We’re excited to launch a new blog series, “In the Trenches with Entrepreneurs.” Our first blog of the series features Evelyn Cucchiara, The Toy Tamer and serial mompreneur, who chatted with our Senior Manager, Jessica Timmerman, about her journey to building a business that is both rewarding and profitable.
Entrepreneurs start businesses for a variety of reasons – a great idea, market demand, special skillset/talent – the reasons are endless. Growing numbers of women business owners are finding smart ways to balance motherhood and entrepreneurship. For some of these “mompreneurs” the motivation is to contribute to the family’s duel income. For others, it’s to stay active in their careers while spending time with their children. For many, it’s both. Evelyn Cucchiara, The Toy Tamer and serial entrepreneur, has done just that in her journey through business ownership. Read below to learn about her evolution as a business owner and the next steps of translating her weekly paycheck into continued company profitability.
JT: When did you make the switch from employee to entrepreneur?
E: I’ve always had to work. Things changed after we had our first son. Fortunately my in-laws were able to watch him for the first two years as my husband and I commuted into Manhattan, but after some time, it was no longer ideal. When we finally decided to put our son in daycare and found one we liked, the waiting list was over 9 months long – that didn’t work for us either. We had to come up with an answer and that answer was starting an in-home daycare.
I remember quitting my job and saying that the success of this daycare was not an option. It HAD to work. If you are going to start a business, you need to jump in with both feet and commit to making your business work.
JT: And you did just that – you made the business work?
E: The daycare was a huge commitment – 7 in the morning until 6 at night, five days a week. By the time we had two children and a third on the way, my husband and I knew I needed to curtail my hours. So that was that – I closed the daycare in June of that year, had my son in July, and then started a new business (Art Adventures) in September. Rather than a full day daycare, I now offered a once a week art class for children as young as 2 and up to age 7.
JT: So you kept with the same market and demographic. Did this help in spreading market awareness and capturing a captive client base quicker than someone starting out a business for the first time?
E: Yes. My “market” has always been families, and more specifically, women with young children. Moms would pick up their kids at my house and ask me how I kept things so neat and organized. I knew there was knowledge there to share. This then evolved into my next venture.
JT: So I’m seeing a trend here. You assess your market, their needs, and then provide a solution based on that knowledge.
E: Working with this demographic, I noticed a trend – mothers were always running around like crazy people trying to find a solution to this every day juggling act and ultimately needed more time in the day. So I worked with some clients to teach them how to be better time managers; however, I quickly realized that although they needed what I was offering, they weren’t open to accepting it. I took a step back and through this analysis bloomed the idea for The Toy Tamer. I already had a system – I had to be organized when running a daycare – how to store the toys and put them away, while learning – so now it was sharing it with others. I moved from trying to train people to organize things themselves (the DIY people) to working for the WTC (write the check) people.
JT: The value of a business has many moving parts contributing to its success. While you’ve been able to identify a need, establish a client base, and build systems and processes in order to streamline your business, the next step to consider is understanding what the value of this business you have built is. What are some of the preconceived notions you’ve had as a solopreneur about the valuation of your business?
E: I would be willing to bet that the majority of small business owners have absolutely no idea what their business is worth. Even speaking on my own behalf, I always thought my businesses would have no value to an outsider. Each business was just me, I’m the secret sauce, and there’s nothing past that to monetize. This all changed recently. My experience and methods are what can translate to value to a potential buyer. For example, I am in the process of creating lesson plans to market to other entrepreneurs looking to start up their own business. I’ve also written a book that has become an Amazon best seller. There are tangential services and products that support the services The Toy Tamer offers. I now have seen that there is more value to my business than just the paycheck it produces. Understanding more about how to build value in my business has been a real game changer.
JT: Too often we see business owners consider closing up shop without exploring the possibility of selling their business, ultimately losing out on a major liquidity event they have been working towards for many years.
E: I was almost to the point where I feel that if I wanted to exit my business, I would have closed down and not monetized on the business that I built. And I did do that with my art studio for two years when my husband and I went into the real estate business, not even realizing that the Company’s captive client base, brand, services, and repeat revenue streams would have made it an attractive opportunity to another small business owner.
It takes a while to build a network and market awareness. Especially in these types of businesses where they are generational and you touch a family, their relatives, and later the next generation with their children. This in and of itself has value.
JT: Where do you think knowing exactly what your company is worth pays off as a business owner even if they are in the very beginning stages of entrepreneurship?
E: Working with a valuation analyst and determining that your start up business has value would be a great confidence booster. It would make you feel legitimate and that your efforts are working towards something. Everyone feels like they’re faking it until they make it! Well, a valuation would prove that there’s nothing fake about your business.
JT: Nicely said! And we do find that many business owners do not consider going through the process of having a valuation performed because they themselves doubt the market value their businesses have created. But think of it in another way – do people not look at their bank balances in fear that there is nothing in the account – of course not (at least we hope). In the same way that a small business owner monitors, manages, and hopefully grows their savings or brokerage accounts, a business – which is primarily their largest asset, should be closely monitored and evaluated.
Thank you to Evelyn for sharing her story and participating in our In the Trenches with Entrepreneurs series. The entrepreneur community is an elite team of risk takers, hard workers, and driven individuals who do what many only dream of. But when it comes to profiting off of those efforts, business valuation cannot be left up to chance. There are many proactive steps that can be taken in order to achieve continued growth and profitability, but this goal is only accomplished through employing the appropriate advisory team and affording yourself with the knowledge of the value of your business beyond the weekly salary you draw.
About Evelyn Cucchiara
Evelyn Cucchiara has been an entrepreneur for over 22 years – balancing the demands of work and life and finding happiness along the way. She currently owns two businesses focused on children and the messes they create: Art Adventures Art Studio, offering art classes for children starting as young as age 2, and The Toy Tamer, creating neat, clean playrooms while teaching kids the organizing skills they‘ll need for future success. In addition, she helps everyone save their sanity by sending out short (3 sentence!) Sanity Saving Suggestions every Sunday night – get them here.
She can be reached at evelyn@TheToyTamer.com or visit her websites: