Skip Hop’s founder talks 4 roadblocks to success, and how to overcome them

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

A photo posted by Skip Hop (@skiphop) on

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

A photo posted by Skip Hop (@skiphop) on

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

A photo posted by Skip Hop (@skiphop) on

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.

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.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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