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What does it take to go from business idea to lady boss?


This new column features an entrepreneur, who happens to be a mom, each week—walking us through the process of how you too can take your ideas from dream to reality.

If you missed the article featuring Rachel from Rags to Raches, a crazy-popular kids clothing company, on how she got her big idea, you can read it here. This week, we’re discussing the second step every entrepreneur needs to make on her journey: Testing and prototyping.

Testing and prototyping a new product can be a grueling process.

Yet designing a product that people love—and more than that, a product that people buy—is one of the most important parts of creating your business.

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One entrepreneur who owes her success to prototypes and testing the market is Lorene Mah, founder of Glitter and Spice—a baby accessories company that makes stylish teethers for both mom and baby to wear. A stay-at-home mom turned entrepreneur extraordinaire, her products have been featured in Vogue, Glamour and Harpers Bazaar. She’s also attended the Academy Awards and the Emmys, gifting her products to celebrities, and been awarded 2016’s Award for Best Small Business in British Columbia.

Her prototyping process is one that any new business owner can learn from—testing demand in small batches through social media posts and then measuring the interest against real product sales.

And it all began when Lorene’s youngest child started teething at just two months old.

After growing frustrated with the lackluster options available, and on the hunt for stylish teething jewelry, Lorene decided to make her own—by starting small, at home, with 100% food grade silicone that she initially handcrafted herself.

Her instinct—to combine an elegant aesthetic that appeals to moms with a much-needed product to help baby, turned out to be the key to her success. But it’s her openness to trends, iterations and feedback that has helped grow the business.

Lorene’s commitment to early prototyping and testing paid off: in the span of a single year, she’s grown her monthly sales to over $25,000 per month with minimal spend on marketing and advertising. In fact, within one month of business in 2016, Glitter and Spice exceeded the entire previous year’s worth of sales. “Word of mouth is so important in the baby industry. Moms really talk to one another so if you get your product right, you won’t have to spend much on advertising.”

I sat down with Lorene recently to chat find out what she can share with her fellow lady bosses and aspiring lady bosses. With a huge generosity of spirit she dispelled some profound insights about the importance of testing and prototyping, what life as a lady boss looks like and how motherhood shapes the way she does business.

What did the first iteration of your product look like?

They were very simple teething necklaces. I had two styles, one used geometric silicone beads and one used round beads in a gradient pattern. They were very simple and classic; I wanted to focus on the colors. It was a monochrome and more modern than other teething products, and then we started adding wood to it.

How did the production process go at first?

I’m a stay at home mom, so I started working at night after the kids went to bed. It started out as a couple of hours doing it in my bedroom. There’s this little ledge where the window is and I literally had my beads and string set up there by the window. I literally stood there, made necklaces and watched TV. It was very casual—nothing serious.

We definitely started small!

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What were some challenges you had in creating the initial set up for production?

After a while I realized, okay, I can’t stand for hours on end. Little by little it started taking up more spaces of our house. It just kept growing and growing!

Would you say to start a business that you need to embark with a lot of overhead like an office or a storage facility?

Honestly I never invested more than $100 into the business, and that was for the initial supplies.

I said to myself, “If I don’t sell anything at all I still need to be happy.”

Turns out it took off! Other moms were looking for teething jewelry that didn’t force them to abandon fashion. I reinvested what I’d earned back into the business as opposed to using it like a salary and I was able to place larger and larger orders for our materials.

Everything grew organically, even our logo! I held a contest on Instagram for a free necklace, and what came of it is the logo we have today. Making it work is about being resourceful and asking people for help. I’m thankful that we have so many generous and talented people and that I didn’t have to spend very much to get things going.

If you can, I would recommend growing organically. It’s not necessarily always possible though, I understand that. Depending on your business sometimes you do need to invest to get everything set up.

What did you focus on in terms of differentiation?

For me, the way I see it is that everyone has a different style. So my goal was to be able to have as many styles and colors as possible, and even to have the option to customize ,so anyone looking for teething jewelry could find exactly what they were looking for. I wanted to have a large breadth of products to meet as many customers’ needs as possible.

Testing new product categories became very important for us.

What really put us on the map is when we started offering the teething necklaces that toddlers and children could wear. When we started testing those we were quickly approached by Harper’s Bazaar. They wanted to feature our children’s teething jewelry in their magazine because it was different, it was something new.

Look for that when you’re considering how to design your product. Stay unique, stay creative.

You always have to be innovative – always keeping on your toes.

Have you tested a product that has failed?

Absolutely! We had a teether that held three different teething toys. It was funny, it had a great response on social media but the sales weren’t there to back up the hype. So it ended up being one of those things that just died out. It was one of the harder products to make as well, so the lack of sales coupled with the difficulty of manufacturing made it an easy one to mark in the “failed” folder.

When you’re testing new products you really need to be attention to whether or not its generating revenue.

Creatively, what were you inspired by next and what came of it?

We are constantly looking for new inspiration. We strive to be original and have something that’s exclusively ours.

When we added in wood to our teething necklaces it was because we wanted something a bit different. And the response to that was really great. So we are riffing off of that success and creating custom wooden teethers—not necklaces—in a few custom created shapes.

