Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Mom Helps Babies Get a Grip

Mom Helps Babies Get a GripName of your company and URL?

Grippy Toes, LLC. www.grippytoes.com

Date started?

I first had the idea in January. I founded the company in February of 2011, and the website went live this November.

What is your product or service?

We make non skid socks for babies and toddlers. Most “non skid” socks only have a little non skid material and it’s usually in the form of a brand name on the sole of the foot. Our socks have a really cute design that covers the toes and ball of the foot. This is the part of the foot that is used to push off when walking. It also helps when babies stand or walk on their toes, which they do a lot. Our socks make a substantial difference in keeping babies safe from slippery floors.

Mom Helps Babies Get a GripWhy did you start your company?

My baby was standing and trying to walk at 10 months. All the experts agree that bare feet are better than shoes at this point in order for babies to learn to use their feet properly and to build the necessary foot muscles needed to walk. However, it was December, and our tile floors made her tiny feet icy cold. Socks were a good compromise; soft and flexible enough to allow the correct development, but still a warm barrier to the tile. Unfortunately, she would stand up and her feet would slide right out from under her, and she would crash down on our hard tile floor. She hit her head a lot, and it was dangerous and incredibly frustrating for all of us. I scoured the marketplace for a decent non skid sock, and just couldn’t find one that met all of my needs. Most didn’t have enough material on the bottom or it was in the wrong place. The others had rigid bottoms that defeated the purpose of not wearing shoes. I also wanted the flexibility to put shoes on over the socks if we went outside. I compared experiences with my other mom friends, and we were all having the same problem. It seems ridiculous that with all the baby accessories available, there was no solution. I decided I would just have my own socks made.

How was it financed ?

I received a loan of $3,000 from a family member. The plan was to have one batch made and see if it made a difference and if there truly was a larger market for it.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

I really like HARO (Help a Reporter Out). I’m hoping to get some national press from this site. I also met with an advisor from SCORE. I also received some help from The Hosiery Association, who put me in touch with a director for the Manufacturing Solutions Center in North Carolina. My state’s small business administration’s website also had some useful information.

Do you use Social Media tools like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or ? Provide exact URL of each

My facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grippy-Toes-Non-skid-baby-and-toddler-socks/244198195628153.

I’ve never been a Twitter user, but I plan to start soon.

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

I have no paid employees at this point, but I’ve been fortunate to have friends and family members who been very supportive and willing to help. I’m also incredibly lucky to be surrounded with people who have very useful skill sets. My husband is a design engineer who has helped me with technical drawings and some technology needs. One of my best friends is a talented graphic designer who created my logo and helped design my packaging. My father ran his own business and is a financial planner. He was a great resource for helping navigate through the government requirements, and helping to refine my financial strategy. A family friend was in the apparel business for years and had a lot of manufacturing contacts and some practical know how. My mother is a wonderful sales person and helped me work a trade show. And she and another great friend spend hours helping me physically package my initial order of socks, which had to be done by hand, in addition to providing moral support.

What is the best advice you never got?

Invest the time it takes to really find the right product. It can be intimidating and frustrating dealing with large manufacturers who don’t want to work with startup companies. It is also important to determine on the front end what product features are the most important to you. There are many, many compromises that have to be made, especially if you’re working on a shoestring, and it is helpful to know up front what you are willing to change and what you are not. If you don’t have this firm before you start the process, one decision can lead to another and you can end up pretty far from your starting point.

What almost killed your business in the start?

Finding a producer! I really wanted to offer an American made product. I finally found one family owned factory that was intrigued by my idea and was willing to work with me. Unfortunately, this 3rd generation business had to close it’s doors. Apparel manufacturing in America is pretty close to dead, particularly for infant socks. Navigating the world of overseas producers and getting a custom made product in small quantities is incredibly difficult and time consuming. The small quantity requirement was also really, really difficult, but was non-negotiable due to my limited budget.

What is the one thing that you did right?

I never gave up, even when it seemed like the smartest thing to do. I’m a full time, working mom, so investing the time in this project was very difficult. Even if I eventually fail, I’m happy I stuck with it. I know I’ll never have to look back with regrets and wonder what might have been. Also, I’ve seen my product work with my daughter, so I’ve know I’ve made her life a little bit better. I met one mother who wished she’d found my socks one week earlier. During one of her son’s many (pre Grippy Toes) falls, he chipped his first tooth. The feedback I’ve gotten from other moms tells me I’ve successfully solved this irritating problem.

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

I wasn’t prepared for dealing with the hundreds of tiny details it takes to start and run a business. Making every single decision from the product name, the packaging, every aspect of your website, which technology to use, how much to budget for everything, how to respond to customers, what your invoices will look like, etc. As a manager in someone else’s company, I never had to deal with making this many critical decisions. Sometimes you just want to make the big decisions and delegate all the infinite tiny details.

Are you currently in the black or red?

In the red, but I’m literally just starting out and still have most of my initial inventory.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

I give away a lot of demo socks! I’m just starting to do some advertising on Facebook and Google. I’m also putting together a press kit and reaching out to mom blogs. I have requested some advertising information from some small, local parenting publications, but those are probably out of my reach financially right now. I’ve also looked into submitting my product for various new product awards and seals of approval, etc. I didn’t realize how expensive that process could be!

What would make your business more “Successful”?

More customers! I really need to get better word of mouth and improve the way I’m using Social Media. Some national press would be great. I also need to get my product into some stores. I will be targeting some retailers in the next few weeks.

Mom Helps Babies Get a GripWould you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

I’d like to build it up for a few years and see what happens. I would like to expand my product offering and have a greater variety of socks in more sizes. I’ve discovered there’s a market for these socks for older kids and even adults. I’d also like to add some other clothing items. I have some ideas for some seasonal items, and a few other niche products. Ideally, I’d like to get a partner to help with some of the workload and some of the financing, but still keep the personal touch and passion that inspired the business in the first place.

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