Feature Post:Operation Create Your Own Path.

Happy Monday, everyone!

I’m excited to be able to participate in a blog hop this month hosted by the Military Spouse Business AssociationThe blog hop, called “Operation: Create Your Own Path” highlights 30 military spouse business owners who have created their own paths by starting a small business.
Today, I will be highlighting Suzanne Patterson of Paint and Powder Cosmetics and Creative Artistry & FX . Suzanne is a long-time military spouse whose husband served 28 years in the Army and is currently still serving on the civilian side of things. Suzanne has also raised two sons and one daughter who have served or are currently serving our nation. Thanks, Suzanne, for your love of country and your sacrifices!
Beautiful Suzanne! Pic via FB page.
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Let's get started:
How long have you been in the business?
If you count my years of sneaking makeup to high school and putting it on me and friends, probably about 40!  But it seems nearly that long that I have been doing it for a living. The line between my amateur and pro days has become somewhat blurred now! 
Tell us about your business at Paint and Powder?
Paint and Powder is an online retail cosmetics store, and we have a physical location in Chantilly, VA.  I stock and sell more than two dozen lines of skin care and makeup (including our signature line, Natural Born Cosmetics) for pro makeup artists who use them personally and professionally.  Because these are very high quality products, we also have a very large consumer customer base that also uses them, and it has grown to serving hundreds of customers monthly from all around the world.  Since I already had a national reputation in the film and TV industry, I was able to use my name as a launch point in growing the store’s customer base. We also supply products to many movie production sets and TV shows.  
We had this vision for the store and its purposeful mission, but no real start up money.  We took a giant leap of faith forward and believing God in prayer for everything we needed.  Not long after this our other company, MMICS, became a sub-provider on a government contract program, which provided more than enough seed money and with some left over to maintain stock.  We were amazed and blessed to say the least, so be careful what you ask for, and that you are ready to roll when it comes!  
Paint and Powder Cosmetics has been in operation for about 8 years now, and we have proudly become a major income stream for Baby Haven’s rescue operations and orphanage. After our operating and overhead expenses are covered each month, the proceeds go to Baby Haven. We also support a couple of other important charities, Every Child Fed.Org and a Wounded Warriors Project, which serves disabled military Veterans. 
Wow! What an impressive career you have had. I know future entrepreneurs could learn a lot from you. Any advice to military spouses looking to pursue their own business?
As for any advice I would have for those wanting to start a business I can share what I have personally experienced in starting up a retail venture:  First and foremost do your homework!  Get a true handle on your start-up costs. Know who your direct competitors will be, both regionally and nationally, especially if you are going to be an online business and carry inventory similar to them.  You have to create your own niche within your competition, and it needs to be something about your business that makes it different and unique from the bigger or more established competitors, or you will have a bigger challenge in growing up to them.  Offer free classes, training, or industry get-togethers so that you have a chance to connect with your customers personally, and they connect a face with your brand.   People are becoming more information junkies, so be a go-to source for that in relationship to your business.  Establish yourself as a product and training expert through publishing white papers or regular blogging.   Be prepared to launch a full out blitz with social networking on the main platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, and especially with YouTube tutorials.  People are becoming more video oriented for faster information delivery. You can’t avoid social networking if you are going to succeed, so learn it, live it, and love it!   You will constantly be monitoring pricing, especially if your competition deeply discounts or has loss-leaders on products you also carry.  Don’t get discouraged….. Believe in yourself and your business and keep your eyes forward through the bumps and grinds that you have the best product and services to offer for your customers.  Above all, provide stellar customer service before and after the sale,that is what people remember the most and come back for! 
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Thanks so much for sharing about your business and your passions, Suzanne. You truly are a veteran both in military and small business life. It's so neat to see your vision grow into a thriving business. Thanks for inspiring us!
Check out Suzanne's work at Paint and Powder (I personally have my eyes on the entire Natural Born line, wow!).

Also, be sure to check out the other small business owners at MSBA!
Have a great week everyone!
Lizanne

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