When you find something that works, design-wise, it can be a good idea to test out other iterations of a similar product. It’s a great way to get existing customers to come back too.

Did you do any consumer testing or focus groups?

Yes—I highly recommend running small focus groups—even if it’s just a group of your friends. I’m the type of person that I always need someone with me when I’m shopping because I just can’t decide—I want everything!

Fast-forwarding to now, what new styles or products are you working on and how is the prototyping process going?

I mentioned we were prototyping our new wooden teethers, and testing out a new manufacturer at the same time, which is always hard. There’s a lot of back and forth trying to convey the vision you have in your head. To transform that idea into a final product, a perfect product, there’s just so much work that goes into that.

For example, the first prototypes I got back of the wooden teethers were two times too large! We ended up finding a new manufacturer because there were just too many things that they let slip through the cracks. When you’re choosing a production facility, attention to detail is so important. And always trust your gut. If you don’t think your current manufacturer is a good fit, spend the time to find someone who is. Your brand will benefit hugely in the long run.


Don’t rush through this process. People have the tendency to rush because they want to get the product out there. But that’s your reputation on the line. Do you really want to send out something that’s not perfect? A lot of people make that mistake.

How important would you say confidence is in creating a product line and starting your own business?

You have to believe in what you do. And how you view your company makes all the difference. Perception is reality. If you are confident about what you do, people pick up on that.

I always dream as big as I can, and so far it’s all happening according to how I envisioned it.

How does being a mother affect the way you run your business?

It does in a big way. Everything in my life revolves around my kids. Everything I do is because of them. So it’s hard to imagine what it would have been like without them to do this. I mean, I probably wouldn’t even have done it at all.

The whole reason I started Glitter and Spice was because of my son, my second child. My first baby, Emma, was super good teething-wise. But when my son was born, he started teething at two months old. I went on a hunt to see what I could find for him and to my surprise there wasn’t a lot out there. Noah also had problems focusing while nursing—he would be all over the place. So I wondered if I could create something that would address both problems.

A necklace could function as entertainment as well as something that soothed his gums.

I mean, I didn’t invent teething necklaces by any means.

But I knew that other moms would want something they could wear that was stylish.

And now, many of our customers don’t even have kids and they still buy and wear our necklaces. That’s the biggest compliment to me.

I work a lot harder than I would without my kids. There’s more on the line.

Part of it is chasing balance. It makes you work harder. It pushes me to do more so I can get more. More time with the kids, more success with the company, more everything.

And I want to make something that my kids are proud of, something that they can take over one day.

Is there any one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring lady bosses?

Human nature is about perception. If you’ve got 50,000 followers on Instagram versus a brand with 3,000, people automatically think, “that must be the original” or “that must be the highest quality brand.” So that’s the mindset that I approach everything with. Whenever we were featured in a large media publication I would use that notoriety across all our communication channels.

Look at the big picture. It’s not about instant results. Think big, dream big, and you’ll get there.

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Is there anything cuter than adorable hairstyles on kids? We love when little ones look put together and a chic hairstyle is the icing on a cake.Mamas have upped their game and are delivering trendy, inspo-worthy looks beyond basic ponytails.

We get that creating no-fuss hairstyles (preferably ones that don't require toddlers sitting more than 10 minutes) isn't exactly stress-free and shelling out cash for a stylist isn't something we'll spring for. But we're all about easy styles that we can practically create with our eyes closed. Say hello to getting out the door faster! To be fair, there are a few here that are a tad complicated, so you'll want to screenshot them and share with your mama friend who is a master stylist.

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To help you nail the best kid hairstyles, we've compiled a list of 41 cool hairstyles for little ones from Instagram:

Pigtail buns

This classic style never gets old. If you're concerned about it being too light, loosen it up a bit by adding volume at the roots.






Criss-cross braids

Add a touch of style to a traditional braid.






Top knot

When rushing and don't have time, just throw up their hair in a top bun.



Side braided ponytail

After a few hours on the playground, braids tend to end up on the side of their heads, so why not create it into a style?



Cornrows

We're not going to front—cornrows are tough to create. But if you can get it, it's a style that will last weeks. Need help? Check out these YouTube videos.






Waterfall braids

To add a little more pizazz to a regular braid, braid hair on the side and loosen it a bit at the root.




Triple buns

A bun is probably the easier hairstyle a mama can create, but throw in a dash of style by adding two more bun. Create the look by securing buns from the top of the head to the nape of the neck.








Bun + bows

Add a bow for instant fun.









Lifestyle

When the Coronavirus (COVID-19) started making headlines in early 2020 the expert advice was simple: Don't panic.

This week the CDC warned that the outbreaks of the virus will very likely happen in the United States, but it's important to know that officials still don't want parents to panic, they just want us to be prepared.

"We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad," the Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, told reporters during a news briefing Tuesday. "It's not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen," Dr. Messonnier said.

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It is totally normal to read this and be concerned mama, but there are several things we need to unpack before we let our anxiety overwhelm us.

