Stephanie Stiller launches The New Generation Lunch Box
Stephanie Stiller, Founder of BrightBin, and recent graduate of my new Power Mentoring Program, just launched a new generation lunch box called BrightBin that not only organizes your lunch but helps the environment by limiting the need for plastic bags. BrightBin provides families with an easy step towards “greener” living. Mom Invented had a chance to interview this busy mom of three! Learn more about Stephanie's adventure here:
Mom Invented (MI): Why did you start BrightBin?
Stephanie: I started this company after I became fed up with using so many plastic bags to pack my kids' lunches. The amount of packaging waste generated by their school lunches was astounding. So I had a vision one night of this little lunch box that would literally change the way kids bring a packed lunch to school. It was in September 2009 when the idea popped into my head. And here we are just over 12 months later selling lunch boxes. My initial goals were to solely focus on schools and school fundraisers as a way to transform cafeterias across the country by eliminating lunch time packaging waste.
MI: Tell us about you and your background
Stephanie: I have a wonderful and supportive husband and three young children (ages 3, 4, and 6). I love my family and I feel so fortunate every single day to have them.
I have a Masters of Education degree so my first exposure to the ridiculous amount of waste in school cafeterias came when I taught middle school science. I taught for four years before I left the classroom for a sales and marketing job in a Fortune 500 company in the Bay Area. I worked for that company for over ten years before leaving in June 2010 to launch BrightBin: The New Generation Lunch Box.
MI: What was your 'aha' moment when it came to starting your business?
Stephanie: My "aha" moment came when I was making lunch for each of my kids on a Sunday night. I counted up 15 plastic bags I was using to make their lunch! The next day I received a note in my daughter's backpack saying the school was starting to have "Waste-Free Wednesdays" in the cafeteria. On Wednesdays, students had to bring a lunch without packaging waste. It was in that moment that I saw in my mind my little lunch box that would make my life so much easier and "greener". So I moved forward and conducted a US patent search. Once I learned that there was nothing else like it on the market, I knew I could not stop. I had to move forward because if I didn't, someone else would.
MI: What process did you follow to develop a prototype?
Stephanie: I worked with an engineer to develop the prototype. We actually went through three different prototypes before we had the product perfected.
Mom Invented: How did you determine your product’s marketability (is there a need, would people buy it)?
Stephanie: I conducted several market research groups of local moms to see if the product would meet a need in moms' lives. I got together a group of moms for coffee to discuss the concept and idea and in return, they each received a $5.00 Starbucks gift card.
Mom Invented: How did you find a manufacturer for your product?
Stephanie: I found my manufacturer through my engineer.
Mom Invented: Were there any setbacks in product development that had to be overcome?
Stephanie: Unfortunately, yes. After a couple of months being on the market, we realized that the product was not 100% perfect. So we have had to change some parts of the mold, redesign a couple of parts of the lunch box, etc. When I start to feel badly that my lunch box was not perfect from day #1, my husband keeps reminding me that even the IPhone has had several versions, each one improving upon the previous version. The same is true with my lunch boxes.
Mom Invented: What was the biggest learning curve in terms of developing your product?
Stephanie: The one thing I have learned, which builds upon the previous question, is that most often, no product is 100% perfect on the first shot. It takes a little time to have the product on the market and to get feedback from people to learn about unforeseen issues. And I have had to learn and accept that this is all part of the product development process.
Mom Invented: Through what markets are you selling (retail, wholesale, internet, specialty sales)?
Stephanie: Currently, we are selling The New Generation Lunch Box in retail stores, online stores, and specialty boutiques.
Mom Invented: What secrets have you learned in terms of publicity and marketing your product?
Stephanie: I am learning that even for those of us who consider themselves to be "technologically challenged" like myself, the Internet is our best resource for marketing our products with little upfront cost. And, I would say that the value of Twitter, Facebook, and social media cannot be stressed enough. These are tremendous platforms for people to launch their business.
Mom Invented: How did you finance your business?
Stephanie: Our home equity loan has financed my business. It is very scary and overwhelming at times to think about this. $90,000 thus far has been invested in the business. It is a tremendous amount of money and certainly has kept me up at night. But I am so confident in this product, I know that just one or two high volume orders will more than pay back this debt.
Mom Invented: What has been your greatest success or high point with your product or business?
Stephanie: My greatest success has been at a recent trade show where we saw our first high volume orders come in.
Mom Invented: How have you managed to juggle the roles of business owner and mom? What falls by the wayside?
Stephanie: What a question! In my next career, I will write a book called BALANCE: STILL WORKING ON IT AFTER ALL THESE YEARS. The reality of trying to run a retail business while running the business of a household at the same time is overwhelming, to say the least. I try to take it one day at a time... sometimes even one minute at a time. But, I am proud that my children see me working hard at my business. I am setting a great example for them, especially for my daughters. These days, there is little time for relaxing with a good book or a movie. After working a full day, most evenings are spent working after the kids go to bed. That is the reality for right now as we are in start-up mode.
Mom Invented: Who has been your biggest source of inspiration? What keeps you going?
Stephanie: My dad has been my biggest source of inspiration. He is such a motivated and determined man. I think a lot of his drive has rubbed off on me. It is my drive and passion that keeps me going. I truly believe that this lunch box is the best thing for parents because of how easy and convenient it is, the best thing for kids because it teaches them to be environmentally responsible, and the best thing for our planet because in one year of use, it reduces plastic bag use by 1000 bags per one child. My lunch box will create a new paradigm in the way parents are expected to pack a lunch for their children each day. That is what keeps me going!
Mom Invented: What surprised you most about the process of starting your business?
Stephanie: How stressful and exciting is can be at the same time.
Mom Invented: What advice would you offer other moms developing their products/ideas?
Stephanie: Go for it! If you have an idea that is proven to be a novel idea, go after it. An idea won't go anywhere just being an idea. It is doable and possible to make your idea a reality. And if you don't jump and take the steps to make your idea a reality, someone else will so be sure to beat you to it!
Thank you for sharing your story, Stephanie! You can learn more about Stephanie Stiller's BrightBin Lunch Boxes here.
If you have a great story to share about your product or business, we’d love to hear it!
Click here to learn more about my Power Mentoring Program. You can create a successful business too!
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