Every child dreams of what they want to be when they grow up. But Stephanie Walters Jackson didn’t just dream. At age 13, she looked at her chores as job assignments. She says the experience taught her her first lesson in sustaining business.
Since then, she has launched various ventures, including her two current retail stores, Mici’s Boutique and a wholesale business, MB Distributors. Mici’s Boutique, which she opened in 2004, specializes in bed, bath and fashion accessories while MB Distributors is a wholesaler that supplies merchandise to retailers nationwide. MB Distributors was launched in 2010.
Her next venture was Blue Top Marketing, a boutique digital, social and mobile marketing firm for small businesses. Started in 2011, it focuses on assisting small businesses with their online local marketing presence, email marketing and the mobile web.
“Blue Top Marketing was the result of all my marketing experiences for two other family businesses, online retail and online wholesale products. Those businesses have been around for 10 years and 6 years, respectively. Additionally, my parents kept handing out my cell phone number to people who had questions, so I figured it was a good time to formalize the business,” explains Walters Jackson.
In fact, it was her other businesses that led to Blue Top. “It was fun promoting our products for the retail and wholesale businesses. From the birthday postcards, to the Thank You notes, then including all the online options. The fun-ness (if that’s a word) was a key factor,” explains Walters Jackson, who draws on her varied background. “My education, training and experience were all in Healthcare Administration. From medical biller to director of billing for both physician groups and hospital systems,” she explains. “So what’s unique about me is that I mix my operations, work flow and receivables knowledge with the marketing to have a more complete program and strategy.”
To reach potential clients, Walters Jackson uses a multi-touch strategy, but mostly LinkedIn, referrals and networking groups. One thing she warns her clients not to do in their mobile marketing is overselling. “Some companies are always selling something or promoting something. People don’t want to be sold to all the time,” she says. “Use valuable content to draw them in, and you’ll see a better conversion.”
One of her own challenges was adjusting her retail experience to a more corporate approach for Blue Top. “Because I came from a corporate environment, I didn’t have to deal with many of the behind-the-scenes departments,” says Walters Jackson. “So I really had to get a grip with the fact that I will have to learn an accounting system, for example, and keep it up-to-date. To make sure I stayed on track, I booked my tasks as appointments on my calendar, because we all know how much we get done when we don’t plan….nothing!”
Now she is looking to grow Blue Top. She says she has two main goals for 2014: “One, we’ve helped people with their marketing, but their online reputations either don’t exist or aren’t that great. And it’s that online reputation that determines if a customer will call you or come into your store. So we’ve started a new campaign to assist businesses with their online reputation,” she reveals. “Two, more educational events and workshops. From the How-To, Bootcamps, Seminars and more.”
Walters Jackson would like to pass on her own biggest business lesson. “Systemize as much as you can so that it’s easier to delegate it. Then automate so that you’re not soaking up your time waiting for 9:00am, for example, to post on Facebook or send an email,” she advises. “Most are looking for how-to training so that they can execute with the staff they already have in-house. Additionally, they’re looking for marketing strategy and business development assistance.”