Marvelously Self-Employed

Steve and Dawn Woodburn are the Chief Adventurer (Steve) and Amusement Director (Dawn) for Marvelous Moosey Adventures LLC located in Lilburn, Georgia. They created Marvelous Moosey, a soft plush moose with blue hooves to be unique and marvelous and they wrote a children’s book to tell his backstory. This is Steve’s third career having worked on-air in radio for 20 years as a disc jockey, news anchor and traffic reporter. He spent the next 30 years in the branding and promotional products business and finally started Marvelous Moosey Adventures with his wife Dawn in 2018. Dawn has worked as an Executive Assistant for the last 35 years with the same company and continues to be employed full-time while Steve spends the majority of his time running MMA.

When and why did you join the NASE
When we started our company in 2018 we had only a vague idea in regard to all that being an entrepreneur involves. We joined NASE in 2019 to help us navigate through all the tasks involved in running a small business and have used the forums and other benefits to help us get up and running.

What inspired you to enter the field you are in?
Steve has always worked in creative endeavors and Dawn is also creative and very organized (Steve calls her the “Spreadsheet Queen”). Given the inspiration they had, it only made sense that the toy and book industry was where they would end up. Steve used his knowledge of getting products created and produced and Dawn used her organizational skills to move into the field they’re now ensconced in.

When and why did you start your business?
We started the business in October of 2018. Dawn says Steve blows his nose like a moose and he was also born on Dr. Seuss’s birthday (March 2). In 2017 she bought him a Seuss moose and book as a joke, thinking they would play with it for a few weeks and give it away. They both started posing him around the house so when the other one would come home, there he’d be. One time he was at the stove cooking, another time painting his hooves with nail polish or swinging from the ceiling fan. They’d post the pics on Facebook and people loved them. Who knows where inspiration comes from, but one day they decided to create their own plush moose and give him blue hooves to be different from all the other moose. We found someone to create a prototype, we wrote the book and developed the packaging and then found a company that could get it all manufactured for us, a one-stop shop.

How do you market your business?
We sell through our website and use social media and e-blasts to drive traffic there. In the fall of 2021, we discovered the festival circuit and found Moosey does very well at festivals. The reason is families attend and they can touch Moosey and hear our story and it drives sales. In 2022 we want to move into retail, slowly, and have a large chain of restaurants with a gift store as our first target. We’ve also applied to Shark Tank and will continue to look for other ways to get our products to the people we know will love him.

What challenges have you faced in your business?
The first challenge was finding someone to create a prototype plush, which Steve found online through research. Then we had to find a manufacturer and were fortunate to locate a company that could produce the plush, our book, along with an illustrator, and our packaging. A one-stop shop. The manufacturer though was very slow and we ended up not having the product in time for our launch so we had to tell customers it would be a month or two before we could ship. Then we were told our books (900 out of 1,100) had literally been lost at sea and so it took another few months to reprint and ship those to us. Finally, our manufacturer filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, however we were very fortunate to get all of our products literally just in time. They left many other customers without product they’d already paid for and a bunch of lawsuits. Steve has found an alternate source for products, a reputable company that manufacturers products for other well-known brands and we’ll be using them going forward. It’s a balancing act to find the right price point for products especially given rising costs and shipping delays, but we’ll navigate as needed to ensure we can continue to grow our business and make a profit.

Do you have any employees?
Currently Steve is the only full-time employee and there are no plans in the near future to add any. We will subcontract the services we need for now, but when the time comes we will add employees as needed to continue our growth. Employees add a layer of responsibility and cost that we’d like to avoid for now.

What’s your schedule like, what’s a typical day for you?
Being the sole employee, Steve spends his time changing hats depending on what’s needed on any particular day. It could be updating or adding to the website, posting on social media, shipping our orders, researching festivals and retail locations we can get Moosey into, watching training videos on different aspects of business, going over financials and ensuring expenses stay under control. He’s no different from any other entrepreneur who has to do it all, but it’s been a great opportunity to learn and stay up-to-date on what works and what doesn’t to help our business grow.

What’s the best thing about being self-employed?
That we can create our own schedules and work on our passion. And that our efforts and hard work benefits us directly and doesn’t go into the pockets of some corporation. And that our products are making a difference in the lives of those who purchase them. Seeing the looks of joy on children’s faces as they hug their Moosey or read our book makes all of the hard work and challenges we face everyday well worth it.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received from a client?
For us, the best compliments we receive are the pictures people send of their adventures with Moosey. We have pictures from all over the U.S. as well as the U.K., Canada and even Hong Kong. Seeing the smiles on children’s faces melts our hearts and is the reason we created Marvelous Moosey in the first place.

What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to someone starting their own business?
If you have an idea for a business or a passion you want to pursue, don’t delay. Use your spare time to lay the groundwork, develop the concept and put all the pieces together. How many times have you heard friends or family say they wish they’d committed to starting their own business, but just never got around to it. It won’t happen unless you make it happen and if it means working nights and weekends, then do it otherwise you might also hear yourself sharing your regrets with others down the road. “If only…”

Which NASE member benefit is most important to you?
There really isn’t just one, here are a few of my favorites: I listen to almost all of the weekly NASE Minutes. They’re a quick way to learn about topical issues and then I can dig deeper if needed. Ask the Experts: I’ve used this on several occasions to help answer questions I have. When we set up our website I had no idea how to handle local taxes and learned much by asking questions of these experts. And I browse through the NASE publications on a regular basis to see what’s trending and how it might affect our business.

Any other information you would like to share?
Don’t let fear stop you from pursuing your dreams. The fear of failure is as old as humanity, but those who overcome their fears will find the grass can be greener on the other side. I truly believe there is no success without failure, perhaps multiple failures. Use the lessons of failure to try different approaches to your business knowing you’ll find the right formula for success eventually.

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