UPDATE May 25, 2013: Susie’s Shark Tank appearance on ABC will repeat May 31.
UPDATE May 14, 2013: Susie’s writing a How-To book on how she became a Mompreneur and why you should too.
By Pamela Burke/February 20,2013
I am always fascinated by someone who takes a speck of an idea and turns it into a viable and exciting new product. I ran across just that person while watching Shark Tank, a program on ABC that finds and decides whether to help entrepreneurs with their crazy dreams and unique inventions. Susie Taylor (@SusieTaylor13) and her husband, Stephen, appeared on the show this month with, of all things, a child’s bib.
“You may not know HOW to do it, but if you take the first step you will figure it out along the way.” Susie Taylor
A bib, you say. What could possibly be new on this baby garment front? It took an entrepreneurial mother of two who had a couple of messy kids on an airplane trip to come up with a new take on this age-old product. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
Susie’s company, bibbitec (@bibbitec), has gone from five sales a month to 50 a day. For the first time her office is not underfoot but outside of her Florida home. I had to find out more about Susie’s passion for invention and what might be next in her pipeline of new products….
EYE: Were you an inventor before you came up with the “ultimate” bib? Did you ever think you could be a “mompreneur” as they are calling you?
SUSIE: No, I was a full time stay-at-home mom with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Penn State and a Masters in Classical Theater from a conservatory in London. I taught fitness and organized fundraisers in my spare time every now and again and was president of the PTSA.
EYE: Did this idea for the bib literally dawn on you on that long messy plane ride in 2008?
SUSIE: YES! I was on the plane, and it was a disaster. I purchased all these items to help with the trip, and at the end of the ride, I still had two sticky kids and a bag of laundry. I noticed that Stephen’s shirt was wiping off clean with a wipe and said to myself why can’t our baby products do the same. I was not taking this trip again until I found something that actually worked. When I couldn’t find it, I began to design it.
EYE: How unique did you want this bib to be? One website, ZukaBaby, lists 33 ways to use it.
SUSIE: I just wanted it to work. At first there were all these wire edges and magnets and a button-up pocket, but then I just did the old KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) and created the design which I eventually had patented. The bib is stain-resistant, made of non-toxic material and is fast-drying. It is reversible so that the kids stay clean no matter which side is being used.
“…there has been no question of how and where I will build my products and sell them…online!”
EYE: How did you go from the idea to actually making it for the marketplace? Was that a difficult process?
SUSIE: I had a lot of help along the way. My husband helped with legal stuff and my aunt helped create the first batch. My sister and friends went to holiday shows with me and slowly, but surely, I knew it worked and that people loved it. After a few years with my manufacturing lined up, I spoke with a big-box store.
They hated the fact that it lasted so long and did so many things and asked me to reduce the quality and take it to China. Since then there has been no question of how and where I will build my products and sell them…online!
EYE: How did you happen to go on Shark Tank? Was that important for you to do?
SUSIE: I emailed them.Yes, it was very important. It made my goal easier.
EYE: Did you get great advice there? I saw where they wanted you to lower your price.
SUSIE: Yes. The “sharks” on the show, Mark Cuban, Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran, were super helpful. They basically confirmed that I was on the right track. And we are following through with all of their ideas one by one.
EYE: Was there ever any doubt that it would be a success? The Shark Tank team ultimately decided it wouldn’t invest in your company.
SUSIE: I never knew for sure that I would make money, but I never doubted the product. I really had my eyes on being on Shark Tank. I was watching the show every week for years, and I was growing my business from their advice. Being on the show was a huge success in my book. Having answers to their questions and standing up for my belief was it for me. Now, we all have fun seeing the sales come in from across the country.
EYE: What was the breakthrough moment where you knew the business could be successful?
SUSIE: It was during the commercial break after our spot on Shark Tank. Sales started and haven’t stopped. I would say we are officially a business due to our appearance on that show. We asked for $40,000 and in two weeks after Shark Tank have sold up to $31,000.
Moms and dads across the country understood what I was dealing with when it came to all the bibs that didn’t work. As Daymond John said, I needed to educate people about bibs and I did!
EYE: Are you still looking for investors?
SUSIE: Not now as we have proven our business model works and we are going to continue to build upon our direct to consumer/online model. This allows us to keep our quality high and control over our brand for now.
I suspect we will need a partner if and when we look into a retail or Amazon direction as that is a totally different business from what we are developing.
EYE: This is a family business. Your husband works closely with you. I saw a video of your son making boxes. Does that work well?
“What is most important is that my kids know we are building a family business.”
SUSIE: It works and we adore each other. My hope was to have a simple company that my family could be part of. It was stressful running a business out of my house, especially when it served as the main headquarters of a thriving company. What is most important is that my kids know we are building a family business. They see all the hard work and the persistence it takes, and I am convinced we are being good role models.
EYE: I read where someone said these should be mandatory for kindergarten classes. Do you hope to get into a mass market like that?
SUSIE: The bib was picked up by a few schools. They have had them for years. In fact, when I called one school up after a year and asked if they wanted to reorder, they said no. When I inquired why, they said the original ones are working great! I can just imagine how much money schools and parents would save if they had bibbitecs.
EYE: What has been the toughest part of this whole process?SUSIE: Great question. I am not a linear thinker so I get distracted easily. Focus was a killer for me. I started to work on getting focused by eliminating everything else I was doing that was taking me away from my family and bibbitec. That was super hard.
I loved acting and events and teaching fitness, but I knew I had to choose one door to go through or else I wouldn’t get to the next level and grow as a person.
EYE: You are creating jobs for people. Do you hope to get large enough to employ a lot of people, especially women?
SUSIE: I hope to have a direct sales force that is made of moms in the very near future! The seamstresses in the factory are women whom I hope to give more and more work to. It is important that my product is made in America.
EYE: I see where you want to expand to all kinds of products. Are you ready to handle this expansion? Tell TWE about some of them.
SUSIE: I hope to have a clothing line made of basic outfits for moms so they can look great no matter what. The dress I wore on Shark Tank was one of mine, but I have to stay focused and build my brand on our bib.
EYE: What’s your next step with the business? Do you have to be careful not to grow too fast or is that a concern?
SUSIE: Yes, we have to make sure we don’t run out of product. We went from five sales a month to 50 a day! I hope to slowly build a loyal customer base that returns to us for all their messy situations.
EYE: What do you tell other women when they have a burning idea?
SUSIE: If it wakes you up in the middle of the night, start to do something about it. When people say they are too busy, I say, “I had to find time inside my busy days with my kids, and over five years, just by scrapping together a few minutes here and there, I have something I am very proud of!” You may not know HOW to do it, but if you take the first step you will figure it out along the way.
EYE: Thanks so much, Susie. Wishing you great success. For more information about your bibs, our readers should check out bibbitec.
I must share this video of your six-year-old son, Mason, making a game out of building the bibbitec boxes. Now that’s teamwork!