Can you build a successful online family business? If you ask Mandy Bare of SantaClausWrites.com, the answer is “yes!”
Back in 2006, Mandy and her husband were struggling to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck with a new baby. They were both inexperienced in business and had no prior entrepreneurial experience. However, Mandy's sister suggested they start sending letters from Santa Claus, which they could charge for, and the couple jumped at the opportunity.
By the end of the first Christmas season, the couple had made $900. It had been a lot of work printing and signing all of the letters, and Mandy didn't think it was worth the effort. However, her husband's slow and steady personality kept them going, and they decided to learn from their mistakes and do better the next year.
The couple also had a goal to meet. Mandy had made a friend while serving a mission for her church in Brazil, and they wanted to bring her to the U.S. to learn English while attending college. To sponsor Mandy’s friend, they needed to have $10,000 in their bank account. Mandy was determined to help her friend and saw growing the Santa letter business as their only hope. Despite the initial challenges and low profits, they were able to achieve their goal.
Mandy's story highlights the importance of having a “why” or a strong motivation for starting a business. Without a clear goal or purpose, it can be easy to get discouraged and give up when faced with challenges. In Mandy's case, her desire to help her friend and provide for her family gave her the motivation to keep going and eventually turn their business into a smashing success.
Building an Online Business, the DIY Way
Mandy and her husband knew they had a lot to learn about running a business, but they were determined to make it work. They learned about cost of goods sold and other expenses, which they had not considered in their first year. They also learned to streamline their process, which allowed them to send out more letters in less time. Over time, they were able to increase their prices and generate more revenue.
Working together to “DIY” their business, Mandy and her husband learned to recognize and rely on each other’s strengths. For example, when they built the website for their online store, SantaClausWrites.com, they maximized Mandy’s crafty and creative side and her husband’s technical prowess. This balance and give-and-take relationship allowed them to make the most of what each of them brought to the table.
Unleashing the Power of Email Marketing and Free Products
SantaClausWrites.com continued to grow, but in 2014 the Bares saw a massive uptick in business. Before that time, they had no experience with email marketing and were not even collecting emails until a neighbor, who was an email marketer, shared some tips and tricks with them.
Mandy then saw an ad for a free nursing cover, which went viral because customers only had to pay for shipping and handling. This inspired her to offer a free postcard from Santa, which encouraged children to get on the nice list—and she charged only $1.99 for shipping and handling.
The postcard was a hit, and Mandy was able to collect over 100,000 emails by the end of October. They then emailed customers in November and December to offer upgrades to their products, such as a nice list certificate, a letter from Santa, and reindeer food. The business tripled that year, and email marketing was the magic behind it all. By collecting emails and offering customers free or low-cost products, they were able to build trust and establish a relationship with their customers. They were then able to offer upgrades and additional products, leading to a significant increase in sales.
Making Learning a Family Business
When the world shut down in 2020, more than a few businesses closed their doors. For online sellers, however, more opportunities opened. Mandy decided to start learning more about the possibilities of selling on Amazon.
Mandy started by watching videos and involved her children in the learning process by playing the videos on the family TV. As she put it, she “learned in front of them.”
Both decisions turned out to be winners. Mandy and her husband chose to launch an Easter package—and since no one wanted to go out and shop, they purchased an already-made package from the Bares. She said they made about $50,000 in just three weeks with that single offering.
What's even more impressive is that Mandy's daughter, who was 15 at the time, learned how to negotiate with manufacturers in China and created her own cancer care package, which she sells on Amazon and on her own website, VictoriaGraces.com. Her daughter's package has generated nearly $200,000 in revenue since it launched 2 years ago. Mandy's other daughter, who is 11, is also showing an interest in entrepreneurship and is designing her own leotard line.
By involving her kids in her online business, Mandy created a learning opportunity for them and instilled in them an entrepreneurial spirit that will benefit them throughout their lives. Making it more of a family business also alleviated “mom guilt”, because instead of telling her children to leave her alone while she worked, Mandy could share what she was doing and even asked for their opinions.
Still Growing Strong
Since starting their business, the Bares relocated to a new state, built a warehouse by hand, and began to hire people to help them serve their customers. Last year, they sent out over 39,000 letters and postcards! They’ve slowly increased their prices, and the inflation experienced by the entire country has resulted in necessary price increases as well. Mandy’s husband was able to leave his job early on, as the business was making enough to equal his salary. In addition to Christmas and Easter packages, they also sell a variety of postcards, including a Valentine’s Day offering.
Mandy says that owning her online business has resulted in her feeling more confident, and allowed her to give more freely to others. She and her husband have even been able to sponsor another student from Brazil.
She encourages those who want to start their own online business to just get started—and not to give up. As she said, “My husband told me, “We don’t give up, and it’s not a failure.’ And don’t give up on yourself ‘cuz you’ll thank yourself later and your kids will thank you.”
I learned so much from Mandy—she really inspired me. Especially when you consider this multi million-dollar business started with just a piece of paper and a home printer!
Top 10 Takeaways
- When you build a business with a spouse, know one another’s strengths, set expectations, and stay in your lanes.
- Ask what you can do, then look for God’s glitter to see the direction of where to go.
- Give something away to customers so allow others to see your product and buy from you.
- Encourage customers to buy more often.
- Increasing buying frequency and cart value is the best way to build wealth in your business.
- Use email to drive revenue—it’s your personal ATM
- Learn in front of your kids.
- Tell your kids what you’re doing, and get them involved.
- Increase your product value (aka price) over time.
- Business builds confidence.
Connect with Mandy Bare:
- On Facebook: 1CandyCaneLane
- On Instagram: @SantaClausWrites
- Shop: SantaClausWrites.com
- Take 40% off your order when you use AJP40 at checkout
- Also check out: VictoriaGraces.com
- Take 30% off your order when you use AJP30 at checkout
- Follow on Facebook: VictoriaGracesGifts
Connect with Alison: