Friday, April 25, 2014

Starting your own company

I was a stay at home mom who had a drive for owning her own business. It was early one morning when I was taking my son to go buy shoes, when in my rear view mirror of my car... I spotted my little guy out of his car seat, standing on the floor board of our family SUV. It was when I had to flip on my turn signal, find a spot to pull over to the side of the road that I realized.. "I wonder if I am the only one who has this problem?"

I went home that day and took out a piece of paper and started to design something that would prohibit my little guy from escaping. 

After many attempts, days, weeks, the Baby Huggable Clips were born. At the time my husband helped design all the artwork required for a patent pending, and the information was mailed off. It took about 45 days to receive a post card in the mail informing me, my patent pending had been approved. I remember jumping up and down for joy and at the same time knowing the journey was just starting. 

I can remember thinking... this is the best little product and it helps to ensure babies are safe in their car seats, strollers, jogging strollers, basically anything with a 2 or 5 point harness. My product allowed those with feeding issues to remain upright. This is great, but how to I move from knowing my product is awesome, to actually selling my product? Sure, I could tell moms about my product, show moms how my product worked.. but how was I to reach moms online? 

I well remember the first stroller group online I joined and posted about my product. The return comments were not what I had expected at all. In fact, I was very surprised that my product was not a huge hit as babies fall out of strollers all the time from removing the shoulder harness straps and falling out. What was the "real" problem for these mothers? These moms did not like the fact, anything placed on a car seat will void the warranty. Yes, it is true, anything anyone places on a car seat will void the warranty. But I also knew it was true, no car seat company had ever been sued in the United States, or had I ever heard or read about anyone who broke the warranty and demanded their money back. Those toys that clip on to a car seat, or that bottle clip, blanket, or extra padding under the car seat, all those things break the warranty of a car seat. Once that warranty has been broken, one can not return the car seat according to some of the manufactures (the small fine print is inside most car seat manufacturer warranty books). 

Perhaps if I gave my product away... allowing a new mom to try my product, she might not feel the same way? This is what I did. I made several and mailed out each one with information on instructions to use, along with a feedback form to return in the mail to me. I waited, and waited, and continually waited. It was about a month later when I started to receive emails. No one had returned the form in the mail to me, the moms were emailing me about my new product instead. 

I remember flipping through the emails and reading the reviews from these moms. One mom emailed me. "I have 2 twins, when one gets out, the other is following." she kept going on and on in her email of how hard it was to drive anywhere, take a walk with her twins, until my product arrived to her.  Another mom emailed me to let me know, "my high chair security strap won't stay tight, your product has helped me keep my little one in safe". Reading through the reviews and then the moms slowly started to post onto the stroller group, started to change the perception of some of these new moms. Slowly over time, my grass roots product was spreading due to word of mouth only. I created and designed all of the website, logo's, and took all of the photos used on my first website. I remember the night my website went live and I went back into the stroller groups, breastfeeding groups, and other new mom groups to post my website was live.  I remember the next day finding out I had orders/sales it was April of 2007. 

It only takes one sale to start a new business, and now I had proven the odds of starting a grass roots business, marketing, designing and building a website, created the logo needed and was on my way... 

I never used any marketing through a company. I started a FB fan page and would do contest to give out a product for free. It was through FB in 2007, that I connected a newsletter to the FB fan page and where people would receive the newsletter that I would write once a week. It was from this newsletter my FB fan page grew. Soon I had customers from outside of the United States. Little by little more customers were coming to purchase the Baby Huggable Clips, and then came along another invented product; "the Houdini Band" to help toddlers and older children remain seated. Once the band was secure over the button, the product became Houdini proof. Parents of all ages were scooping up both products and at times ordering 2 of each. My converted garage became my business hub, where I would manufacture each product, test each product prior to it leaving, to ensure both of my products lived up to their names. My original patent pending allowed for different versions of my product to be manufactured. Having these versions allowed me the right to claim both products were patent pending. 

I could never stress this enough, do your research prior to becoming a business owner or inventing a product. One can find information online, through the BBB, or through the state on starting a new business. Find out the legal laws, tax laws, per your state and ask questions. Education is power!  

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