Every entrepreneur knows that no matter what, the world can sometimes seem like it’s against you. No matter how well you plan, how many contingency procedures you’ve created, roadblocks will inevitably threaten to derail you.
Ellen Diamant, co-founder of Skip Hop and mother of one (plus a labradoodle!), knows this well. In 2003, when she founded the company with her husband, Michael, she had no idea the challenges that lay ahead. It was an elegant idea: a modern, functional diaper bag that didn’t sacrifice fashion.
13 years later, Skip Hop is one of the most globally recognized brands for parents, babies and toddlers. Their products combine contemporary style with functionality; it is the next generation lifestyle brand for modern parents, offering a fresh point of view on everyday essentials.
And those roadblocks? She’s seen them all. Motherly recently interviewed Ellen and discussed 4 common roadblocks entrepreneurial moms experience, and shares how she overcame them.
Roadblock #1: No time
When I started Skip Hop with my husband, I had a new baby. So felt like I had no time to begin with. But the reality is that some of my work had to get done at night, and the work was the better for it. Sure, I had to sacrifice some of the things I loved doing in my free time. But, in the end, it was worth it. It’s all about finding a balance.
Roadblock #2: No money
Starting a business seems impossible without funding to begin with. But there are almost always options available. Crowdfunding via websites such as Kickstarter or CircleUp is a great way to generate capital, as well as buzz, for a truly innovative idea. And there are also more traditional methods, such as applying for a small business loan or getting funded by "friends and family."
Almost as important as obtaining your funding is not squandering it.
Instead of hiring expensive consultants for, let’s say, PR and advertising, reach out to friends to see if they can donate some of their time in exchange for some of your product or even an awesome dinner. Try to be economical in everything you do to keep costs down because, unfortunately, there will probably be no salary during your start-up phase.
Promoting via Instagram is also a great resource. It’s free and, if you get your products to the influencers, they can do thousands of dollars worth of spreading the word for you.
If you’re creating a business or product geared towards moms, use your network for a free focus group. Other moms love to share their opinions. You’ll just have to thicken your skin a bit because you won't always love what you hear.
Roadblock #3: No support
Some of your closest friends and family members can be naysayers. It’s important to let them know how much you love them and appreciate their advice, and then to just ignore it. If you have a great idea, go for it! If you feel strongly enough about your idea that's the first step.
These days, I think these there is more of an appreciation for women starting their own businesses, so people “get it” a bit more. But when I started Skip Hop, some family didn't really think it was going to turn into a real business—maybe it could be a good hobby . I was an art director with a really steady job and great benefits. To them, I was nuts to give that steady job up to start a line of diaper bags. Of course, now they proudly let me know when they see a product in the store or out and about.
Roadblock #4: Find & build your village
Instead of looking for support from people who don’t know the business world, I suggest creating your own support group and looking there. When I started my business, my husband and I created an email group called "Training Wheels." It was exclusively for new companies, like ours, starting up in the baby products industry. It was incredibly useful for bouncing ideas off others in the same boat.
Say yay to this "wild" 5-piece set! Now available in a playful Animal Toss pattern, our Forma Pack & Go Diaper Tote comes complete with an insulated bottle bag, changing pad, and two handy packing cubes for ultimate organization. Available at @babiesrus #skiphop #musthavesmadebetter #diaperbag #forma
More Motherly advice from Ellen
How do you make your mornings run smoothly?
Ellen Diamant: I don’t wait until they’re already here. I prepare the night before. When my son was younger, I made sure to lay his clothing out, pack his backpack, make his lunch; everything he could possibly need. Now that he’s a teenager, I don’t have to, but I still go over my calendar every night for the next day so I can mentally prepare. Doing what you can the night before offers several advantages, at least if you’re a night owl like me and don’t get tired. The big one is zero distractions, so you can get very zen about what you’re doing. It was during one of these nighttime prep sessions, struggling with a diaper bag that was ugly and not nearly functional enough, that I was able to envision the niche that Skip Hop would eventually fill.
The lifehack or tip that has changed my life. . .
Ellen Diamant: I travel often and with more electronics than I usually use, just in case (phone, computer, iPad, Mophie). Each demands its own charger, so I keep a separate bag filled with backup chargers – just for travel. This way, the bag stays packed in my top drawer until the next trip. Sometimes, I will catch my son looking for that little bag to snag a charger!
I also take photos of receipts, business cards and anything else that’s important but on a small piece of paper that’s easy to lose, so I don't have lots of scraps of paper on me that I need to worry about.
What superpower have you discovered as a mom?
Ellen Diamant: As a mom, I think the most important thing you can do is inspire your child to become an independent thinker who follows his dreams unencumbered by self-doubt. That’s not exactly running faster than a speeding bullet, but I think it’s just as impressive because it creates the kind of people who grow up to change the world.
This quote inspires me. . .
Ellen Diamant: Our company's quote, "must-haves made better," inspires my team and I to push a little farther when we create products for parents and babies. Is the product a must-have, and how can we improve on it to make life easier for parents, babies and toddlers?
To me, Motherly means…
Ellen Diamant: Being nurturing as well as inspiring independence. Surviving life with a teenager and enjoying every minute!
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.