Hey everyone! I’m so excited to show you all my interview with Cat Pagoago, founder of the blog Thrifty Littles.
We first did our interview over a year ago, but as busy moms we had to cut it short. I asked Cat to come back for a second round, because I’m so inspired by her blog and how she has balanced consistently growing it and also mom-life of two littles (and soon to be three!).
Hi there! I’m Cat. Seattle mama of two girls and the face behind Thrifty Littles, a website where I share my favorite baby gear, toys, & small shops as well as post (almost) daily deals on baby & children’s products. I’m excited to share a bit about my business with you!
#pressplay below to watch our recorded Skype interview, and check out her answers in written format as well as pictures of her beautiful creations.
What did you do before Thrifty Littles? How did you decide to start your own business?
Before having my daughter, I worked in health research for six years. I’ve always loved research and assumed I’d work in healthcare for most of my life, so this has been a big change for me!
I started Thrifty Littles when my oldest daughter was about a year old. After deciding to stay home with her, I had to drastically cut back my spending budget and became a professional deal hunter. I’ve also always had a love for children’s clothing and design, so one night I just decided to start a blog where I combined the two. It was very spontaneous and something I just wanted to do for fun!
Can you give us a brief history of Thrifty Littles? How long have you been in business? What has your growth looked like? Can you tell us a story of some of the “unglamorous” moments just starting up?
I launched my blog in July 2013. When I started blogging I knew that others made an income from it, but that wasn’t my original intention – it was a creative outlet and something that was “mine” outside of my family. But as my following grew and I continued to devote more and more time to it each week, I started to research how I could turn it into a business.
In the beginning, I primarily grew my following through Instagram and then eventually expanded to Facebook. Now I’ve changed my primary focus to Pinterest, SEO, and my my newsletter. The majority of my growth has been organic through social media and has been pretty consistent over the past three years.
Oh I had lots of unglamorous moments at the beginning! Once I started to transition from seeing my website as more of a job and less of a hobby, I was pretty hard on myself to be consistently developing new content and felt under more and more pressure to find good deals. I didn’t have much of a system set up or dedicated work time so it got stressful really quickly for both me and my husband until I realized that part of running a business was investing in it. I ended up hiring part-time childcare and someone to deep clean my house once a month (life changing!), and I’m now in a much better place.
What’s your big picture WHY? What motivates you to work hard and build your business? What is your ultimate lifestyle goal?
My ultimate lifestyle goal is to be able to do something that I love, have a flexible schedule that allows for me to mostly stay at home with my kids, and be able to contribute financially to our family.
I’m motivated because I love what I do! And not just developing new content and discovering new products, but I love all the behind-the-scenes stuff as well like marketing and business development.
Where did you find your mentors, or resources to help learn about entrepreneurship and running a successful business?
I’ve learned almost everything I know online! I spend a lot of time reading blogs and attending webinars about running a successful blog and business. I’m also in multiple Facebook groups for creative and online entrepreneurs that have been so valuable – they keep you in the loop on things you need to know that you didn’t even know that you need to know, if that makes sense!
I’ve completed online workshops run by other bloggers and business professionals that have taught me everything from technical skills in Photoshop to growing your business through social media. I absolutely love how many resources are available online for business owners!
Can you tell a story of a specific failure you encountered while building Thrifty Littles? What did you learn from it? What would you consider are your strengths as a business owner?
I don’t have a specific failure, but I have learned so much over the past few years. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to stay focused on my end goal, which is my blog. That sounds so obvious, but it’s easy for me to get side tracked. I used to spend hours a week on small shop features on Instagram, and it stressed me out because I’m not a photographer (I still use my camera in auto!), my oldest daughter hates the camera, and it was time I could’ve been spending working directly on my blog. I still love featuring small shops (and occasionally still do features on Instagram), but I now use much more of my time writing posts about them on my blog, like my favorite shops for bows or pacifier clips.
Something else I’ve learned is that what works best for another business might not work best for me. It took me a long time to get on Facebook because a lot of business owners were saying Instagram was much more successful for them and Facebook was dying. While that’s true for many businesses, Facebook has been incredibly important to growing my blog and reaching a new audience. In hindsight, I should’ve focused more energy there from the get-go.
Do you currently have 1099s or employees? Or are you a one-woman show? If you have help, what advice do you have to give about scaling your business and outsourcing responsibilities through hiring to help grow? Do you have any advice on when to start scaling the business and hiring employees, bookkeeping… etc.