Here is what you need to know about the Coronavirus response in the United States:

Top doctors are preparing for this

As the virus has spread rapidly overseas America's top doctors have been monitoring the situation. In not quite two months' time 80,000 people have contracted the illness and fewer than 3,000 of those people have died.

In the U.S., 53 cases have been confirmed (most of those were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan or people who caught the virus while traveling overseas). There have only been two cases of person-to-person transmission on U.S. soil, according to the CDC.

The CDC has more than 1,000 professionals working on the response to this virus, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, epidemiologists, veterinarians, laboratorians, communicators, data scientists and modelers.

"CDC staff members are working with state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments and other public health authorities to assist with case identification, contact tracing, evaluation of persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19, and medical management of cases; and with academic partners to understand the virulence, risk for transmission, and other characteristics of this novel virus," the agency states on its website.

And while there have been delays in implementing Coronavirus testing measures in the Unites States, experts are working to resolve issues and make testing more efficient. As the New York Times reports, the health and human services secretary "told a Senate panel that federal and local health departments will need as many as 300 million masks for health care workers."

In other words, the experts in the United States are preparing to fight this virus and they want the American public to be prepared, too.

This could impact school, work and daily life

That's why the CDC is telling us to get ready, not to cause panic or anxiety but just to set the expectation that life could be disrupted by this virus. "Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing," Dr. Messonnier said Tuesday.

She says schools may have to close or otherwise adjust to an outbreak and students may have to start doing tele-schooling online. She also wants businesses to start preparing to hold meetings remotely rather than in-person and to encourage telecommuting during any outbreak. Community activities like sports and church may also have to be canceled or modified.

As the New York Times reports, "Scientists don't know who is most susceptible to the new coronavirus. Children seem less likely to be infected. Middle-aged men seem to have been disproportionately infected, according to some studies."

This could be really disruptive for families

It is true that the scenario Messonnnier is outlining could be really disruptive for families. No one wants this to happen, but if it does have to happen it's a good thing we are getting the heads up.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for possible interruptions to daily life:

  • Talk to your workplace about any plans it has for operations during an outbreak.
  • Speak to your child's school or childcare provider about how it plans to operate in a worst-case scenario.
  • Ask your doctor for an extra prescription of any medications your family needs, just in case an outbreak makes going to the pharmacy not possible.

Here's how to protect yourself + your family from the Coronavirus

The CDC does not recommend that we all go buy face masks. Face masks are only recommended for people "who show symptoms of COVID-19...[and] health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)."

Instead, here's what we can all do to avoid the illness, according to the CDC:

  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe."

We know this is serious and kind of scary, mama. But please, don't panic. Know that pandemic experts are working to keep your family safe. According to the CDC, the "National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators are working on development of candidate vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19."

On Tuesday, President Trump said the coronavirus is "very well under control in our country" and "is going to go away." The health experts who work for the government are doing everything they can to prove the President right, but they do want the public to be ready in case it doesn't go away as fast as he (and all of us) would like.

News

For nine months, your mother was all you knew.

Before I held you in my arms, your mother held you and never let you go.

Before I sacrificed time for you, your mother gladly sacrificed her body.

Before I consoled you when you were upset, your mother consoled you with just the beat of her heart.

Before I comforted you when you were restless, your mother comforted you with just the sound of her voice.

Before I could do anything for you, your mother gave everything for you.

Your mother is the reason I hold you today.

Before you were even a twinkle in my eye, you were in your mother's heart. Your life, your safety, and your very existence depended on her. Something I'll never be able to repay.

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It will take a long time for you to understand the weight, the depth and the immeasurability of your mother's love for you. But someday, when you have children of your own, you will understand what I now see so clearly.

So, I'll hold you tight. But I'll hold your mother tighter because my love for you grows the more I understand the measure of a mother's love.


This essay was previously published here.
Life

What would bath time be without rubber duckies? Probably not as much fun—but also a whole lot cleaner, according to a study published in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes.

That's because it turns out those squeaky toys are far from squeaky clean thanks to “potentially pathogenic bacteria" in four out of the five bath toys examined by researchers.

For the study, Swiss and American researchers looked at the biofilm communities inside 19 bath toys collected from random households as well as six toys used in controlled clean or dirty water conditions. They found that all of the examined bath toys “had dense and slimy biofilm" on their inner surfaces. What's more, 56% of the real-use toys and all of the dirty-water toys had fungi build up. ?

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Although the researchers note exposure to bacteria and fungi may have some benefits, the strong existence of grime in bath toys is still concerning. They note, “Squeezing water with chunks of biofilm into their faces (which is not unexpected behavior for these users) may result in eye, ear, wound or even gastro-intestinal tract infections."

Besides tossing all your bath toys, what can parents do?

The researchers say more experimental work is needed. But, for starters, it doesn't hurt to remove water from the toys after usage or give them a good, regular dunk in boiling water. The researchers also said they would like to see more regulations on the polymeric materials used for many bath toys.

There is, however, one simple solution—it just comes at the cost of rubber duckie's squeak. “In fact, the easiest way to prevent children from being exposed to bath toy biofilms is to simply close the hole," the researchers say of toys like this water-tight duck. “But where is the fun in that?"

[A version of this post originally appeared April 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

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