The founder of Bébé De Luxe on how she turned dealing with her son’s sensitive skin into a product line and baby brand.
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Less than two years since it's inception, Bébé De Luxe has already quadrupled their sales year over year, and delighted customers and influencers alike. Bébé De Luxe has been featured in Vogue, by Jillian Harris of Bachelorette fame, and on countless other family and lifestyle blogs.
Amanda Toth is the powerhouse behind the brand. She's like a superhero really: By day she works full-time as a paralegal at a high powered firm in downtown Vancouver. In the evenings she's a loving mother to her two year old son, Rian. And then when the rest of the city goes to sleep, she puts on her cape and runs Bébé De Luxe - a line of luxurious bath and body products for babies and adults.
As you might imagine, the road to balance and success is paved with potholes. With so much going on, how does Amanda balance it all? And what happens when a copycat throws a wrench into her best laid plans?
What motivated you to start your own company, and this one in particular?
Amanda Toth: My son Rian has very sensitive skin and would often get red and patchy eczema symptoms, which would worsen after a bath with conventional baby washes.
I happened to go shopping with a couple of mama friends and our littles to a “fancy" baby store one day and saw a milk and oatmeal bath. That lightbulb moment of “I can make this" came on for me and I started researching right away.
I loved the idea of using coconut milk rather than cow's milk since it is the fat content in the milk that makes your skin so soft, I figured I could get more benefits with the fattier coconut milk. Plus it has natural antibacterial, anti fungal and antimicrobial properties, it just seemed like the perfect base for a gentle, organic baby wash.
It was kismet actually because we later learned my son had a pretty harsh sensitivity to cows milk, including burn-like reactions topically. Had we made the original formula with cows milk, we wouldn't be here today! I can't say that I've always dreamed of being an entrepreneur but once I started, things just kept falling into place nearly effortlessly.
What makes your product unique?
Amanda Toth: I know most companies, especially small businesses, believe wholeheartedly in the products they make and I am the same. We use our signature Coconut & Oat Milk Bath blend for Rian's bath daily, washing head to toe (including his hair) for nearly two years now. It is intended to be used as a replacement for conventional soap, some people feel weird about not lathering up with bubbles but my wildling child doesn't stink so I'm pretty sure it works!
All silliness aside, our formula is especially great for babes and littles as the natural antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties of the coconut milk cleanse the skin while helping to soothe all sorts of irritations, diaper rashes (which are often fungal) and won't strip the skin of their natural oils.
Because the formula contains no soap and no harsh chemicals, even when your little one has eczema or a severe diaper rash, it won't sting like a soap or body wash would. We have had excellent feedback from customers using our signature coconut and oat milk bath for eczema, rashes, sunburn, and made into a paste it also helps to exfoliate cradle cap and can be used as either a face mask or facial scrub for mama.
How do you communicate that to customers?
Amanda Toth: The natural beauty industry is a growing trend that is beginning to really resonate with consumers. Recently a couple of trusted brands in the baby care business were discovered to have been less than honest and/or selling products which had known cancer promoting chemicals in their formulas. People are looking for natural products that they can trust, especially for their children. In nearly every social media post, article or marketing material we focus on the fact that our formula is simple, no-nasties, organic and made with food-grade ingredients.
How do you deal with copycats, or legitimate competitors?
Amanda Toth: I'm going to be honest here and hope that others can learn from my experience. The first copycat really stung and I called them out for it. It was a true copycat in that this person targeted me specifically and not only recreated my formula but the aesthetic of the brand I worked so hard to create.
Bébé de Luxe is my second child and I felt protective like a mother bear.
It was a great lesson to learn in my first year of business and I am grateful that I had those growing pains so early on to get them out of the way. I am now more confident that my own branding, formulas and passion shine through every aspect of Bébé de Luxe and allow all of these things to speak for themselves. The old adage is true, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. While it may not ring true in the moment, know that if you have an imitator, you are a trailblazer and have created a product that inspires recreation. That is a beautiful thing.
How can you tell the difference between a copycat and a competitor?
Amanda Toth: To me a copycat is someone who maliciously imitates your brand. A competitor is a fellow entrepreneur who has created a quality product that I am proud to have Bébé de Luxe next to on a shelf.
A few of my favourite competitors that I have mad respect for are - Herbivore Botanicals, Tubby Todd, K'Pure Naturals and Haven Living. These are all brands I recognize for their aesthetic, natural formula and ethics and I use products from each line personally.
Collaboration over competition is the key to success in a market saturated with start-ups and I am proud to work alongside some of the most collaborative and welcoming women.
Why do you think really understanding what makes your brand unique is important?
Amanda Toth: I think today businesses are a dime a dozen and new products and brands pop up on the daily. It's imperative that you create a unique product or brand to stand out from the crowd.