I was a one-woman show until a few months ago, but just recently took the leap to get some much-needed help! I pay someone to run my Pinterest account since that’s my current focus for growth. I also hired one of my good friends from college to do some design and marketing work for me. She has a lot of technical skills that I don’t as well as experience working in the children’s industry so I know she’s going to be a great asset over the next year. And luckily my dad is a CPA so he occasionally with finances.
Outsourcing responsibilities is incredibly important! I should’ve started doing it much earlier, but I was worried about the financial commitment and didn’t even really know where to start. My advice is to hire someone to do the work that you don’t enjoy or has skills that you lack. It will pay off for your business, plus it’s good for your sanity!
How many hours per week do you work? How do you balance family life with work?
I typically work 25-30 hours a week, depending on family obligations. We currently have a babysitter that comes to the house for twelve hours each week so I can have uninterrupted work time. I also typically work in the morning before the kids wake up and a little during the evening and weekends too.
I try to only work at home in my office while the girls are awake. It’s tempting to drag your laptop around the house to get things done throughout the day, but I’m much more productive and happier if I focus on one thing at a time, whether being my business or my kids. I also get out of the house with the girls as much as I can, because it’s much easier to not think about work when I’m away from the house.
I’m Like Brave is about creating an uncommon life. What does an “uncommon life” you love look like for you? How does your business help create this ideal lifestyle?
I love my job because it allows for me to stay at home with my two daughters while also contributing financially to our family, which is my goal. Some weeks I’m able to invest more time to my business and other weeks I have to devote more time to my family – having my own business allows me that flexibility.
What has been the most exciting thing to happen to your business so far?
I can’t think of one certain event, but I think seeing the consistent month by month growth has been incredibly rewarding and motivating. I have multiple areas I use to track growth (blog hits, social media growth, income) and it’s been fairly consistent over the past three years so I feel like I’m doing something right. 😉
What is your ultimate vision for your business in the coming year? Where do you see Thrifty Littles in 5 years?
My ultimate vision for the coming year is to continue growth, with a big focus on my newsletter. I’d also like to hire a part-time assistant for administrative tasks.
It’s hard for me to plan out five years out because the online world changes to quickly, but I’d like to have a business partner and/or blog contributors. I’d love for everything to run smoothly and to have a team to work with.
What’s holding you back from where you are now and your end game?
Fear. I have a tendency to overthink things and not give myself enough credit. Sometimes you just have to go for it. What’s the worse that could happen?
What is it that you need help with right now, and if you could get free advice that would solve your problem right now, what would it be?
I would love to sit down with a professional organizer and walk through my entire process with them. I complete so many tasks every week where I think, “There has to be an easier way to do this.” I know it would free up so much time!
If you could sit down with any entrepreneur for a 2 hour lunch and pick their brain, who would it be and why? What would you ask them?
Joy Cho from Oh Joy! I adore her style and am so inspired by her brand. She’s been involved in a variety of projects – I would definitely ask her which ones have been her favorite and most successful. I would also ask her what she wished she knew when she started her business and where she finds her inspiration.
What advice would you give your “just starting a business” self knowing everything you know now?
You’re going to go through times where you feel so inspired and motivated and other times where you hit a block. It’s frustrating but it’s normal and part of the process. Don’t feel bad about taking a few days off to reboot.
Also, trust your vision and while competition is a good thing (it is!), don’t focus too much of your time on what others are doing. You have your own path.
Jamie Tardy, podcaster at “The Eventual Millionaire” says millionaires share 2 habits: they all journal and they all have a morning ritual. What does your morning ritual ideally look like?
Waking up before my daughters to have some “me” time to get a few tasks taken care and write a quick to-do list for the day. That extra sleep is tempting (I am NOT a morning person), but I’m happier and more productive all day if I get a head start and have a game plan.
If you could do anything in the world, with no possibility of failure, what would it be?
I’ve always had a dream of opening a brick and mortar children’s boutique, but that comes with a lot of financial risk that has always made me uneasy.
What’s been the best business book you’ve read?
I hate to admit it but I haven’t read any business books! I have The E-Myth on my Kindle, but I haven’t even started it. I did read Blog, Inc. by Joy Cho when I first started trying to figure out how to monetize my blog – it’s a great resource for those starting a blog.
What’s your favorite success quote and why?
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford (Thank you to Hillary for introducing me to that one!)
Closing thoughts to other entrepreneurs or those on the verge of starting a business:
I’d tell them the same thing I would’ve told myself, which is that you’ll have good days and bad days, even good weeks and bad weeks. It’s just all part of the process. But if you’re tempted to open a business doing something you love, figure out how to make it work for you and do it!