*Business of the month interview*
101 North Main Ave - Ladd, IL
Business Name: RockerByeBaby
Month & Year: July 2022
Owner: Amber Schwingle Zrust
We were fortunate enough to drop in at her new store on Main Ave. Quite interesting and something for everyone. You owe it to yourself to stop by and browse a bit. Some great gift items and more on the way I understand. It is great to see someone take an empty building on our town's main street and turn it into an attractive commercial establishment to draw in customers from around the local area. We wish her the best of luck in her endeavor, and we hope you enjoy reading a bit about our villages newest business.
Business Name Description: Which one?! We’re a bit of everything… Technically our entity/umbrella company is RockerByeBaby. That is our handmade baby brand specializing in baby blankets, hats and more and the name we do all of our business under. RockerByeDestash Fabric & Patterns is our custom fabric & digital sewing pattern brand. RockerByeBirths is my doula service & birth photography business. RockerByeRentals is for our rental property in LaMoille, The Cookie Cottage. And the new store? That is RockerByeBoutique. When you come in you’ll find a little bit of all of my businesses and much more rolled in to a one stop shop. Basically, if you see RockerBye – that’s us.
What are some of the aspects and services/products your business provides?
In the store you find everything from custom, high quality sewing fabric to baby blankets, teething toys, crafts, gifts, books, handmade soaps & lotions, gourmet candy, hand printed cards and so much more. We’re adding new things every day! We also keep nice bags & tissue paper on hand so come in, grab a gift & a card and we will send you out the door ready for your event.
Why are you in this type of business?
It’s kind of a long story, I’ll try to make it shorter! I was a young mom looking for a way to work without having to put my kids in daycare. Childcare was so expensive for two kids so close in age that it wasn’t realistic. I started sewing right as Etsy was gaining popularity. I learned quick and perfected my craft and the business took off. Over the years we had started designing our own exclusive fabric to really be able to stand out from other shops. That unique design was drawing attention of other sewists and they were wanting to just buy the fabric and not the finished item. I saw the demand and started offering it for sale. It became so busy we had to make sewing the backseat part of business and focus on fabric exclusively. Last year I started designing digital sewing patterns to go along with the fabric and it’s been great. As for photography and birth services, I am just passionate about both and helping families advocate for the birth they hope for. It started as a hobby and grew from there. I’ve attended over 60 births in the last 8 years and its always an honor to be a part of that special space.
What is your business background?
Natural born hustle? I don’t really have one. I have my associates degree and am in school now for my Bachelors in Elementary Education, but I don’t have any official business training. I have taken little classes here and there over the years to brush up on social media tools but for the most part I am entirely self-taught and learn as I go.
What is your main role in the everyday operations of the business?
All of them. Like, all the roles, all the time, always. If you pop in and see me and I’ll likely be shipping orders, posting a TikTok, taking product photos & replying to an email all while straightening shelves and updating inventory. My main role is just… do all the things all the time.
What is your management style?
I don’t really have one. Causal, flexible, no stress for anyone helping. But they know if I get quiet it’s because my brain can’t handle one more thing and its slowly turning to Jell-o. That’s usually when someone takes over the music and we zone out in work for a bit. Otherwise, it’s usually very chatty, great conversations and good company in the office.
Can you share a description of your typical business day?
Wake up around 7 (school) 8:30 (summer), read and reply to emails in bed, feed the humans, drink the coffee… probably make a TikTok showing off our coffee mugs. Prep whatever I need to bring to the store then head over around 10. Grab packages and run to the post office for the drop. Then, I like to get open, straighten up, set out new product, etc before people start coming in. In down time between customers, I’ll be listening to an audio book while packing and shipping orders from the online side of our business. Throughout the day I take photos, post on social media, run ads, send emails, interact in our community Facebook groups, help customers and ring people out. Once a month I spend about a week designing the next fabric preorder, sending fabric to our sewing team and setting up website listings for online shopping. When I’m not working on the next preorder, I am working on the upcoming sewing pattern. If by some miracle I get all that done before close, I work on my homework. But let’s be real, that’s rare! I lock up at 7 and go home or to sports to be mom for a few hours then usually finish up more computer work or homework until 1 or 2 am. And no, I don’t sleep enough.
How long have you been in business? In this business? In other businesses?
I started my first business – RockerByeBaby in August of 2007, I became a certified birth doula in 2015 and the fabric brand started about 5 years ago, and the store front here in Ladd just opened in June.
How did you get started in this business and the origin of the name?
I mostly answered the “how” part above so I won’t put you through that long story again but as for the name, my husband actually gets credit for RockerByeBaby. As we expanded our ventures we stuck with new adaptations of RockerBye.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
Papa Bob Brown used to always say it’s not only what you know, it’s who you know. I feel like that is so valid and has stuck with me. While I was growing and perfecting my trade, friends and family trusted me with their projects and supported me. I always had people rooting for my ideas. As we grew, we had really cool celebrity opportunities with people like Tori Spelling & The Gunkles, lots of musicians, a Pregnancy magazine feature for designing Angie Everhart’s crib bedding and more. These opportunities really helped us grow to levels I would have never expected otherwise.
How do you market your business?
Primarily on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, emails & text marketing.
How did you happen to choose this location for your business?
I am a member of the Ladd Economic Development Committee. Rhonda was telling us about this great deal on a gorgeous space. Nudging me to take it myself to which I said – no way I’m way too busy, lol. I was pitching it all over local groups and my personal page and all the comments were friends and family telling me to take it. I spent the day talking with my husband about it and we decided it would be nice to have more space in the home office and if I scheduled everything just right it shouldn’t disrupt my daily workload too much, so we decided to go for it. I’m so glad we did because meeting Johnny, the owner and his family has been amazing and opened even more opportunities for us. They’re incredible humans and I am grateful to have met them.
Has Ladd been a good town for your business? Would you locate here again if you had to do it over?
So far, so good! I have big hopes and dreams for this little town. We work hard in the Committee bringing ideas to the table to help businesses find us and thrive here. We hope to see more moving in as time goes on. As locals, we appreciate you taking the time to visit our businesses. It’s people like you that keep our doors open. Moving back to the area from Minnesota has been great for business opportunities and I would definitely do it again.
Is there a plan for expansion in the foreseeable future or have you recently expanded?
Yes! What started as just the store front rental has turned into us buying the building. In September we will be opening our 2ndAirbnb property (one in LaMoille) and this one will be in the back or our Ladd store. We plan to work with other Ladd businesses for coupons and a guidebook to help renters enjoy everything Ladd has to offer.
Can you describe your customers?
Everyone! We are trying to make sure we have something for everyone in the store and if we don’t, make a suggestion! We’re open to ideas!
How did you decide on services/merchandise?
My husband jokes that the products in the store are basically just a glimpse into my brain. It’s a little bit of all the things that I love. So, you could say I bought gift items based on things I would want or already have and love for myself.
Do you have specials?
We will have occasional sales as time goes on.
What are the biggest issues for running this business?
Getting local people to realize we exist as a brick-and-mortar store. For 12+ years we have been entirely online with a worldwide customer base. Local is a whole new type of marketing and advertising. It can be really hard to get your name out there and then even more so to get those people to your store.
What do you like best about being in this community?
I love the community support! I have already made so many great friends here in Ladd. We’ve always felt welcome and are glad to be a part of the community. I hope we can help contribute to Ladd in great ways.