According to an American Express OPEN-backed study conducted earlier this year, women-owned startups are launching at a rate of nearly 1,300 a day. And like their male counterparts in entrepreneurship, the 9.1 million women who started businesses did so for myriad reasons, from pursuing a passion, to independence, to financial necessity, and beyond.
But unique to women, motherhood itself is sometimes the motherhood of invention, and of a small business.
Bizjournals.com writer Caroline McMillan Portillo detailed on July 3 the experiences of two mothers whose businesses grew out of the day-to-day parenting frustrations they encountered. For Barbara Schantz, of Huntsville, Ala., and Robyn Pellei, of Charlotte, N.C., the road to business success was simply a matter of creating solutions to their own child-rearing needs.
Schantz, 41, who has two sets of twins now 9 and 11 years old, developed the Baby Dipper bowl eight years ago after finding the task of feeding her then toddler twin girls to be a daily battle.
“I was holding the bottle in one hand, spoon-feeding with the right [hand], chasing the bowl around the table,” Schantz told Portillo. “I thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’”
Encouraged by her engineer husband, Schantz designed and patented her triangular plastic bowl with the non-slip base in 2006, and has since sold 25,000 Baby Dipper bowls through brick and mortar stores, and online retailers such as Amazon.com.
For Pellei, whose brood now numbers nine, the roots of her VivaVita company also took hold in 2006, while she was expecting her fourth child, working as an emergency room nurse, and developing her first product — a means of keeping her three young children within reach outside of the home. Now known as the Gripsters Stay Along, her walking tether with a plastic monkey handle served as a child leash that kept her kids in close proximity.
Pellei also came up with mark-able silicon bands for bottles and cups on which names or feeding instructions can be written. The bands, branded as “Bandles” and “Bandettes,” have proven popular for day care use, according to Portillo.
Portillo also noted that the road to profitability was not seamless for either Schantz or Pellei. Schantz spent much of her initial business loan on pricey trade shows and distributing free Baby Dippers hoping for positive reviews. She told Portillo that in hindsight she wishes she had simply contracted with her current retail agent — who gets her products into retail stores for 15% of sales — from the start.
Pellei, meanwhile, said she veered into trying to create markets for products that solved hard to explain problems. “The big mistake…was falling in love with the idea and product before finding out if it’s workable,” she said. Pellei has refocused on products that fill obvious needs, such as her waterproof, washable “Easy Elegance” chair covers.
Both women are active members of the Facebook group Mompact, and have given and received their fair share of support over the years. It has proven to be a vital resource.
“I’ve probably only met one-tenth of [the Mompact group] in person, but I feel like I know them,” Schantz said. “There are a lot of us fighting the fight.”
Portillo, Carolyn McMillan. “Mom“; Bizjournals.com. July 3, 2014.