photos by Heather Simmons
A label for every need
If you’ve ever sent your child to daycare or camp, you know the value of a good label. They have to be plastered on everything, from your daughter’s baby bottles to your son’s backpack. What’s more, a label’s got to stay put, it can’t fade away — and would it be asking too much that it also be cute?
Many moms wouldn’t think twice about the quality of a label, but not Heather Clements. In 2005, Clements’ husband Patrick, a Marine reservist, was deployed to Iraq and she knew sending her new son to daycare would require finding decent labels. But when she looked around on the web, she didn’t find anything that suited her needs. So she decided to make her own.
Soon, other moms were asking her where she found her labels, and Clements thought she might be on to something. With further research, she realized quality labels weren’t that plentiful, and thus, Applied Labels was born.
“My first child was the inspiration for my business,” says Clements. “But my second one was the nudge I needed to go for it.”
It was a perfect fit for this 39-year-old entrepreneur and mother of two. Clements worked for several large corporations and in her last job with Boeing, did labeling for aircrafts before striking out on her own.
Her business started out small, like in-a-closet-of-her-home small. But that didn’t stop her from thinking big. When she finally had label prototypes developed, she manned a vendor booth at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) trade show in Atlanta. Though she didn’t have a range of products at the time, it didn’t matter. “At trade shows," says Clements, "customers would tell me what my next product needed to be. You just have to cue in to what the customer is telling you they need and go find a solution.” That event also introduced her to several national childcare providers, including Bright Horizons and Primrose Schools, as well as corporate daycare centers run by Chick-Fil-A and Home Depot. All are now her clients.
Clements business soon outgrew her closet. So she moved to an office in Collierville Square where she employs a part-time staff of three. And her business has grown to include cloth labels, waterproof labels, iron-on labels, even labels that fit snugly into a child’s shoe. Clements recently hired a new employee to do sales and marketing, since she wants to focus her energies on launching new products. “My goal is to bring in people to do these other functions so I can run the company,” she says.
As a working mom, her business — all done through e-commerce — also affords her the flexibility to work during school hours. When her children Jacqueline and Jonathan are out, they sometimes help at the office, building boxes, or putting supplies away.
She also strives to make sure her products are durable. In fact, Clements tests her labels rigorously before sending them out the door. She describes one sippy cup that she’s used to test labels by running them through harsh conditions in her dishwasher. “And after two years of testing,” she says proudly, “the sippy cup is starting to degrade, but my labels still looks pristine.” Problem solved.
• Need labels for camp? It’s not too late. Check out Appliedlabels.com