Hi! I'm Dane Carlson, and welcome to the Business Opportunities Weblog. I've been publishing this website, by myself, and sometimes with the help of others for over twelve years now. You'll notice two things about this site right away:
Anyone who has ever had to change a diaper knows just how much babies love to wiggle and roll right out of your reach. Erin Kelly knew all too well just how difficult a simple diaper changing can become with an active baby, so she decided to do something about it. The Hulabye Happy Changer is an easy to use solution to wiggly babies and diaper changing. It helps hold the child in place so the parent can quickly change the diaper without having to catch or worry about a rolling child.
Erin recently spoke with us about her company and her inspiration behind it.
Tell us a little about Hulabye.
Hulabye was founded to provide solutions that keep parenting as joyful and hassle-free as possible. We make a product that gives parents and caregivers a way to change the diaper of a wiggly, rolling baby without a struggle and without the stress. We know that being a parent is a tough job, and our goal is to prevent the everyday challenges of simple childcare from making it any harder.
What inspired you to start your business?
The story of how Hulabye came to be is very much like many “mompreneur” stories—I had a problem and couldn’t find an available solution. My problem was that my younger daughter had become a wild-child on the changing table. When she was about 6 months old, diaper changes became a battle of wills. As soon as I’d lay her down, she would immediately flip over and try to escape, and the struggle would go on until I got a clean diaper on her or I gave up. Sometimes she’d wait until I was in mid-diaper change, which was very inconvenient…and messy. All I needed was an extra set of hands to hold the top end while I took care of the bottom end, but my 2 year old wasn’t going to help, so I searched and searched for a product that could just keep the wiggly baby on the changing table and prevent her from rolling over. I couldn’t find a single product on the market, yet I came across countless complaints and pleas for help from other frustrated parents.
Out of pure necessity (and to save my sanity—it really was that frustrating) I sewed something that I thought would work…and it did! I knew from the start that I had a great product, and as the original Happy ChangerTM was passed to two more families who couldn’t imagine how to change a wiggly baby without it, I was convinced I had to take it to market.
Of course, like any entrepreneur, making money from my great idea was part of my motivation. But honestly, I was also very motivated to make the Happy ChangerTM available to help other parents who were as stressed out as I had been with this stage of diaper changing.
Tell us about your main product. How does it work?
The Happy ChangerTM is a fabric vest that attaches to the changing pad. It holds the baby gently but securely on his back preventing all the wiggling and rolling that can turn a diaper change into a wrestling match. The Happy ChangerTM is very easy to put on the pad—just a single hook and loop attachment—and works with all contoured changing pads, the type of pad the majority of households have. The vest has a simple closure in the front, also with a single hook and loop attachment, making it an incredibly easy and practical product to use. It’s comfortable, it’s simple, it’s cute, and it works!
Do you have any plans to expand your product line?
We plan on introducing some new fabrics in the spring of 2012. Beyond that there are no imminent plans for other products, but we definitely have some ideas for complementary products we may offer in the future.
What separates you from other diaper changing products on the market?
Our product is the ONLY product on the market that solves the problem of babies rolling over during diaper changes. There are other products that try to make diaper changes faster or provide some distraction/entertainment for the baby during diaper changes, but our product is the only product that addresses the core issue—the wiggling baby. Rather than offering a way to cope with the problem, the Happy ChangerTM eliminates the problem.
Do you have any goals you’d like to accomplish over the next year or so?
Right now we’re focusing on building awareness of the product and increasing our online sales. As a startup with a limited marketing budget, we are relying heavily on social media, so building a presence there is key. We also hope to get the Happy ChangerTM into specialty stores across the U.S. Between our online sales and sales through brick and mortar retailers, the goal will be to grow our sales volume to a point where we can really start to optimize our production costs and ultimately become profitable.
Have you always been entrepreneurial minded?
I NEVER considered myself an entrepreneur. My one goal in life was always to become a doctor, which involves a very prescribed path, so I never really imagined anything else. I managed to achieve that goal, but what I didn’t expect was that I wouldn’t want to continue practicing medicine for the rest of my life. I spent a few years just being a mom (and by “just” I mean the 24/7 job of taking care of small children) and not having any idea what I would do if I went back to work. I feel like this opportunity just sort of fell in my lap. As it turns out, I LOVE what I’m doing, so maybe there was an entrepreneurial spirit in me all along.
What are some lessons your business has taught you?
I’m really just starting out so I expect I still have some hard lessons to learn. But in the time I’ve spent getting the business up and running and getting the product ready to go to market, the one thing I’ve learned is to trust myself. So many times I’ve left decisions up to someone I thought was “more qualified” than I was, only to come back around to the idea I’d had in mind in the beginning. I wasted a lot of time doing that but I learned that my instincts were good and that I should trust them.
I’ve also learned that taking a new product to market involves WAY more than I ever thought about back in the days when we’d just talk about how great it would be if I actually started selling the Happy ChangerTM. All I thought about then was how I’d make the product and where I’d sell it! I never considered what setting up a business would entail—forming a business entity, getting insurance, researching the legal and regulatory requirements I’d need to consider, complying with all of those requirements, sourcing materials, all the designing that goes into a brand, packaging, the website, tradeshow booths, etc. There’s so much work to do before you can even start to market the product.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Despite the fact that I went in to this with no business experience and have taken twice as much time and done 10 times the amount of work as I’d expected to do getting the Happy ChangerTM ready to sell, it’s been a great learning experience that I’ve enjoyed every step of the way. I haven’t been able to say that about any job I’ve ever had. I think that’s in part because there’s definitely a huge upside to being your own boss. Aside from the tremendous flexibility it can offer, I think for most people, the experience of accomplishing something because you’ve decided to do it, with the responsibility of making all the decisions and dealing with the consequences, is far more satisfying than accomplishing something because someone else is telling you to do it, and telling you how to do it.
Do you have any advice you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
I really didn’t set out to come up with the next great idea. But whether you’ve had an opportunity handed to you or you’re trying to figure out what your next endeavor should be, never let the fact that you don’t know how to do something stop you from trying to do it. I’m not saying anyone should try to perform heart surgery, but don’t be afraid to learn new skills. Trying to work only within your current skill set can be very limiting. If you’re not afraid to learn how to do something new, you open up a world of possibilities.