In this first of a three-part series, Ask the Mompreneur takes the opportunity to interview 2012 winners of the Huggies MomInspired grant program.
One of the 2012 awardees is North Carolina inventor and business owner Lily Winnail. She is the woman behind those cute and colorful car seat handle cushions you’ve probably seen around town, eponymously named the Padalily.
How did you hear about the Huggies MomInspired grant program?
I first saw it posted on one of my Facebook groups for mompreneurs, then a friend sent me an email with the Huggies MomInspired information, and said "you NEED to apply for this grant! Padalily would be perfect!" I was so impressed with what Huggies was offering, and thought I'd give it my best shot.
How did you come up with the idea for your product?
The most innovative solutions for parenthood are usually thought of by mothers who are trying to make life more efficient. The Padalily was created when I had my 3rd baby. I was at the post office with my two girls, a box to be mailed out, and that heavy infant car seat in tow. The handle was really digging into my arm, and I had a light bulb moment! I needed to make a cushion to wrap around the handle! I went home and made a prototype out of scrap fabric - I was in love. Not only was it fashionable, but it would save my arms.
What is the most important piece of advice you would offer to others interested in manufacturing and marketing a baby product, or any consumer product?
Be prepared to be in it for the long haul. There is a huge learning curve at the beginning which can be overwhelming, and you are going to have to weather bumps along the way, so hang in there. If your product is your own invention, and never been on the market before, make sure to look into patent protection. Ask lots of questions to those who have gone before you and been successful. I walked into boutiques with my car seat and Padalily on the handle to get feedback from store owners. You want to be sure the people who would be buying your product think it's a good idea too.
What advice do you have for keeping the home fires burning while you build your business?
One book I read when I started out said always remember to put people first and things second. That mantra has stayed at the forefront of everything I do. It can be challenging to run a business from home. You are your own boss, which has its perks (believe me!), but you also are forced to work around the hustle and bustle of family life. I carve out my day around my family's needs. One thing that helps me is preparing for the day the night before. It allows for a relaxed breakfast time together before the kids leave for school. It's important to spend quality time together whenever we can. I started walking my neighborhood instead of going to the gym so my son could ride his bike along with me. He loves that alone time with me. Any way I can incorporate more family time into my routine is a bonus!
What are your plans for the $15,000?
We were just awarded our patent last month, which has caught the eye of larger distribution channels. We are going to use the $15,000 to boost our current inventory, and really be prepared for a profitable 2013.
Anything you’d like to add?
I would encourage every mom with an idea to take it one step further and see where it leads. Moms have the best ideas and solutions for parenting needs! With the Huggies MomInspired Grant, you just may be given the funds and support you need to take it further than you could have ever dreamed!
Jennie Wong, Ph.D. is an executive coach, author of “Ask the Mompreneur,” and founder of the social shopping startup CartCentric.com. Email your entrepreneurship questions to TheJennieWong@gmail.com. Guest bloggers welcome.