What We Learned At The Mabel's Labels HQ

Three Business Lessons Revealed

What We Learned At The Mabel's Labels HQ

It’s no secret: We’ve had a girl-crush on the women of Mabel’s Labels since, well, pretty much since we first laid eyes on them almost ten years ago. Admiral Road has always had lots in common with Mabel’s Labels, so it was a natural attraction: We started our companies around the same time; both companies make personalized products here in Canada; and we all started businesses in our basements. It’s on this last point that our corporate lives diverged. Whereas we’ve always deliberately run Admiral Road as a cottage industry, the women at Mabels always dreamed big. They envisioned their factory from day one, and yesterday, we took a trip to Hamilton, Ontario to get the Grand Tour.
Here’s what we learned at Mabel’s Labels:
Get Organized. Everything at the Mabel’s Labels office is set up with a specific purpose. Certain staff members sit close to each other in order to facilitate dialogue and idea generation. Manufacturing is very organized to derive maximum efficiency. Even though we’re not all managing large staffs and factory floors, we can all benefit from efforts to get organized. Touring the offices at Mabel’s was a reminder to always be streamlining our processes and the way we work.
Get Inspired. Walking the halls of Mabel’s HQ we were literally surrounded by inspiration. Quotes adorn office walls and hallways. Artwork can be found painted onto walls. Posters that define what it’s like to work at Mabel’s Labels are everywhere. Just by stepping into the facility, one gets the sense about exactly what it must be like to work there. For those of us who work on our own, we often need to create our own inspiration. We’re reminded of solo-preneur we know who keeps at dream board above her desk to continually remind herself of why she’s doing what she does.
Celebrate Your Accomplishments. On the walls of one of the boardrooms at Mabel’s HQ, good news is everywhere. There are the newspaper articles and magazine covers, but there are also acknowledgments of smaller, more personal accomplishments, like pivotal early emails the women shared with each other. When you choose to work for yourself, no one is there to pat you on the back, or to congratulate you on a job well down. When something goes your way, share your news! We want to hear about it! It’s up to you to celebrate your accomplishments.
We have learned so much about small business over the past decade, and many of those lessons have come from the women of Mabel’s Labels. And even though we’ve chosen different paths to reach our own goals, one thing remains a constant: We still love ya, Mabel.



More Than a Pair of Thighs

How Rejection From The Ice Capades Made Me Unstoppable

More Than a Pair of Thighs

I once auditioned for the Ice Capades. I thought I could run away from a difficult period in my life to tour with the show across America. To be fair, I hadn’t skated seriously since high school. I thought my lack of training would be the biggest strike against me.

After the audition, the choreographer sat me down and said, “You’re a little heavier in the thighs than we like.” The words burned. I was fully prepared for a critique of my shaky skating skills, but not of my body. Not only were my skating dreams quashed, but I had to go back home to my bad boyfriend with my bad job and my fat thighs.

But I had a secret weapon. In the fog of my sadness, I started running on a beautiful trail near my home. I ran to escape my unhappiness. I ran to get stronger. I ran because I wanted to change my life.
Had that audition been at a different phase in my life, the words of that choreographer may have done more than just temporarily sting. His words may have stopped me from getting into the Ice Capades, but they wouldn’t change the way I felt about myself. Even then, I knew that I was so much more than a pair a thighs.
Soon after, I broke up with my boyfriend, got a new job, and ran my first marathon. Since that time I’ve gone on to run countless road races. I’ve also become a mom to three daughters.
It’s no surprise that my girls want to participate in the sports that I do. Like most moms, my kids look to me as a role model. The Dove Unstoppable Moms for Unstoppable Girls Contest is for moms just like me who have thought about quitting an activity they loved because of how they felt about their bodies. Until June 13, 2013, share your story of how you are an unstoppable role model for girls. Four women will win $2,500 each, and Dove will donate $2,500 to help raise a girl’s self-esteem. Let’s talk about how moms can improve how our daughters view their bodies.

I now know that it is because of my thighs that I am such a strong runner.  Now my three daughters watch me head out the door to run several days a week. They know that running makes me feel unstoppable. My eldest daughter has even been inspired to run, revelling in the strength and power of her own body.

I have also returned to skating. Snooty choreographers aside, I love the sport. My daughters take skating lessons, too. They know how gliding over the ice makes me feel about myself. When we go to the local rink to skate together, I hope it makes them feel unstoppable, too, regardless of the size of their thighs.
YMC is celebrating all of the Dove Unstoppable Moms for Unstoppable Girls contest winners!
Read more inspiring stories from the winners of the Dove Unstoppable Moms for Unstoppable Girls Contest and get great advice on how to raise your own Unstoppable Girl. Plus, download a special tool kit from Dove to teach the young girls in your life how to grow into strong, confident women.

The Price You'll Pay For Bargains

Oh, Joe. What to do?

The Price You'll Pay For Bargains

The latest tragedy in a grim news cycle stems from Bangladesh, where, as we all know by now, a textile factory collapsed killing nearly 400 workers inside. We’ve also learned that the factory manufactured clothing for Canadian company Loblaws’ Joe Fresh brand.

The incident has brought the topic of ‘extreme pricing’ to both boardrooms and water coolers. On one hand, you have mass retailers, who claim that customers demand cheap pricing. On the other hand you have consumers, some of whom are calling for a boycott of Joe Fresh goods until the company addresses its labour practices.

But it’s not as simple as pressuring Joe Fresh to change its ways. There is a third camp who point out that boycotting North American retailers will only hurt the workers in Bangladesh who are still better off earning a dollar a day than starving.

We have always manufactured our blankets in Canada. We’d be lying, however, if we didn’t admit that we’ve done the math on the costs to manufacture our products overseas. And we have dabbled in overseas production with another product line. At the time, we felt the need to come up with a competitively priced product for wholesale, and believed that we wouldn’t be able to compete unless we went overseas. It was a decision we did not take lightly. It also was something we backed out of not long after we started.

All manufacturers, even small businesses, are forced to make these considerations if they want to remain competitive. Overseas manufacturing is a reality of competing in a global marketplace, but that doesn’t mean it sits right with everyone.  Ultimately, the choices businesses make are still their own.  

In our experience, this is a really complicated issue. People claim they value locally-made products while wearing eight-dollar t-shirts on their backs. People say they value ethically made goods, but hey, this store at the mall is having a 40% off sale. People want their products made-in-Canada, but they aren’t always willing to pay the price.

Our friend, Toronto-based clothing designer Devorah Miller, was recently quoted in the Toronto Star. On her Red Thread Design blog she posted, “Those tragedies happen because demand for low prices pushes down wages and safety standards. That’s the price paid for our fantastic bargains.”

We are forced to ask ourselves what price we are willing to pay.

What do you do? Do you do the extra leg work to source local goods or do you go for the deal?

credit: AP