Knowledge is power and understanding what makes your brand unique equates to power.
Our customers truly identify with the struggles we have had with my son's skin and find comfort in knowing that our products are natural, organic and food-grade. Especially with handmade and local consumers, having an identifiable connection to the brand or product really hits home. Let's face it, shopping handmade and local costs more than buying mass produced products at a big box store, people are recognizing the value in higher quality products and shopping locally but your product has to connect with them in some way before they will spend their hard earned money.
What's more important: being passionate about your company OR making real money?
Amanda Toth: I believe passion is key and that the “real" money cannot be acquired or attained without it. There has to be something driving you to hustle harder than your competition when you feel like you'd rather get some shut eye or hang out with your friends. Sacrifices are a very real part of growing and grooming a business, you have to love what you're doing or you'll flounder.
Do you struggle balancing being an entrepreneur and a mother?
Amanda Toth: Of course. Women wear so many hats in society. Not only am I an entrepreneur and a mother, I am a wife, a full-time career-driven women (a career separate from my business that I have busted my butt at for 13 years and I am not ready to let go of). I am a sister, daughter, friend and so many other things.
It is the sum of all of these things that make me unique but also causes me to struggle at times in any one or more of these arenas. One of my biggest struggles is finding patience and stepping back to allow the little moments to unfold rather than micromanaging every aspect of a day. Being a busy mom, entrepreneur and also working full-time, I have a lot to squeeze into 24 hour but toddlers go at their own pace. I need to allow myself to enjoy the process rather than get frustrated that we aren't keeping my usual pace. It's a blessing really, as my usual pace isn't sustainable so being a mom to Rian often forces me to slow down.
What makes you unique as a mother?
Amanda Toth: I don't know that I am unique as a mother. I'm just an average 33 year old who doesn't really feel like I know what I'm doing half the time.
I'm a big fan of winging it - motherhood, business and life.
While I have a ton of Type A traits, mostly enjoying the feeling of being in control, becoming a mom and an entrepreneur has shaken things up for me and I've had to come to terms with the fact that I'm not really in control, ever.
I think being a mother has made me realize that it is a universal thing. Across any age, race, religion or economic status we all love our children above all else and none of us are experts. It has really opened me up to connection in a way that I have never been open to before. Insecurities always made me a bit of an introvert but now those same insecurities cause me to seek advice and commiserate with other mothers.
There is power, strength and magic in acknowledging that we don't really know what we're doing.
How does being a mother affect the way you run your business?
Amanda Toth: I would say that being a mother makes running a business more difficult but I don't have any idea of what it's like to run a business without being a mother.
And if I weren't a mother, I wouldn't have a business.
So to me, being a mother and running a business go hand in hand. Because my business is primarily marketed as a baby care company, I think it gives me the perspective of wanting the best for my child which translates into how we market and connect with our customers.
Is there any one piece of advice you'd give to aspiring lady bosses?
Amanda Toth: Find your passion. Don't start a business thinking you are going to make it rich. It takes true grit and determination to make even the best products into a successful business.
It also takes so much more money, time and effort than you can ever imagine. Patience is paramount, even the little things will take longer than you expect but getting it right is worth it.
Everyone imagines that being their own boss is this wonderful thing but there is something to be said for the security of a steady paycheck and being able to leave your work at the door when you clock out. Knowing your family is housed and fed by doing your 8 hours at the office is actually pretty amazing.
That's is one of the reasons I'm not yet ready to let go of my career. I am a Taurus which means I need to feel stable and secure. Having a job with steady pay, benefits and a pension plan gives me those things without the stress of having to push more online sales or attend more markets.
What does the word “motherly" mean to you?
Amanda Toth: I think we all have an ideal definition, and it's not always achievable. We read books and blogs, research and ask questions all before babe even arrives. Most of the things we think we know about being a parent go right out the window as soon as that baby is put into your arms.
At the core of being a good mother, we should be loving and patient above all else not just with our children but with ourselves too. We are hardest on ourselves, but if we were to ask our children what being a good mother means they would likely give us a simple definition of love, kindness and patience. We all need to be reminded of that.
Being a good mother doesn't mean only the best organic meals, having the smartest kid dressed in the best clothes. I think it is time we get back to basics with our children, who often learn more from our example than from our teachings. Slowing down and showing them we are patient, demonstrating true kindness and unconditional love will give them a good foundation to grow into a good human being.
Get your own, no-nasties Bébé de Luxe here!
Haley Campbell is the founder of Beluga Baby and creator of the ultimate bamboo baby carrier. She is a regular contributor to Motherly and is an avid advocate for entrepreneurs, and for the new generation of mothers making the world their own.