Geek admission: I HEART the library. I’m addicted to reading and buying books, but lately I’ve developed an acute affinity for test-driving them before buying. (This may or may not be related to the fact that I no longer have a steady corporate paycheck coming in to support my habit.)
Anyway, I was at the library a while back, tracking down a bunch of business books, and just as I was headed up to the check-out desk, my eye caught the title of one last tome:
I had two immediate, equal, and opposite reactions:
On the one hand, ooh! I’m a mom, and I want to be a millionaire!! And you’ll teach me how to do it? WHILE putting my family first?! COUNT ME IN!!
On the other hand, UGH. Personal pet peeve: I hate when people refer to themselves as mommies. And hello, cliché! The little housewife whipping up a kitchen craft that becomes the next big thing? Puh-leaze.
But I’ll admit it – my curiosity was piqued, and I wondered which reaction would win out in the end, so I snagged it and brought it home. And funny enough, after I got through the whole thing, my reaction was…basically the same: a little bit “yay” and a little bit “no way”. Here’s why…
The Book In a Nutshell
Written by Kim Lavine, the founder and president of a company called Green Daisy, Inc., the book tells her story of how she developed, prototyped, marketed, and promoted her product called the Wuvit, a spa therapy pillow filled with corn that can be warmed or cooled to provide therapeutic relief.
Woven into the narrative of her own journey, she provides relevant business tips, resources, steps and guides pertaining to that particular part of her story, like creating a business plan, outsourcing to China, and hiring contractors and employees.
I found her personal story interesting, human, and relatable, and I thought her tips and guidelines were straightforward and helpful.
Overall, I definitely do recommend this book, particularly if your business involves physical goods – her experiences with homemade prototypes, finding fabric manufacturers, and dealing with everything from warehousing and shipping, outsourcing to China, working trade shows, to inventory control are uber-useful for someone looking to market their own creation.
If your business is service-based, I still think it’s a good read, but you can totally fast-track it and skip or skim the sections that don’t relate to you.
The Big BUT
All that being said…there are a few aspects of this book that TOTALLY got my hackles up – so here’s my own personal PSA where I warn you about ‘em.
- Where the heck is the family in this mommy’s memoir?
The title, sub-title, and tagline all make it seem like this book will be a story of both entrepreneur and mother, so I was expecting a lot more of her story to involve her family. Instead, they were mostly relegated to occasional, offhand comments, which just made me think, “Oh yeah, she’s got kids and a husband. Wonder what they’ve been up to for the last 50 pages?”The tagline in particular – “The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Business While Keeping Your Family Your #1 Job” – is majorly misleading. I’m sure the author DOES consider her family her #1 priority, but the fact didn’t quite come across in her stories about traveling for an entire month opening mall kiosks or missing her kids’ birthday parties in lieu of attending trade shows and visiting fabric manufacturers. Plus, she included several casual comments about plopping the kids in front of the TV or parking them with video games while she held important meetings, or just letting them scream and yell outside her office door while she worked.Sorry, lady, but that is clearly NOT the definition of “keeping your family your #1 job.”
- Mommy Dearest?
Speaking of the kids, she relates a couple of stories where she prioritized a business need over her kids’ safety, resulting in two dangerous, scary incidents. I’ll give her props – she’s a brave mama to tell these stories publicly, and I know her point was that they shocked her into realizing what the real priorities were, but I was a TAD (read: TOTALLY) put off by them because, really?? You need to risk your child drowning or getting kidnapped before you remember that your kids come before business calls?
- Fun with Stereotypes
This is a story about a woman taking the bull by the horns, making her own products, building her own company, and selling to major national retailers, all on a shoestring and a prayer, so you’d think it would be a feminist’s dream, right? Strong, independent, resourceful woman beats men at the game of business.But she manages to take the feminist movement back half a century by mentioning her “secret weapon”: killer cleavage in a business suit. And no, I’m not kidding:“It didn’t hurt, either, that I had a very attractive and feminine business suit on, which displayed my secret weapon” – told ya! – “in this room of buttoned-up collars and drab suits: cleavage. He, like any man, was powerless to keep from staring as he fished his business card out of his wallet, handing it to me and inviting me to call him.”And from another meeting:
“This same man would later check out my cleavage and smile at me with a big friendly ‘hello’ at the break, more proof that breasts can tame the savage beast.”
It’s not just women that catch the brunt of gender stereotypes here – did you also catch the part about the hypnotic power boobs hold over men? “He, like any man, was powerless to keep from staring…”. Ugh.
Not to mention that whenever she does bring up family-related tasks, they always seem to consist of silly, stereotypical things like finding her husband’s keys (you know those darn men just can’t find anything!!) and wiping the snotty noses of screaming children (goodness, is there any other kind?).
The Bottom Line
So just where does that leave this review?
Well, first, I have to hand it to myself for my initial reaction to the title, since it turned out to be dead-on – yes, the book was a little “ugh”, but it also had super helpful tips and information about succeeding in launching a physical product.
So the bottom line is this: if you’re looking for business advice, DON’T let the “cons” of this book deter you from reading it. Even if Ms. Lavine’s worldview is a little outdated and her mothering leaves something to be desired, she still shares a LOT about getting a product off the ground, with lots of lessons learned (most of them the hard way) and invaluable resources that can help you in your business, whether it’s service- or goods-based.
That being said – if you’re looking for book on how to be a standout parent while starting your own business…keep looking.
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