Sisters Supporting Sisters is dedicated to women of color living out their entrepreneurial dreams. Sisters Supporting Sisters was started due to a lack of outlets to feature the immense talent and creativity of women of color. It is important for women of color to be more supportive of one another in business and life in general. A strong network of relationships amongst minority women would definitely help make the climb to the top a little bit easier – especially if they just happen to be going after the same dreams. Honestly there is enough money for everyone to do their thing and still be supportive at the same time. This month’s installment of Sisters Supporting Sisters highlights Nia Tillett the founder of Cocoa Babies.

index_02.gifThe Sister to Support: Nia Tillett
Name of Business, Website, or Service: www.cocoababies.com and www.myspace.com/cocoababiesdotcom
Clutch: What is the story behind the adorable name “Cocoa Babies”?
When I originally had the idea for the line it was intended for infants and toddlers so I tried to think of a name that would relate the product line to children of color. I think I came up with a million names and used my friends to narrow down the list and we all loved Cocoa Babies. I think that the name is perfect for the items we offer.

Clutch: Who’s behind Cocoa Babies?
This is something that I came up with a few years ago.

Clutch: What made you decide to start Cocoa Babies?
I had the idea to start Cocoa Babies after seeing so many young children in tee’s that were either sexually explicit or totally inappropriate. I then started to look at the major retailers to see what they offered consumers and saw that there were few designs that had positive messages and none marketed specifically to children/teens of color. I started to develop designs that I felt were positive and age appropriate and it grew from there. The word of mouth started before we launched, I sent a few design mark ups out via email to a small group of close friends and before I knew it I had messages from complete strangers inquiring about orders and additional designs. I didn’t realize that it would get out as fast as it did but an email forward is clearly a powerful thing lol. After the feedback started coming in I knew that I needed to move forward with this.
Clutch: What type of products do you offer (i.e. bibs, onesies)?
I originally started with our children’s line focusing on onesies and children’s shirts but after receiving feedback from customers especially mothers who loved the products we started to offer adult sizes. Since that time we have added shirts for men and changed the women’s tees into fitted tees which was a great move for us. We are always looking to add new products and our notecards and tote bags have been very popular with our customers.

l_c673c0e1c20c7109ef5ea2d0ad55db43.jpgClutch: What has been your biggest challenge in starting Cocoa Babies?
The biggest challenge that I faced when starting Cocoa Babies was knowing that I had an idea but not necessarily the tools to turn the vision into reality. I knew that I needed to take my time and research business models and various marketing strategies but that’s hard when you’re excited about something new. That’s still a challenge, sometimes you get so wrapped up in a good idea that you want to rush it and that’s not necessarily the best thing to do. The good thing is that there are a ton of web sites and resources out there which offer great information. My friends and family were great with supporting my ideas and offering design ideas as well as assisting with product and price review.

Clutch: What’s your favorite product in your line?
That is such a hard question. The only thing I love more than the onesies are the pictures parents send of their children in them so that would have to be my choice. My favorite designs are the “Pretty Little Brown Girl”, the “Cornbread Fed” and of course the future college graduate items.

Clutch: What are your sizes and price points?
We carry items for newborns all the way up to adults. Our onesies sizes range from approximately 7-36 pounds so we cover the thick babies also. Our children’s shirts run from size 6-8 to 14-16 we also offer some of the children’s designs in adult sizes just in case an adult size is needed for that child. The women and men’s line range from size small to 2XL and we hope to increase the men’s size to 3XL soon.

We try to keep our prices fairly low, selling a $30 bib wouldn’t necessarily work for us. All individual items on the site sell for less than $20 which we think is good. We will be adding gift baskets which will allow customers to build their own gift packages so these prices will be a little higher. We think that those will be perfect as baby shower gifts.
Clutch: As an online business, do you find it easier or harder to create buzz and clientèle for your business?
I think the online store is great for creating buzz. I send an email out announcing new products and sales so people receive them instantly. I can also track site views so I compare page hits before and after a email goes out so I know people are sharing the site with friends. With any business word of mouth is key – it will make or break your business so I try to give customers new products and great sales on a regular basis so that when they visit the site its not always the same old Cocoa Babies site. I occasionally change the main image pictures to include customer photos so that’s another way to create buzz.

Its important that I constantly reevaluate how I market Cocoa Babies. We recently added a myspace page and we do special sales through that site so that also helps. We also set up a program that allows people to win free merchadise through myspace when they share our site with friends so it’s a win-win situation.

Clutch: What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business?
I would say do your research and realize that having a great product or service idea is fabulous but it means nothing without a solid business plan. You will need to do your research and surround yourself with people who are supportive but honest enough to challenge you in regards to certain things.

l_14530da404c221beb4205e31e9bf75a8.jpgClutch: What do you think the biggest mistake or misconception women make when starting a business?
I know a lot of people with great ideas who don’t necessarily want to invest the time needed to get something off the ground. Sometimes we make excuses and doubt our potential but I would rather make an honest attempt at something instead of eliminating it as an option before I even try.

Clutch: Do you have any advice to women contemplating or who has just started a business?
Just to make sure you realize that most businesses have peaks so if you have a slow period to stick with it and reevaluate if necessary. Also to stay on top of everything that relates to your business structure. There is so much to do behind the scenes that if your not careful and up to date on everything that you can fall behind and run into problems. I would also say that you need a solid support group around you, people who believe that you can be successful.

Clutch: Do you plan on expanding your line?
I am always looking at new products and designs, we will be adding a “future greek” section to the site as well as offering personalized onesies and bibs. We have decided not to offer the personalized shirts in the children’s t-shirt sizes for safety reasons but the personalized baby items I am hoping will be a big hit. Our gift baskets should also be ready within the next few weeks. We want to make sure that we have that up and running in time for the holiday season. We usually get great suggestions from customers and people who visit the site so we definitely encourage anyone with suggestions to submit them.

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