Doreen Marr is the owner and founder of Elie Promos, a custom products wholesale agency that aims to help customers find a suitable manufacturer.
Marr started his business two years ago. She had been a stay-at-home mom for 14 years, but when her youngest child went to kindergarten last year, she felt alone seeing how empty the house was. So she thought she had to do something.
Marr had no idea what to do for a business at first. She said most of her friends do business through Amazon and eBay, get products from China and sell them on those platforms. Marr said she felt like she was “not good at sales” because she also had no business experience at the time. She graduated from college majoring in English and French – not business.
“I had nothing to do with business,” she said. “And I’m not really good at sales. But I’m good at doing stuff. So I thought, maybe I could help people make their products.
Marr hoped to start his business using his manufacturing connections in his hometown of Yiwu, China, known as the country’s largest wholesale market. Marr said many of his family and friends were factory owners, which gave him more options in choosing the right factory for his customers.
She was soon referred to the Idaho Women’s Business Center (IWBC), a program of the Small Business Administration, by a friend of hers who worked at the center. The center serves women from all cultures and communities by helping them achieve their educational, professional and entrepreneurial goals.
When she was attending one of the center’s events, a worker told Marr that they offered a free six-week program for new entrepreneurs, including instruction in creating business plans, designing websites and business registration. Marr said the program helped her and other women who worried about complicated business start-up procedures take the first step into entrepreneurship.
“The center offers hands-on education – from naming your business, to registering the business, to the potential costs of your services,” she said. “Things get a lot easier when someone teaches you step by step.”
Marr said her favorite thing about IWBC is that all the professionals are volunteers.
“They give us recommendations for free,” she said. “Especially when you have no experience in website development, you have to spend thousands of money to hire someone to create a website for your business. But there are volunteers at the center who are ready to help us. learn how to create our own websites, which saved me a lot of money.
Throughout the six-week Creative Framework Business Intro Series, Marr wrote her business plan, officially registered her business, and created her business website, which led her to step following: promotion.
Promotions have always been a major obstacle for many start-ups to connect with potential customers. In Marr’s case, she said the program helped her make connections before she was done planning the business side.
Marr said that whenever she took a course with the IWBC, it always started with presentations about the members’ businesses. And that’s how she met a number of potential clients while preparing her business.
“I’ve met a number of women like me who are preparing to start their own business and are willing to share our experiences with each other when I was taking classes at IWBC,” she said. “That’s why, right after getting everything ready for my business, I already have clients who have come to me and asked for services.”
Looking back on her professional journey, Marr said her first commission with the Nez Perce Tribe was exceptionally memorable because she saw how “racial minority communities are ready to help each other.”
“I still remember when I was having a conversation with them when we first met, they said ‘you’re a racial minority in Idaho, and so are we,'” she said.
Marr is currently helping the tribe make products that they sell in museums.
“As an Asian and a member of racial minority communities, I just feel like we have to help each other,” she said. “That’s why whenever they have products they need, they come to me first.”
Marr also shared another story of how she spent 20 minutes solving a problem her client had been struggling with for weeks.
She said the client had their layout ready on a canvas paper. While most manufacturers today only accept digital layout with a PDF file, the client had asked a few designers to help her transfer her drawing into a digital painting. None of the drawings she received resembled her original drawing.
In most cases, Marr required his clients to send him a complete PDF design layout before he could order the products. She decided to help the client on her own using her Photoshop skills which she had learned through IWBC trainings.
“I just took a photo of his design and uploaded it to Photoshop, tweaked it slightly and fixed the details, which only took me 20 minutes,” he said. she stated. “I didn’t charge him any money because I think it’s my responsibility to help him as a manufacturing agent.”
Marr said the customer was grateful for the favor and immediately ordered her goods right after the issue was resolved. It wasn’t the only time she helped her clients in this one-on-one way. Many of her clients had been to several manufacturing agencies before coming to see her.
“I have met customers who were looking for manufacturers on Alibaba [an online wholesale supplier] by them selves. And often they don’t know what to do when they encounter quality and delivery issues,” she said. “When customers come to me, I communicate directly with them and use my exclusive relationships with manufacturers to help them find the right ones for them.”
She believed that her guarantee on product quality and on-time delivery were the reasons why she gained a number of loyal customers. But above all, his sincerity in helping his clients.
“I believe that if you devote yourself to helping your customers wholeheartedly, your customers will promote you to other friends, earning you more potential customers,” Marr said. “Honesty and sincerity are extremely important in American culture.”