On-the-Go Mom Makes Bringing Baby Around Easier
When on-the-go mom Pazit Ben Ezri started feeling guilty that her second child's naps were all in car seats, strollers, or blankets on the floor of her daughter's dance class, she knew she had to do something. But without any background in sewing, manufacturing or materials, she had a lot of homework to do. With lots of safety pins and many sleepless nights spent on her first-ever sewing machine, she pieced together a prototype of what she wanted -- a portable, lightweight bassinet that does extra duty as a playpen and diaper bag that would give a baby a sense of comfort and familiarity, and alleviate her hassles in finding a comfortable place for her infant to nap and play.
After about a year of development, which Pazit funded herself by putting her family on a strict budget and forgoing things like vacations, the LulyBoo was ready for trade shows. It's now sold on the LulyBoo website and in several other baby boutiques and online stores, and the business is now funding itself. Pazit looks forward to breaking even soon and turning a profit in her second or third year in business.
Here's how she did it...
Why did you start this company and when?
Both of my children had issues when it came to sleep. As an infant, my now seven-year-old daughter seemed overwhelmed in her crib and slept more comfortably nestled in her stroller. Four years later, my son's sleep was constantly being interrupted by his older sister's outings to playgroups and dance classes, and by our family's busy schedule. His naps were relegated to his car seat, a blanket on the floor, or wherever else I could find to lay him down. He'd wake up edgy and I always felt guilty about not providing him with a familiar place to sleep where he would always feel comfortable and secure. These experiences were the inspiration behind the LulyBoo. I wanted to create a safe, cozy space for babies to sleep and play that was all their own. I started developing my idea in the winter of 2008 and officially launched in September of that year.
Our signature product is the LulyBoo, a portable infant play lounge. The LulyBoo combines the best of a playpen, bassinet and crib, providing babies a safe, cozy and familiar place to sleep and play wherever they are. Unlike any other product on the market today, the LulyBoo folds into a backpack, so parents can take it with them wherever they go.
Lightweight and compact, it's a great sleep solution when parents are staying in hotels, traveling overseas, or staying anywhere where a crib isn't available. It can also be used for co-sleeping because it protects baby from the risk of falls and suffocation, or it can be put right in the crib to give babies a sense of added security. Four outer pockets hold all of babies' supplies, so parents don't need an additional diaper bag. It comes with a toy bar and two plush toys.
We have also unveiled a line of coordinating accessories, including a canopy, a mosquito net, blankets and a comfort pad, with more products to be released in coming months.
What is your background and how does it relate to your company?
I am originally from Israel and have lived in Orange County, California for the past six years. I'm married and have two wonderful children, ages seven and three and one on the way. In Israel, I studied behavioral science and worked in sales and service for a cellular company, but had no background in design or manufacturing. So with the help of Tamara's book, many helpful friends and my own determination, I learned how to create my product and build my company step by step.
I had been thinking for the past few years about making myself financially self-sufficient, especially after seeing couples I know go through divorce (even though my marriage was fine). Eventually, I spoke to my husband about this. He was surprisingly supportive and asked me what I wanted to do. That's when I began contemplating starting my own business. No matter what happens with my company, it has taken me to a new level of self confidence and motivation.
What process did you follow to develop a prototype?
Since the LulyBoo is so unique, I needed to develop my first prototype on my own so that I could show designers what I wanted to do. The problem was that I didn't know how to sew and had no idea about fabrics or materials. I went to a store and purchased a bunch of fabrics and made different samples until I found the ones that worked best -- holding the whole thing together with safety pins! I soon bought a sewing machine and spent many sleepless nights figuring out how to use it. It took many attempts until I sewed a prototype that I could show to a seamstress so that she could make one professionally.
What process did you follow to determine your product's marketability?
I shared my ideas and samples with everyone I knew -- friends, family, people in the baby products industry and lots of moms of infants. I got great feedback, but also constructive criticism and incorporated the best suggestions into the product. I also spent a lot of time researching the market, including buying trends, similar products and studying products that succeeded and why.
What was the biggest learning curve in developing your product?
I had to learn to be absolutely clear about my instructions and needs whenever I worked with a factory or vendor. Any little detail I left out or any question I left open would result in my getting a product (prototype, packaging, etc.) that did not meet my needs or expectations, and that wasted time and money because the products would have to be redone. It took a while until I realized that my vendors couldn't read my mind and that I could leave no detail unaddressed.
What secrets have you learned in terms of publicity and marketing your product?
The key to marketing and publicity is being passionate about your products and surrounding yourself with people who feel the same way. I brought in a public relations professional early on and we've gone through the development process together, giving her a sense of ownership of the company. Together, our enthusiasm has been key to securing great media exposure and has driven sales.
How have you managed to juggle the roles of business owner and mom?
I manage to work while the kids are in school, but I also spend many hours working long after they're in bed. I love the mix of being a mom while working on something I'm passionate about, and I love the ability to manage my time. Certainly, I could have developed the company faster if I were only a business owner, but I wouldn't have had it any other way.
What kind of support system do you have in place personally and professionally?
Personally, I have a wonderful husband who supports me every step of the way, from offering business and marketing advice to putting my booth together at trade shows, and gives me the freedom to run the business the way I think best. I also have a wide circle of close friends who encourage and believe in me and offer to help out any way they can. Professionally, I have met so many amazing people in the industry who have offered valuable insight, suggested vendors and helped me avoid pitfalls. My public relations representative, Lisa Armony, has been particularly invaluable and has gone far beyond her PR role, not only developing marketing and media materials and marketing strategies, but also helping me to navigate the murky waters of safety certification, communicating with customers and offering impassioned support and encouragement every day.
What has been your greatest success in the process?
There have been several high points. The first was debuting the LulyBoo at the ABC Kids Expo (the industry's largest trade show) in September 2008. Seeing how excited store owners, sales reps and industry media were about the product was overwhelming -- I couldn't sleep at all throughout the four-day show. Also, getting repeat orders is thrilling because it shows that the product that I made with my own hands is selling, that people like it and that there's a demand in the market. That's an incredible feeling.
Who has been your biggest source of inspiration? What keeps you going?
In the beginning, I gave an early prototype to an acquaintance to try out with her infant daughter. A few months later, I ran into her and she told me that she never leaves the house without her LulyBoo. She used it everywhere -- in the park, at friends' houses, and even in her office. Her testimonial inspired me so much and I decided at that point that I wanted every baby and every mother to enjoy a LulyBoo.
What advice would you offer other moms developing their products/ideas?
Keep your eye on the end product and don't let any obstacle stop you because there is always a solution. Sometimes you just have to be creative or ask for help to solve problems that seem insurmountable. Also, I have found that people love to help and offer their opinions. Be open to constructive criticism because it often improves your product.
Tamara Monosoff's The Mom Inventor's Handbook has been my business bible from the day I dreamed of the LulyBoo until today. The book offers so many clear explanations, helpful examples and important suggestions and has been invaluable to my journey.
Thank you for sharing your story, Pazit! If you have a great story to share, we'd love to hear it!
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