What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?
I was working as a real estate investment banker and was pregnant with my second child.
When did you start your business?
Woolly Boo was officially registered in the summer of 2008, but the product development started a year prior to that. We couldn’t find healthy and beautiful basic children’s bedding like we had in mind. There are mattress pads, pillows, comforters, and sleep sacks, but the quality of fabrics and fillers leave a lot to be desired. There seemed to be this great obsession with waterproofing everything that the infant touches, and washing everything all the time, surrounding babies in plastic and chemicals. I just couldn’t let my children sleep in those conditions.
When did you know that you could really make a go of this?
When my friends and neighbors started asking me to make mattress pads and pillows for their children, and even more so when, after using the products for some time, they started coming to me with new ideas such as “Can you make this kind of comforter?” and other different versions of the product.
How did you turn your idea into a business plan?
Well, there really wasn’t much of a business plan. We had these great products and we knew our target market. Our focus was on effective communication, maintaining a high quality product, and exceptional customer service.
What inspired you to do this?
My children — I’m a mother of two. Every product in our line is inspired by their needs.
Did your friends and family support your dream?
There are some really tough moments on this road of entrepreneurship. I was blessed with an amazingly supportive family. They are behind me and behind the company 100 percent — when that’s the case, you don’t need much else.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Brand identity is always the biggest issue, especially in children’s industry. Parents want to be able to trust you with their most precious possessions — their children. Since we are also parents, we understand that protective instinct, and going in we knew we needed patience and staying power.
How did you maintain your confidence when doors were closed in your face, when people didn’t get it or said “no”?
That’s very simple — if you love your product, and I mean LOVE your product, nothing can shake your confidence.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
We are doing OK, and that’s all I am allowed to say. [Laughs]
What’s the hardest part of what you do?
Figuring out the next step — I lie awake at night wondering what the next move is going to be, and if we have enough resources. Not having a prior entrepreneurial experience is a blessing as much as a curse — sometimes you really don’t want to know what’s around the corner.
What’s the most fun part of what you do?
Communicating with our customers. It’s never tiring to talk about Woolly Boo, because each of our products is so wonderful. And we certainly never get tired of listening to our customers and their praises.
Where do you work from?
Originally, I used our butler’s pantry. It is in a really great spot, between the kitchen and the rest of the house. I could spend time with the kids, cook, and in between do some work. Sewing was done on the kitchen table. Eventually, I realized that the only quality time I could spend on Woolly Boo would be after everyone’s gone to bed, but then I never got any sleep. So, we converted a storage space above the garage into an office and a studio.
Do you have employees?
The majority of our “employees” are actually consultants and contractors. I find that to be a great option for a small business, because you can avoid the high costs of payroll.
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
It’s a pleasure reading comments and messages from the community. It’s almost like market research – I can post product photos on Facebook or Dreamers, and get instant feedback.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
I firmly believe that any education or experience you have will contribute to future success. For example, I took some acting and public speaking classes in college, and what I learned there is very useful in communicating with large audiences, even if it is simply to propose a toast at a launch party. The important thing is also to continue learning. I subscribe to several blogs that offer advice to small-business owners, I attend conferences, and I try to find time to read industry-related news.
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
I would listen to well-meaning advice-givers, but act according to my instincts. I spent a lot of time correcting things I did based on the advice of others, because I thought they knew better than me. While all this advice was given with love and care, most of it simply wasn’t right for Woolly Boo. I know that now.
What is your favorite product that you offer?
My favorite is the Toddler Comforter. There is really nothing like a cocoon of warmth and luxury that our comforter provides. In fact, it is really, really hard to wake the kids up in the morning. Most of the time, I just want to snuggle next to them.
What is your best-selling item?
We actually have two best sellers: Toddler Pillows and Crib Mattress Pads. Sleep Sacks are a close third.
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven’t become Doers yet?
Have your priorities straight and act on them.