If you haven’t heard about or seen their necklaces, they are fabulous and stylish but also safe for babies to chew on. We all know how aggressively a teething baby goes after our necklaces, breaks them, chews on them – the idea is genius. Kendra and Amy are a classic and wonderfully reassuring example of how you can take your career in a different path, start something utterly new, inspired by motherhood and caring for your babies, and build it into a business that is sold internationally, as well as hob knob with pregnant celebrities at their baby showers. Read on to learn how to take an idea from concept to reality, how motherhood can really inspire your inner-entrepreneur and for some great advice on embarking on your own business adventure.
First question, how did the idea for Teething Bling come about?
I really think our story is a great mom story. Becoming a mother is a natural segue into new things, including new ideas and new friends. Me and Amy were new moms at the same time and we struck up a friendship at a baby playgroup. I knew I didn’t want to go back to work, I was really looking to do something different because my priorities had shifted. I had a background in events and project management and Amy had a background in marketing. I think becoming a mom and being home on maternity leaves affords you the opportunity to not just meet new people but meet new people from all sorts of business backgrounds who you might not otherwise have been exposed too. I had the initial idea of teething jewelry because we all know how the babies grab for your jewelry, try to chew it, and sometimes break the chain. We both liked the idea and embarked on a long idea stage of prototyping our concepts.
Did you know how to prototype something?
No! Not at all. I just started doing research first to see if the product already existed and discovered that it didn’t. I couldn’t find anything else like it on the market. Then we had to research what teething toys are made of, which as it turns out, is silicone. We learned that silicone is safe for babies – it’s what teething toys are made from – and we can do any color with it. Next we started shopping around to different jewelry stores to really find out what’s out there, what could be viable and then we sketched it out.
Ok. So you had a concept, you’d done some background research, and you don’t have any experience in bringing a product from concept to market – so what did you do next?
We really just started making lots of phone calls to silicone companies, sometimes we’d find people who couldn’t help us but would point us in the right direction. Because we knew how important safety is when dealing with products for babies, we started looking into industrial design firms, specifically those with experience in baby toys. We found a group in New York City and reached out to them. They couldn’t help but they did put us in touch with a client of theirs and he was interested – he became the liaison to factories.
Amazing. So to give us all a realistic sense of the timing of this – how long did it take from idea to the first prototype and how you got it from the factories to the stores?
Well, it took us about 18 months from the idea to the first prototype. We realized that the first design was too big for the mom’s chest and the colors weren’t quite right, so we had to tinker with it. In terms of getting our finished product into mom’s hands, we went to craft shows, local fairs like the Flower Mart at the National Cathedral, Christmas fairs and we would cold call stores and send samples. We really loved doing the fairs and craft shows because we would interact with our customers and we loved getting feedback from them. It’s very motivating. Cold calling stores is really impersonal. Things started to take off and then we went to big industry shows, like in Vegas. The shows are where you meet with stores who are selling to maternity stores, children’s stores and so on. The word also really started to spread which is wonderful because our customers began doing our marketing for us. We would hear about customers walking into stores wearing our necklaces, asking them if they sold our necklaces and then the store would call us.
That’s fabulous. So I have to ask because I’ve seen this on your Facebook page – how did you end up at a celebrity baby shower and what is that like?
Basically what happens is someone organizes the baby shower for the celebrity and they invite vendors, at your own expense, to provide free stuff at the shower. Whoever is organizing the shower for the celebrity pitches it to the celebrity as the best products available on the market for the mom-to-be or baby and if the celebrity likes the product, she’ll pose for a picture with it. We’ve done Tori Spelling’s shower and most recently Jewel’s baby shower. The truth is, the celebrity baby shower is how we generate the highest traffic numbers to our site from Google. Also, what’s fun is, every once in a while our jewelry will pop up randomly in shows. For example, last week someone spotted it on Days of Our Lives. I guess there was a fussy baby in one scene and in the next scene, the baby is playing with our necklace. It’s not product placement driven by us but it works out great.
So where are you sold and do you have staff?
We are sold in over 27 countries and we have international distributors in 6 regions. We work with a fulfillment center that is a small family business as well. For a long time we worked right out of Amy’s basement here in Montgomery County but we just couldn’t handle the volume after a while. Now we have a few customer service reps, an accountant and then me and Amy.
What parting advice do you have for any women out there who are thinking of launching a new business or feel like they are sitting on a great new idea?
- Doing your research is so important. You don’t want to find out that it can’t be done or that it’s already been done.
- Be realistic. It takes a long time to get where we are. We started this in 2001-2002.
- Me and Amy are a good balance for each other. It’s a lot of work and we have to remind one another that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It really takes longer than you think it’s going too.
- You need to have a vision and want to end up there. I sketched Teething Bling with my daughter’s Crayola pencil, so it really started from scratch.
- And finally, don’t lose sight when it feels overwhelming. It’s important to really savor the moment and appreciate it.
That’s great advice, thank you Kendra. Hopefully if there are women out there inspired to start something new, this will help them get going.