In this third 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 the Happy Changer, a fabric vest that secures to your changing pad to prevent your baby from rolling during diaper changes. Erin Kelly, a Los Angeles physician and mother of two, is the inventor of the product and founder of the company Hulabye, LLC.
How did you hear about the Huggies MomInspired grant program?
I actually heard about the program through several sources, but the first was a friend who has since become a part of Hulabye and now heads up our sales and marketing. I also came across information about the program through several mompreneur websites and newsletters, and I got a Facebook message from another mom/business owner I met when we were both exhibiting at a trade show.
What I think is amazing, is that this grant is intended to help moms improve the lives of other moms, and the very reason I found out about the program is because of the moms who were trying to help a fellow mom!
How did you come up with the idea for your product?
Like so many other moms turned "mompreneurs" I had a parenting problem that needed a solution. My problem was that my 6-month old daughter had become a nightmare at changing time. As soon as I’d lay her down, she would immediately flip over and try to escape! Sometimes she’d wait until I was in mid-diaper-change, which was very inconvenient…and messy. I searched and searched for a product that could just keep this wiggly baby on her back and prevent her from rolling over but I couldn’t find a single product on the market. Yet I knew I was far from being the only one.
I was truly at my wit's end, so with my limited sewing skills, I put together something that I thought would work. Nearly identical to the current Happy Changer, it was a simple vest that looped around the changing pad, in super soft flannel, that was fast and easy to use. Lo and behold, it worked! That was the very first Happy Changer and it truly changed my life.
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?
As someone who came from the medical field with no experience in business, it was certainly daunting to consider all of the things I'd need to do to get the Happy Changer to market. Not only was it a long list of tasks, but for 90% of them, I had no idea how to even get them done. But, I learned as I went (and I'm still learning), I did lots of research, I talked to everyone I could and asked a lot of questions.
So my biggest piece of advice would be that you should never let the fact that you don’t know how to do something stop you from trying to do it. Talk to everyone you know because chances are, they have some experience that can be helpful to you. Especially for anyone trying to get into the baby product industry, use the vast network of moms who have started with an idea and realized their goal of getting their product to market. It's a wonderful group of people who are so generous in sharing their experiences (good and bad) and who would love to help another mom (or dad, of course!) realize their dream.
What advice do you have for keeping the home fires burning while you build your business?
I will admit this is an ongoing challenge for me. I'm definitely guilty of sneaking in an email (or two or three) while I'm at the park with my kids or putting off playing a game with them so I can get one more work task done. On the other hand, I've probably blown off work at times that I shouldn't in order to volunteer at school or do something fun with the family.
I definitely feel pulled in two directions and it can be hard to say no to the demands and enticements of each when my time is so flexible. It's easy to get out of balance, especially when you work from home, so my strategy is to plan work time and family time and keep those times separate and sacred. If I schedule a certain time for work, then I know I'm just not available to volunteer at school on those particular days. And if I make it a rule that I don't work once the kids are home, I can enjoy that time without feeling the pull of my to-do list.
I think it's important to commit a certain amount of undivided attention to both my family and my work. But, one of the wonderful things about working in an industry that revolves around families is that most people completely understand and respect that.
What are your plans for the $15,000?
We just returned from the ABC Kids Expo in Louisville, KY, which is the biggest trade show for the juvenile products industry. It also happens to be the event that Huggies chose to do the announcement of the MomInspired winners. This was our second year at the show and a combination of greater awareness of the Happy Changer in the market and the additional exposure offered by the MomInspired program resulted in a very successful show for us.
So, now we'll be putting that money into ramping up our manufacturing and getting the inventory we need to fulfill orders. We also plan to work on our packaging to make it more retail ready and to help consumers understand exactly what the Happy Changer is and how it can bring about an amazing change in their diapering experience.
I am truly honored to be among the amazing group of women that Huggies has honored with the MomInspired award. I'm so grateful that they recognize the value and wealth of ideas that exist in the community of moms who are in the trenches, day in and day out.
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.