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Entrepreneur Profile , Linda Byerline

Linda Byerline hates to admit that her business experience is self-taught. She was a stay-at-home mom with a nursing background when she posted an image of an extra cloth diaper she had made for her daughter on eBay.

Four years later, Byerline runs Happy Heiny’s, which provides cloth diapers online and in retail stores across the world.

“It completely caught us off guard,” she said of the immediate success of the company.

Byerline is planning to open her first “brick-and-mortar” store in El Cajon later this summer after moving the business out of her home this year. The shop will also offer parenting classes but she is determined to keep Happy Heiny’s from having “that company feeling.”


VITALS

Name: Linda Byerline.

Title: CEO.

Company: MLB Industries Inc. DBA Happy Heiny’s.

Company address: 1529 N. Cuyamaca St., El Cajon.

Company phone: (619) 268-6867.

Year founded: 2002.

Prior business experience: I worked as a nurse helping new quadriplegics come home from the hospital. Post-kids, I was a stay-at-home mom until the birth of my youngest daughter who was the inspiration for our business.

Average hours worked weekly: 70.

Source of startup capital: I sold the diapers on eBay. Our original Web site was free and so our costs were very minimal.

2006 revenue: $650,000.

2005 revenue: $330,000.

Number of employees: Four on-site; five sewing contractors.

Web site: www.happyheinys.com.


BACKGROUND

Birthplace: Oakland.

Education: Nursing degree, Pacific Coast College.

Age: 35.

Current residence: La Mesa.

Family: Husband, Mike; sons, Michael, 10, and Jacob, 8; and daughter, Sarah Grace, 6.

Hobbies: Little League games, camping, sewing, spending time with my children and husband.


JUDGMENT CALLS

Reason for getting into business: We then made the decision to make diapers for my youngest daughter so that we could have diapers that fit her properly. I made some extra diapers and on a whim, I decided to sell them on eBay. I was greatly surprised when some of these diapers sold for more than $200 each.

How I plan to grow the business: We have decided that we will allow for slow steady upward growth. Everything we do is on a cash basis, so we have very little debt. Most profit is returned right back into the business.

Biggest plus of business ownership: I get to run my business exactly how I want to. Since having kids, it was always my dream to be there with them and never miss anything they do.

Biggest drawback: The number of hours I put in each week. I may be home, but I spend too much time on the computer, replying to e-mails, and always trying to finish little projects up.

Biggest business strength: Always remembering where I started from and my goals. I stay focused and in the loop for changes in my industry.

Biggest business weakness: Lack of business education. Everything I have done is self-taught and I could do more, if I had a business education.

Biggest risk: Recently purchasing our own shop. There is now more riding on our success then just an income.

Smartest business decision: Moving our business from a work-at-home business into a true shop. This helped to triple the size of our business in a very short time.

Biggest business mistake: Being too friendly with competitors.

Toughest career decision: Moving out of our home and into a shop. This meant we were going from a “hobby” type of business to a business that must earn money to pay overhead and employees and run the business.

Biggest ongoing challenge: Maintaining our business in San Diego County. It is my goal never to take our production out of the county. I am very proud of the fact that we are made 100 percent in San Diego.

The most important part of my business: Is when I get to help out a sick child. I have seen the benefits of cloth diapers and to be able to share those with other parents in need means the world to me.

My business works best when: I get a good night’s sleep.

Best way to stay competitive: By not making any changes in our main products. Yes, we do offer new items, but our main products are the same way they were five-and-a-half years ago when we started out.

How I measure success: Success for me is not about how much money I have or how big my home is, but it is how happy our family is.

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