Startup Spotlight: Ditch The Dummy

I remember the days of pacifiers…and my little Lulu was an addict. She couldn’t take a step without one in her mouth and one in each chubby little hand. And nighttime was the worst because she’d constantly knock them out of her crib and scream bloody murder, giving my and my hubby near-heart attacks from being shocked out of as deep a sleep as we could hope for with a very vocal baby. There were no solutions beyond tossing them into the trash when we’d had just about enough, which is exactly what we did. And we paid. Handsomely.

But now there is a solution! And it’s created by a company called Ditch the Dummy! The dummy is the pacifier, not you, by the way…

Penny Angela is the CEO of Ditch the Dummy and she had a plethora of sound bytes to share about entrepreneurship, motherhood, motivation, and potential pitfalls of creating a brand-new business.

1. Penny, what made you decide to delve into the world of entrepreneurship?

The reason I decided to delve into entrepreneurship was purely accidental. My husband and I fostered a beautiful 20-month old little boy called Joey. He was addicted to his pacifier. The only time it came out of his mouth was to eat.

Joey was a very shy little boy and could only speak a couple of words. We waited a couple of months before trying to wean him from his pacifier, giving him a chance to settle in, feel comfortable and with the minimal amount of stress.

Pacifier weaning Joey was horrendous! We tried just about everything, from cold turkey to losing it, nothing worked. Then a friend suggested poking a hole in one of his existing pacifiers. We did it, and it did work.

After a few days Joey just put it aside and that was basically that. He had effectively weaned himself.

Then purely by chance, I came across an article on pacifier weaning and how it can be harmful to alter your child’s existing pacifier, apparently pieces of silicon can become embedded in your child’s gums or even create a choking hazard. Basically the integrity of the pacifier nipple can be compromised.

Pretty horrifying!

But knowing this method does work, I thought if I could create a product for pacifier weaning along those lines, but with a manufactured hole, it would still work the same, but be totally safe.

I went online to see if there were any pacifier weaning tools available, and only found 1 tangible product, (besides books) a set of 5 pacifiers reducing in size. I sure this works very well, but it’s quite pricey, ranging from $20 to $30 depending on which site you made your purchase.

I thought that if there was a pacifier weaning product that could be retailed for around $10 including shipping, it would be affordable for most parents. I would definitely have bought it!

Hence, “Ditch the Dummy” was born.

I originally came up with the name “Binky Stop” but after research, found the word “Binky” was trademarked by another company, and so were most catchy pacifier names.

I was born in England, we call pacifier “Dummies,” and so “Ditch the Dummy” was it.

We are currently selling “Ditch the Dummy” from our website www.ditchthedummy.com, as well as on eBay and Amazon.

2. The number of aspiring entrepreneurs is rapidly growing, and everyone is looking for a way to click with their online target audience(s). Do you have any tips to share about how to connect with potential buyers?

Connecting with potential buyers is always going to be the hardest part of bringing a new product to market. Luckily with a niche product like mine, with a defined target “parents between the age of 20 and 40”, it’s a little easier to narrow down your target audience. I find Twitter and Facebook advertising to be my best source for customers. By joining lots of parenting groups on both these platforms, posting articles, blogs and ads regularly.

Website SEO is also an ongoing work of art. Pay per click advertising can be quite expensive so spending some cash on search engine optimization may be a must, if you’re as non-techie as me. I definitely recommend the Yoast Premium plug in for any website.

3. What are your top three tips for people looking to establish an online presence?

Top three tips for people looking to establish an online presence would be: 1. read lots of books on marketing strategy, social media and e-marketing and take plenty of notes. There’s also a huge learning source out there on YouTube – I found most of my social media advertising tips from an Australian YouTuber called “Lazy Ass Stoner”! 2. Get to know your competition, follow them, what are they doing that you can do better? Then do it. 3. Be prepared to spend hours and hours on your computer.

4. What is your favorite part about running your own business?

My favorite part of running my own business, is not that I don’t have a boss (in fact I do, it’s Me, and I’m a toughie). But I love that I can stay home and work. I’m here if my little boy gets ill and needs to stay home one day. This was a huge problem when I had my 9 – 5  job.

5. Did you have any big aha! moments as you launched Ditch The Dummy?

When I launched “Ditch the Dummy” I guess my big aha moment was my first sale! You just can’t beat that feeling.

6. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

I believe the top 3 skills needed for any budding entrepreneur would be, first – time management. I was all over the place at first, but now I have my days planned, I know what I’m doing, I no longer feel that I’ve worked all day and just spun my wheels!

Second would be delegation. You soon find out that you can’t actually do everything yourself. If you have family or friends who can help out in any way, don’t be afraid to reach out. This can save a lot of time, frustration and energy on your part. Let people know what your doing – the helpful tips will soon start rolling in.

