With her real child, Shani also came up with her own brain child. It didn’t have a business name as of yet. Putting together things she liked about different slings she created her own fashionable pouch style sling that she soon found other parents wanted too.
This simple creation that fit her own needs ended up turning into an online business that would be named Tot-To-Go. She’s also branched out from slings into other great products including her nursing cover which can be used with or without her sling.
Sometimes we have a giveaway with an interview to give one of our readers a chance to try out one of the products from the business mentioned but Shani is giving everyone here a chance to try her baby sling at a discounted price.
From now until June 30th, 2008 you can receive 25% off any regular priced Baby Sling from her online store. Just use promo code: BIZOP
What is ‘Tot-To-Go’?
Tot-To-Go is a design company that produces modern parenting gear and baby essentials. I came up with the name Tot-To-Go because that is how I feel as a parent–my tot is always with me on the go! Our mission is to design functional products that meet the needs of today’s generation of busy parents without sacrificing style.
How did you come up with the design for your sling?
I had tried several brands of pouch style baby slings and there were many things I liked about each and many things I did not appreciate as much. My goal was to design a baby sling around my needs. I wanted something stylish and fun but practical at the same time. It turned out that other parents in my area wanted the same thing. I would go out with my home made slings people wanted to know where they could buy it!
Our baby sling is fully reversible and unpadded. You really can fold it up to fit the palm of your hand which is great when you already have dozens of bulky items in your diaper bag.
What inspired the nursing cover?
I felt embarrassed whenever I had to breastfeed my baby in public or even in front of close friends and family. I’m just a bit shy about my body and I certainly wished there were nice nursing covers around at the time! I started doing nursing covers because while the baby sling does provide coverage for moms, it is a learned skill to wear your baby and breastfeed at the same time. A nursing cover can be used to provide extra coverage while breastfeeding your baby in the Tot-To-Go sling or it can be used as a stand alone product.
How many different fabric styles do you currently offer your products in?
We currently have 5 reversible designer prints and 3 solid colour combinations. We plan to add seasonal prints and a line of organic solids in the near future.
What is the most commonly requested sling and nursing cover?
The Oasis and Spa Damask prints are the top two selling Baby Slings. As for nursing covers, customers seem to really like the Spa Damask and Pistachio Damask prints.
When did you start your business?
I had this business in mind for a long time but I didn’t launch tot-to-go until late Spring 2007.
How long has it been since you launched?
Almost one year!
Have you received any advice you’ve received been invaluable to you when it came to starting or running tot-to-go?
I was always a fan of Robeez shoes even before my daughter was born. I found Sandra’s advice to mompreneurs very helpful and realistic when deciding to take the leap and start up Tot-To-Go. You can read more about it here.
What steps did you need to take to get everything up and running?
There are some basic things that every business has to do to get going including choosing and applying for a name, registering your business, obtaining the proper licensing etc. Some businesses require more capital so there is the funding issue that needs to be addressed.
Did you have any previous experience that you were able to apply?
I was lucky in that I learned a lot in my previous experience of starting a business with my husband. Although a dental practice is a different type of business entirely, the basics of starting a business are the same. One thing I learned from his practice and throughout the short course of my business to date, is just because you’re open doesn’t mean customers or clients are lining up at the door. You really have to put in a lot of work to advertise and market your business.
How does being a parent affect your business?
Like many moms, being a parent is what inspired my business. I enjoy being able to back a product and design that I’ve used and continue to use with my daughter. I hope and believe that customers appreciate that I too am a parent that is constantly struggling with finding the right balance in my life.
The one thing that every mom wants to know is how to run a business and still manage their time with the kids. How do you do it?
Scheduling and routine are important. I try and work early in the morning before my daughter wakes up, during her afternoon nap and late in the evening once she is in bed. I also have designated tasks for certain days. Tuesday and Thursday I go for a run with my daughter, Saturday is my day to clean up the house, Friday is paperwork day and so on. All the hours in between are spent with my family and friends.
I have a great support system which really helps. When I do tradeshows my parents or in-laws will help out by attending or babysitting. If my husband isn’t working, he will do the same.
My daughter is 2.5 and she’s at the stage where she can play independently while I’m in the room answering emails on my laptop. If and when she needs something, I’m right there to attend to her. I know that some changes will have to be made if I’m lucky enough to have another child come into my life. I’m always thinking ahead and I’ve started to plan for the long term success of tot-to-go and my role has a mother.
For example, I know that I will be unable to manage all the sewing and packaging as tot-to-go continues to grow. Cutting, sewing and packing take up a huge chunk of my time. Therefore, I’ve started contracting out the manufacturing so I can focus on my family as well as the marketing and branding of my business.
Do you have any advice for a mom who might be interested in starting her own online business?
As I mentioned earlier in the interview, just because you’re open for business doesn’t mean customers will be knocking down your door. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to market your business. There are many, many, many online ventures out there and you need to find a way to make yourself stand out from the rest.
You can never go wrong by providing customer service with a smile. Word of mouth and personal referrals are the best form of free advertising. Customers are always happy to spread the word for you if they are satisfied with your product and the service you provide.
Find a form of marketing and branding that works for you and the specific needs of your business. Print advertising may be very profitable for one business but not as beneficial for the other. Same goes for online ads or tradeshows. It’s all about what will work for you.