's exciting that you're getting... That we're already seeing orders and we're not advertising, and really they're such new divisions that the organic build hasn't really even started yet. So, it is quite exciting.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Yeah. And so, it sounds like an important part of... Obviously, this is going to sound so silly coming out now that I'm saying it, but managing your business is time management. So even down to your details of thinking when you're going to launch advertising for labels to last that is already printing, what's the harm in starting advertising now? Obviously, you've been in the business long enough. You know when you want to time it, but how do you come to know that just intuitively?
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: So, part of it too is when are things ready? Some of the build out for these divisions is taking a little bit longer. We were putting some final touches on Labels To Last on the website, and I didn't want to actually spend money on advertising until the website final touches were ready to go. And that was the upsell features. So when you're in the cart and you add a product to cart, the add- ons are like for an extra sheet of clothing labels. By putting that add on in there, it makes the return on investment better for online advertising because online advertising can get very expensive and the Labels To Last average order value is less than Name Bubbles. So, in order to really make it work for online advertising, we needed to have that little extra put in there.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Okay. So, then what's in general, too, and including this, your balance of saving and spending. What do you think you do more of, or do you think there has to be a perfect balance to sustain your business?
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Okay. Oh, my gosh. That's a great question for everybody out there, you really have to be good at saving money. You really do. You don't even... Really, things happen a lot. You want to make sure. Okay. So, this is the other thing I have bootstrapped and I never took anybody's money. So, it's nice to not have any venture funds in here. I just really wanted this to be my business. And part of the reason for that was my major was international relations, international studies. And then I went back for art. I went back to art school, which was great and I loved it. And those were some of the happiest years. I loved it. But the thing is I don't have a business degree and I don't have a business background. So, if I took someone's money, would they manage me out? And that was something I always thought of. Are they going to want to get of someone in here with an MBA or someone with a business degree? And I was always worried about that. So, that was something that I knew that Name Bubbles could be really big. I really did, and I wanted to make sure that I was never forced out. So, I really was careful with money. I'm still careful with money because I look at it like I spend money on the business, definitely spend money on the business, but I want to make sure that taxes. I'm never behind on my taxes. I always just forecast what can I spend money on? And then we're making sure I have that savings, especially because Name Bubbles goes into a burn. So I have to make sure that we're safe from October all the way through, gosh, sometimes even into April depending on how much development costs you have, how much equipment you're purchasing. So, you've got to always look ahead, and put a calendar together. With that calendar and if you can forecast your sales and what it's going to take for your cost of goods and then if you want new equipment, if you're going to want new employees. You really need to get a good balance. You need to get a budget in place. And I don't have a CFO here for the business, but what you can do is hire a CFO, a consultant. So, some of these big ticket, I guess, positions, you don't always need to have in- house, especially if you're a smaller company. You can definitely outsource people and outsource their specialty.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Awesome, awesome. Yeah, and it looks too like now that I'm here and I watch the day to day of what's happening, and Emily B. works in front of me and all of that, there has to be some spending to make money.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yes, yes. 100%. The other thing is as a business owner, I never look at spending money as... I don't look at the money that the business makes is my money. I don't know how to explain it other than that. It's not my money. It's the business is money, and I take a salary, and that way also I'm paying taxes on my salary, but then I know I'm in budget too on my personal side. You want to make sure you're pretty conservative on that because you do need to have that extra wiggle room in the business, and it really is the business' money. So the business has its own savings account. I don't look at that as mine at all. That is to keep the wheels on and the lights on and everybody employed and get us through the burn and whatever development we want to do. And I think by having that philosophy, it's gotten me through some really tight times.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Just ending on that if you want to take the last lap around this, tying it back to maintaining your work- life balance. Letting the business be its own entity, its own breathing being allows you to maintain your own life.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: So, it's funny that you said that because I think we talked about having this little baby. The business be this growing baby or person. It really does. It has an energy of its own or a life of its own. And you do have to definitely have those boundaries. So, my son has been very sweet through the years now. He is older, so he's more into his friends online and their video games and things like that. But so he taught me really early on though. Mom, when you come home, put your phone away, and I do. I put my phone away. Typically, I check it again before bed just to make sure there's no emergencies, but when I walk in the door, I don't have my phone. It's away. And I look at that as the business too. I actually took... This is crazy. I think I'm the only business person that does this. I took my business email off of my phone.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Nice.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: So, I did, and I actually took Facebook off my phone. I'm really trying to-
EMILY FLANIGAN: Good job.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: ...just not. Okay, but TikTok has sucked me in.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Yeah, I know. I get a TikTok message from you every day. I'm not even on TikTok every day.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: It's totally evil. But as far as I respect and honor my time here. It's sacred, and I let that be my time here. And then when I'm home, I'm with my family, and I'm really trying hard to separate those. That was difficult during COVID because you had those lines were definitely erased when you had everybody working remotely, but they're coming back into balance again, and that's okay. Just telling people out there, you're going to have times where you're a little bit out of balance, but just do your best to be mindful to come back around again. So, that's what I would suggest.
EMILY FLANIGAN: Cool. So then I'll just say my thank you to the listeners and then you host can wrap it up for us, but thank you all. It's been a pleasure being here and thank you Michelle for letting me ask you these questions.
MICHELLE BRANDRISS: You're welcome. So Emily has been fantastic. I asked her to come on board and help me with this awesome project, From The Basement Up. So, I appreciate having her here with me. It's been a joy and thank you to the listeners and we will be coming back with some great business owners out there and people making a difference in their community. So thank you so much and have a wonderful day.