Theresa Claire Robbins is the creator of LoveSnax, the first lunch box notes that teach kids emotional vocabulary and self-regulation strategies. Theresa is also the Founder and CEO of the Mirror Books Publishing Company.
After being featured in O, The Oprah Magazine this summer, she left her corporate job to become a full-time entrepreneur and has never looked back. She is a proud graduate of the University of Connecticut, an active member of the Junior League, and St. Luke’s Church in Darien, CT, but her greatest honor is being mom to her three amazing boys.
In this interview, Theresa shares how she started LoveSnax, her struggles when running a business solo and the top lessons she learned along her entrepreneurial journey.
For entrepreneurs looking to open a new business, her advice is:
If you are looking to open a franchise or model a business after something that is already in existence (dry cleaner, restaurant, etc.) SCORE is a good place to start. If however, the idea or concept is unique or new, I would pitch the idea at a competition like StartUp Weekend.
My first product was Mirror Books, personalized books for kids. I wrote the templates with my kids as part of their homeschool curriculum. Then in 2013, I pitched the idea at a StartUp Weekend competition, but I needed a digital platform to deliver the books. It took me two years to figure out that I did not have the right knowledge and experience to build that business. I also didn’t have the funding to hire the right person.
I made many mistakes but through talking to my potential customers, I was able to create LoveSnax to fill the need to improve the way we communicate with one another by educating kids about emotional intelligence.
To remain competitive, all businesses must evolve, “innovate or die.” We are constantly learning and making small changes to the product in response to customer feedback. LoveSnax is also being evaluated by experts in the field of psychology for validation and tested for its effectiveness in teaching emotional vocabulary and self-regulation strategies.
I wanted the product to be perfect, but my advisers kept telling me to sell something. So, I printed 15 packs of LoveSnax on my printer (prototype cards), sponsored a small, local children’s event where I knew I would meet potential customers. I sold out in less than 2 hours! That was when I knew I had something.
I thought about quitting many times, but then I would call one of my friends, and they would remind me of how far I have come, and the importance of my mission. When I shifted my thinking to see the business as a calling, I stopped worrying about the possibility and fear of failure.
My mother told me that I have a gift of perseverance, but in reality, I have adopted a practice of patience. The business will succeed when the product and timing is right, not necessarily on my timeline.
Every morning, I wake up thanking God for the opportunity to be an entrepreneur, and for the people in my life that helped me get where I am. I write for about 15 minutes and read my daily meditation.
Then, I list the goals I would like to accomplish that day. When I schedule time for all those activities, I accomplish much more. I try to balance my time between sales, product development, and all the administrative stuff that is required to run a business.
I also set aside time to brainstorm with other entrepreneurs. The mutual sharing of business challenges has been immensely valuable. Even though we are in different industries, we have similar problems that only entrepreneurs understand.
Statistics say that I need a co-founder to have a successful startup. I had an initial co-founder, but that relationship did not work out. I thought I needed to find another person to help me build my business.
In reality, I needed to figure out what the business should be before I could bring anyone else on board. The business is better because I could make independent decisions and never had to make compromises.
My biggest mistake was trying to build a tech company first. When I stopped searching for a technical co-founder, I figured out what I could do on my own and LoveSnax was born.
As an entrepreneur, I receive lots of advice, but I also read books on entrepreneurship, business, and leadership. The most influential book I’ve read was Good to Great. The author, Jim Collins outlines the characteristics of a great leader. I am not there yet, but I now have an image to aspire towards.
I cannot offer you any advice on work-life balance. My business feels like play, so I can work for 12-15 hours a day without really noticing the time go by. I try to take one day off per week, but that does not always happen.
LoveSnax really calls to me. Like a baby, it wakes me up at night crying for my attention or some inspiration that cannot wait until morning. This may sound terrible, but everyone has to be on my schedule at this point, even my kids. My days are very full.
I would say it depends on the type of business. If you are looking to open a franchise or model a business after something that is already in existence (dry cleaner, restaurant, etc.), SCORE is a good place to start.
They have mentors from many different industries. If however, the idea or concept is unique or new, I would pitch the idea at a competition like StartUp Weekend. If the idea is good enough, other people will be interested in helping you build it to test the concept.
Don’t fear someone trying to steal your idea. Chances are someone else is already working on it, but it takes entrepreneurial passion to create a business. Talk to potential customers and build something they want to buy.
If you want to get a closer look at Theresa’s daily hustle, follow her on Twitter or connect with her on Linkedin.