I believe the third would be tenacity. You have to believe in your product and stand beside it 100%. You have to be as tenacious as a bulldog, your product is your chew toy. You need to keep shaking that chew toy to get it noticed. The minute you stop, your sales will too.

7. What have been some of your failures since launching Ditch The Dummy, and what have you learned from them?

I guess my biggest failure in the “Ditch the Dummy” launch was in the development of our website. I’m not at all techie, and actually got my website account suspended in Google Shopping. There were a lot of hoops to jump through to get it reinstated, believe me. There’s a lot more to a website than pretty pictures and a shopping cart, so do your research; make sure you have all your policies in place. Do not – I repeat do not, upset Google!

8. As a momtrepreneur, what advice can you offer other moms who are trying to launch a brand-new business?

As a momtrepreneur (We eventually managed to adopt Joey) I think the best advice for other Moms starting their own businesses would be to get a mentor or a series of mentors. At the very beginning of my journey, I joined Micromentor.org. I think I’m on my 6th mentor at the moment and still in contact with my first. Micromentor.org a free website where you can connect with mentors for all stages of your business, from creation to marketing to website SEO. These mentors are experienced business people who make themselves available free of charge and have a wealth of knowledge.

9. If you had the chance to begin your career again, what would you do differently?

If I had a chance to start my career again? Well, this is my new start! In retrospect, I should have done a huge pre-launch. I waited for my product to land in Miami before I actually did any marketing. I basically wasted quite a lot of time. I was just so worried about something happening to my product and not being able to fulfill pre-orders. Well, we did have a hurricane!

10. What motivates you?

Motivation? For decades parents have been snipping holes in their child’s pacifiers for weaning purposes without knowing the dangers and this needs to stop. We need to educate. This is my mission.

Every transitional period in a young child’s life can be pretty traumatic, for both parent and child. I hope “Ditch the Dummy” will make life just a little easier and safer for the 40%, yes, 40% of toddlers who have “Pacifier Addiction.” This is my motivation.

If you’re not motivated by your mission and/or your product, then maybe, just maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for your entrepreneurial success.

Check out Ditch the Dummy on Facebook and visit their website!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Doesn’t Love SWAG??

I’m a big “Shark Tank” fan. Love the way they refer to themselves as a venture capital firm on steroids. Well, maybe only Mr. Wonderful made that reference…in one episode. But it stuck with me…because it’s kind of true. =)

I love ALL the sharks. I think they each bring their own unique elements to the show and I’ve purchased more than a few products while the entrepreneurs are busy negotiating (read: sweating) the deals of their lifetimes. Quick hint…if you know you’ll be featured on “Shark Tank,” make sure your freaking website can handle the excess capacity! For crying out loud, that’s not the time for your site to crash from being pounded by prospective customers!!!

But I digress…

I came across a video clip of Mark Cuban’s 12 tips for entrepreneurs and while I don’t agree with all of them (specifically #s 10 and 11), most are extremely valuable and should be embraced.

My responses to Mark?

Swag is very much worth the money. Not because I’m a total logo-whore but because I know for a fact there are companies in Silicon Valley making money hand over fist and I’ve got their logo-embroidered golf hanging shirts in my closet.

Plus, LazerShark just secured $2 million in venture funding so…

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And never hire a PR firm? I beg to differ. While they cost a heck of a lot if they’re any good, they have the “ins” with folks who can get your company name out to the masses. Sorry, but nobody gives a crap about the founder of a company whose name hasn’t made it public. But given the right PR boost, the founder can write his/her own ticket.

Don’t worry Mark. I still love you. ❤

How To Land A Sale

People want to buy but they don’t want to be sold.

Words to live by for a sales person.  You want to establish a customer base but that takes time.  You have to nurture customer relationships because that’s how you become successful long-term. You don’t want to sell one product to one customer.  You want to sell lots of products to a return customer for many years to come.

But how do you do that?  How many times are you supposed to keep banging your head against the wall, trying to make contact with influencers? Surely a few unreturned voicemails means they aren’t interested, right?

Wrong!

There is nothing personal about a few cold calls and voicemails.  Make yourself stand out if you want to command attention.  That takes a bit of creativity and a lot of perseverance.

So say I’ve got a handbag business.  I want to sell buyers on the quality and marketability of my products so they want to feature the  collection in their stores.

These people get sold all the time, so how do I set myself apart as a newbie designer with no brand recognition or footprint to speak of?

The first step is establishing contact.  Pretty difficult to do as buyers are usually MIA.  But I don’t get discouraged.  I leave a message, introducing myself and my goal. I say I’ll follow-up with an email.  Surprise, surprise, after a week, no return call.

