In this second 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 Hold-On Handles, a walking rope for up to three children, manufactured by Greater Than One Kids. GTOK is a company founded by Susanne Budofsky, mother of triplets, and Robyn Spritzer, mother of three, including a set of twins. Not surprisingly, the company mission is to create products for families with more than one child.
How did you hear about the Huggies MomInspired grant program?
We try to keep up with the buzz in the juvenile industry. Social media, in particular Facebook, is often how we keep up with life in general and fellow mompreneur activities and trends. The first year out the gate was financially the hardest, so when we learned there was a grant opportunity with Huggies, we immediately submitted our application.
How did you come up with the idea for your product?
In 2005, Susanne’s triplets turned two, and she found herself missing the stage when they were infants, content to stay in a bouncy seat. Having left her career as an advertising executive, she soon found that taking the kids to the supermarket was more challenging than a trip to a client on the opposite coast. Susanne discovered that there were no convenient products in the market to help her keep her kids close by and out of trouble, and using a toddler harness was out of the question.
With the concept of a modified preschool walking rope in mind, Susanne headed to Home Depot, picked up some rope and duct tape, and began to cobble together what became the first prototype of Hold-On Handles. It wasn’t pretty–but it worked. Her children always held on, and the Budofsky clan started conquering errands with much greater ease.
Susanne reached out to a former colleague who introduced her to Robyn, a marketing director with a long and successful career in packaged-goods marketing and innovation. In 2008, Robyn delivered her second and third children–twins–and found herself in need of a break from a full–time career.
It was during that break (if you can call being home with three kids a break) that Susanne and Robyn discovered they shared the perspective that getting around with young children in tow was one of moms’ greatest challenges. We began brainstorming, and Hold-On Handles was born.
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?
If you are passionate about it, relentless, thick skinned, patient and resourceful, anything is possible. Do your homework about the industry, competitive market, and your product. Talk to as many people as you can to learn about the business and what it takes to bring a new product to market. Utilize every resource you have from your business and social community, and never be afraid to ask for help. It is amazing how many fellow mompreneurs and professionals are willing to help.
What advice do you have for keeping the home fires burning while you build your business?
We try to maintain work life balance but it is tough as mompreneurs who do not keep regular business hours. Our core work hours begin when the kids go to bed at night. We tend to work around the clock and squeeze in work whenever we can, e.g. waiting for our kids to get off the bus, while making dinner, and as we grocery shop.
We’ve found it is important to carve out dedicated time for our families each day by putting down the cell phones. Whether it’s sitting down to dinner or reading a book together at bedtime, those few minutes energize us and help us keep our priorities in check. Our social life has been trimmed, but our closest friends understand.
What are your plans for the $15,000?
Since our launch of Hold-On Handles in 2010, we have secured national distribution in some large retail chains, and are sold in many independent retailer stores across the country. Our biggest challenge is creating consumer awareness.
We will use some of the money for public relations and event sampling, and we will continue to seek international distribution partners. With our new, cost-effective “Traveler” version, we hope to explore new US mass channels and expand into international markets.
The Huggies grant has given us a new infusion of energy and passion. We feel that if we were chosen amongst all the amazing women and product ideas, then the bumps and bruises along the way are all worthwhile. We are reminded about all the bloggers, friends, and strangers who have endorsed Hold-On Handles. In the end, the money is awesome, but the recognition is invaluable.
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.