By Kristi Gorinas
I don’t watch TV during the day, but one February afternoon in 2007, a good friend insisted that I catch a special on Oprah called “Mom’s Who Made Millions.” After seeing how one mom turned craft day with her three girls into a $20 million business, I knew that I could make at least one of my ideas work. Heck, I had four girls at the time and a lot of ambition.
At that time, I needed a shaded “parking spot” for my baby to use outside while gardening and watching the other kids, but she was too little for a kids’ chair. I needed something like an outdoor baby jumper that would keep her secure and comfortable – something for her to stretch her legs and maybe even stand in. So it was then that the Go With Me Chair™ was conceived!
I began designing (in my head). Before I knew it, I had a removable tray for snacks and and toys, a cup holder and a sun shade. That basically took care of all of her needs; to sit, play, snack, stretch and coolest of all, stand. No other kids’ chair had all of that. I knew I was on to something!
Then I thought, “What do I do next?” Having no experience in product development, I got online and started my research. I found a graphic artist who hand-sketched beautiful drawings down to every detail. I initially focused on selling the idea and called a company out of the blue to see if they’d be interested. I lucked out – they said yes. So I was off to California to not only pitch the chair, but an entire line of products that would compliment the chair and fit perfectly with their line.
Here’s where I made my first mistake; never put all your eggs in one basket. They loved the chair and product line. I mean, they REALLY loved them! After several positive e-mails and phone calls I had no doubt I’d get a licensing deal. It was as good as done. Then I got the dreaded e-mail, “we are focusing our efforts in other areas.” Four months wasted!
So what did this mom with four kids, little cash and no experience decide to do? Make it herself, of course! Luckily, I had met a 25-year veteran of the baby industry a few months earlier, so I ran the sketches past her for feedback. She thought the chair was genius and wanted to partner with me to bring it to market. Her industrial design engineer had ties in China where we found a factory to make the chair. After two and a half years of development and several factory changes, the chair was ready to make its debut at a juvenile tradeshow where it received much hype… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Before all that, I made Big Mistake #2. I got sidetracked with another product idea – a designer diaper bag with a built-in baby wipe system. After 8 months of unsuccessful development overseas, I was lucky to find a domestic factory in California to make the bags correctly. It was really a great idea that seemed too good to pass up, but it siphoned money from the chair budget. Two product lines in two years and baby girl number five… whew! Oh, and the CA factory suddenly closed, leaving me with an unfilled order and $25,000 in raw material. Now, back to the chair…
I knew nothing about branding, trademarks, patents, PR and marketing, e-commerce, accounting, sales, purchasing, safety requirements or importing. I was also trying to deal with a factory in China where the language barrier would cost me time and money. I tried to manage it all on my own due to lack of finances.
Had I known about Edison Nation before I jumped into trying to manufacture on my own, I would have saved myself a ton of money and stress. I put my family’s finances and future at risk by using our 401k, savings, a second mortgage, a dozen credit cards, family loans and there’s the California factory shutdown. I had gotten so deep into debt, it didn’t make sense to stop the development and manufacturing for either product. The list of mistakes I made along the way is countless and cost me over $100,000, but I had to keep going. I was “all in.”
Fortunately, one of my contacts worked for a company that sells similar outdoor products. He was a huge supporter of mine and also felt the Go With Me Chair had potential, especially since there was nothing else like it on the market. He showed the product to his company’s president to see his response. With the uniqueness of the product and successful sales, the president offered me a very generous licensing contract.
I continue to design new products, but I will NEVER try to manufacture on my own again. I regularly submit my ideas to E.N. and work on my own to land other licensing contracts. Persistence and passion in my products will pay off in the long run.
If I could give other aspiring mompreneurs one piece of advice, it would be to follow through with your ideas by utilizing the Edison Nation community to submit ideas or to help you understand the steps necessary for making the product on your own. The Edison Nation website is chock full of vital information and forums that can help save you a lot of time, money and stress.
The Go With Me Chair™ is manufactured and distributed by Kelsyus: www.kelsyus.com.
Pssst! Want to chat with Kristi and other moms about ways to turn your “mom experiences” into a great product idea? Join her on Twitter for #InventChat January 8 at 2pm EST.