Time to execute phase 2.  I call again, only this time I don’t leave a voicemail. I stalk my prey over the course of a couple of weeks.  But alas, the buyer is still MIA. So I finally leave a message letting the buyer know I’ll be following up with a package including some marketing and press materials and a sample handbag.  I need to create a hook with this package to give the buyer a reason to call me back. But beware, this whole process can get rather expensive quickly so make sure you pick your targets wisely.  Choose the ones where you might have a shot if you’re sending product as a sample.  Make the packages personal – include handwritten notes, unique trinkets, anything to set you and your company apart from the competition.

About a week afterward, reach out again, via phone and email, and so on until you’ve exhausted your efforts or you get a return message.

This process won’t work all the time.  Nothing is ever guaranteed  But if you plan out your roadmap effectively, you have a real chance to make inroads with the people who can put your product in market and help you create demand that will hopefully translate into sales. And then maybe you can land in InStyle magazine too! =)

I’d Like To Join Your Anti-Aging Crusade, Mr. Thiel

Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist probably most known outside of Silicon Valley for his early investment in Facebook, is a billionaire on a mission to reverse aging.  According to Thiel, it is a category of innovation largely overlooked by investors.

Courtesy of VentureBeat

Courtesy of VentureBeat

Billionaire Peter Thiel Embarks On Anti-Aging Crusade

I’m a sucker for anti-aging technology.  If I had billions, you better believe I’d be investing.  Of course, I try every product I can get my hands on and few things really have an impact.  As an aside, I’m currently testing a series of products but I’ll reserve my opinion until I give it the full trial period.  Stay tuned…

I do prefer topicals.  I don’t love the idea of shooting my face up with fillers like Restylane or Botox or any others that may or may not have been approved by the FDA (because, does it really matter?).

There have been some innovations in the past year that look promising, although the “magical elixir” is still evading scientists.

I did come across a breakthrough that some are calling the innovation of the decade with regard to anti-aging.

Judgement: Anti Aging Breakthroughs 2014

Fractional Carbon Dioxide Laser Skin Resurfacing.  Yeek.  Doesn’t sound too comfortable.  But does it work? Because I’d suck up a little discomfort to look like I’m 20 again. =)

So how does it work?

Energy light makes tiny holes in the skin to target the deeper layers without causing extensive damage to the superficial layers.  As a result, the healing process is dramatically shortened and the surrounding healthy skin generates collagen and elastin to create a firm look.

Downtime is minimal and it’s pricey…at least for now.  But seriously?  It’s a small price to pay to recapture that youthful glow…for about 8-10 years.  Yeah, I can work with that.

The Flower Power Entrepreneur

Do you know what I absolutely hate spending money on?

Greeting cards.

I spend tons on cards for people that may be displayed on a counter for a couple of days and then casually get tossed into the trash.  Even the “discount” cards are still around $2.99.  And let’s not even discuss the dollar store cards.  Much cheaper but…scary-looking!  You know what I mean?  If you’ve ever seen one, we’re on the same page.

But a friend of mine recently formed a business that fundamentally changes the lifecycle of a card.

Channeling her passion for photography, she creates high-quality greeting cards featuring removable photos of exotic florals.  So not only are you presenting a card, but a photo that the recipient can display and enjoy long after the occasion.

Her website, www.flowerpowerphotocards.com, displays 13 different designs, reasonably priced at $2.75 per card plus shipping. The 4″ x 6″ photographs are mounted on fine card stock. The blank card measures 4.5″ x 6.25″ and an envelope is included.

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Nobody in their right mind would throw THESE cards away!

It Can’t Just Be Smart…It Needs To Be Vogue

It can’t just be a “smart” watch.

Because Apple would effectively eliminate and alienate every style-and-label-conscious consumer in its target audience.

Common objection to an iDevice gracing my wrist – Why do I need a smart watch?  I’d rather sport a Chanel J-12 or my Cartier Balloon Bleu.  I have an iPhone…with a super blingy case…I’m good.

Well, I guess Apple got the memo because the company recently added some big designer names to its payroll – Burberry Chief Executive Angela Ahrendts, Yves Saint Laurent’s Paul Deneve, Nike’s Ben Shaffer and now Marc Newson.

And the designs?

Let’s just say Apple should definitely see a positive ROI under the direction of their recent hires.

The watch designs combine fashion and function.  A selection of elements – from bands to faces to color, textures and metals – will certainly satisfy varied tastes of the masses.  Your watch can emulate your personal style – and still deliver on the smart part.

Check out Apple’s website for all of the combinations.  You can go as high-end as you want and select leather complimented with an 18 karat gold finish.  Or maybe you’d prefer something more sporty – go for the space gray aluminum and a more modular face.  The customizable possibilities are extensive.  There really is a style for everyone.

2015 should be a pretty lucrative year for Apple.   =)