When Sandy Pearson was searching for a name for her handmade-headbands company in 2010, she turned to the blogosphere for ideas. The result? B.I.C. Bands, short for Because I Can Bands. “The woman who came up with the name raises money for lots of different charities and told me that she runs because she can for those who can’t,” explains Pearson, who donates a portion of the proceeds from each sale to charity.
Pearson, a half-marathon runner and a mother of two in Inland Empire, Calif., started the business by making non-slip, no-headache, washable headbands for herself to wear while exercising. She now has a team of helpers (her mom and friends) who sew and ship B.I.C. Bands worldwide. “We’ve taken over the kids’ playroom,” she says. “It’s filled with products and shipping materials.”
ISBB: Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
Pearson: Not at all. I went to school to be a teacher (early childhood education) but became a stay-at-home mom, then this happened. It started when I was looking for a way to raise funds to run my first half marathon with Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I made headbands that didn’t slip, and friends said they’d buy them, so I started sewing and my little venture began. Because B.I.C. Bands were such a hit after my race, I decided to continue making and selling the bands and to give back to those in need.
Giving back is at the heart of your business. How do you choose your charities?
We look for ways to donate that are in line with what we represent. Some suggestions come from our customers. I ran my first marathon two and a half years ago for a dear friend who had lymphoma. In June, we were able to give $2,150 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. We post our charity of the month on Facebook. Until the end of October, we will be raising money for disabled athletes through Athletes Serving Athletes. We say that we raise funds because we can for those who can’t so that one day they will.
You bring a lot of energy to your social postings. What channel works best for you?
I’ve had really good luck engaging with people on Facebook. I have a Pinterest board, and I used to blog but don’t have time anymore. I’m my target audience, and I know what catches my attention. (I love to buy cute things.) I’ve asked people to sign up for our email list on Facebook; we’re using Constant Contact for email campaigns. I also ask for input and get it. For example, people said they wanted a wider Big Bling Sparkle headband, so we made it. When you ask, it’s really important to follow through.
What marketing efforts have been most successful?
Our biggest sales come from our website. People will order a basic black to try it, then they’ll come back and order six more in other colors. We haven’t done any advertising. We’ll send a sample to bloggers and ask them to review it or to do a give-away. Even if we get one sale, that person might pass it on to a girl at the gym or their running partner, so it has become a word-of-mouth business. Our audience is the athletic industry, and we stay fairly targeted. We don’t sell, for example, at farmers’ markets. We’ll do a bigger trade show later this year.
How has GoPayment helped your business?
It’s been a great way to get into the mobile market. It helped us compete with the big dogs when we were new. I’m not required to set up a merchant account, and I like having the one-to-one [interaction] with customers. GoPayment brings your business to a different level if you’re a newbie. I have a girlfriend with a cupcake business and one who makes hair bows, and I’m constantly telling everyone this is the way to go.
Running didn’t just help your business: It was the catalyst. What tips do you have for newbie runners?
I always wanted to run, but I didn’t run in a marathon until 2009. I’ve just finished my 14th half marathon. Here are five tips that I wish someone had told me when I started:
1. Start with a plan. I would get out there, run for five minutes and think, “What on earth am I doing?” and give up. Then I was introduced to the Couch-to-5K plan, which got me from the couch to a 5K in six weeks.
2. Get fitted for proper running shoes from a running store. Grabbing the cutest or best priced running shoes will set you up for disaster. No two feet are alike, and you need to have a shoe that is made for you. What is good for your best friend isn’t always the best for you.
3. Ask a friend to join you. Getting out there with someone else makes it more fun.
4. Sign up for an event. Check out Active.com for a list of local races that are coming up in your area. You’re much more likely to stick to a plan if you have an event to train for.
5. Hydrate and fuel properly. Your body is working hard, so make sure you are giving it good nutrients before and after your workout (and during, if you start doing runs that are longer than 45 minutes). I like oatmeal in the morning before a long run, water during, and a fruit smoothie with a scoop of protein powder after.