Dina Amico-Kriescher knows firsthand how difficult it can be to have a career while raising a family. That’s why in 2003, the Chicago mother of three decided to take a risk and start her own business. By becoming her own boss, she was able to achieve her professional goal of entrepreneurship without sacrificing time with her family, a balance that nearly all working moms strive to have.
Unfortunately, starting a business isn’t an option for everyone. Amico-Kriescher recognized this, and in 2004 she turned her company, Noah’s Ark Animal Workshop, into a national direct-sales to give mothers across the country the chance to have their own business with all the materials and support they need from a parent company. She launched a second direct-sales company, Bellabeads 925, in 2009 to offer this opportunity to even more women.
Though Amico-Kriescher’s companies offer very different products — Noah’s Ark Animal Workshop organizes children’s parties where guests choose, stuff and dress their own stuffed animals; Bellabeads 925 allows customers to host their own jewelry parties where guests design custom charm bracelets and necklaces — they were both founded on the same principle: family balance.
“Family balance was the inspiration behind the companies’ direct-sales business model,” Amico-Kriescher said. “I wanted to give women the ability to run their own business from home with flexibility and a family-friendly concept that kids can be a part of.”
Trial and error
Like many small businesses, Amico-Kriescher faced some initial setbacks when she started Noah’s Ark Animal Workshop. As a newcomer to the industry, she had a lot of important lessons to learn about things like overseas production and shipment times. The height of Christmas shipping from overseas is in September; Amico-Kriescher did not know at first that it takes up to four weeks longer than normal for shipments during that time, and, consequently, missed receiving her fall seasonal goods. Even a simple labeling mistake almost proved disastrous for her business.
“I learned that my import documentation must always read ‘PLUSH Animal Skins,’ with the key word being ‘plush.’ Early on, documentation for one of my incoming shipments carrying a large amount of inventory only read ‘Animal Skins.’ Customs flagged and detained my entire shipment for several weeks, thinking I was importing actual animal hide,” Amico-Kriescher said.
Luckily, she learned from those early mistakes and converted Noah’s Ark Animal Workshop from a successful personal business to an even more successful national opportunity for other mothers like her.
“I joined the birthday party entertainment industry [by] conducting party workshops throughout the suburbs of Chicago and beyond,” Amico-Kriescher said. “Always big on entrepreneurial ideas, I saw how inaugurating the traveling workshop to make your own stuffed animal could provide others with an income opportunity like it had me.”
When a new independent representative joins the more than 6,000 consultants (party leaders) for Noah’s Animal Ark Workshop and the more than 200 consultants for Bellabeads 925, she receives product samples, catalogues, invoices, company literature and everything else she needs to get her business going for as little as $149. Both companies use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to share their opportunities and recruit new representatives.
The flexibility of a career with one of Amico-Kriescher’s companies is what makes it so appealing for people with busy family lives.
“As an independent representative, you set your own schedule, work your own hours and create the income you want,” Amico-Kriescher told BusinessNewsDailly.
Amico-Kriescher’s believes the recession has contributed to her success. As job stability has lessened, women are looking for more opportunities to work for themselves. With the direct sales industry bringing in about $28 billion annually in the U.S., it’s easy to see why so many make this career move.
“Direct sales is a proven moneymaker when times are tough,” Amico-Kriescher said. “The numbers tell the story: in the 2001 recession, the number [of direct sellers] rose to more than 12 million. In 2005, there were 15 million direct sellers, and didn’t rise again until 2009, with 1 million more joining this volunteer army of sales agents, bringing the total to 16 million direct sellers.”
As president and CEO of both of her companies and a mother, Amico-Kriescher has a lot of responsibilities to juggle. But in keeping with the philosophy upon which she founded Noah’s Ark Animal Workshop and Bellabeads 925, she manages to find a harmonious equilibrium between her home and professional life.
“Balance takes effort and respect,” Amico-Kriescher said. “In all aspects of life, I work hard, work balanced, and work focused, knowing that I will get out what I put in.”
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