Two Parents Turn $700 Savings Into a Million Dollar Business
When you think of a new baby, immediately we think “sleep deprivation.” Most parents have experienced sleep issues with babies or toddlers, but one Texas couple took matters into their own hands and invented a solution to their daughter’s sleep problem. After two weeks of utter exhaustion, Stephanie was desperate to help her daughter sleep (which also meant mom and dad could finally sleep!). When their hand-sewn invention worked like magic and their baby sleep 12 straight hours the first night (and each night thereafter), the Parkers knew they had something special.
The power mom and dad duo recently shared their inspirational story on the hit ABC series, Shark Tank, so we were eager to sit down with them and learn just how they did it – and what advice they have for other entrepreneurs.
Q: What inspired you to start Sleepingbaby.com and invent the Zipadee-Zip?
A: Sleepingbaby.com and the Zipadee-Zip began out of necessity ... for SLEEP! Our daughter refused to sleep without the tight fit of the swaddle, because her startle reflex would jolt her awake preventing her from sleeping. After trying multiple products and tricks to get her to sleep to no avail, I sat down at my sewing machine and made the first Zipadee-Zip. Our daughter Charlotte slept 12 hours the first night she tried it! 🙂
Q: Can you describe the first days of sewing each Zipadee-Zip by hand and what it was like to start a new business?
A: If I'm honest, I'm a HORRIBLE seamstress! Ha! I literally learned as I sewed! The sewing machine I used to make the first Zipadee-Zips I sold was an old machine that I paid $35 for when I was in 8th grade...but it did the trick and regardless of how they looked, babies were sleeping...so parents were talking! This business was an answer to a prayer that I would be able to stay at home with our little girl. I never in my life desired to own my own business, or even thought it was possible. I just knew how to work hard and do everything in my power to help the sweet moms and dads whose little ones weren't sleeping. My husband has been so helpful when it comes to pushing me to try new things to help support and encourage our growth. Our business wouldn't be where it is without his involvement as well!
Q: You've done extremely well and started with only $700 and have sold to tens of thousands of people. What is your best piece of financial advice for entrepreneurs / small business owners?
A: Make sure you have proof of concept before spending a bunch of money on manufacturing your product. Try your product or service out on friends, family and small local vendor fairs to see what the response is before you invest a lot of money to start your business. We spent $700 to get our business up and running and were debt free within the first week because we had already tried and tested and perfected our product on a small scale first. We only spent the money we had made from Zipadee-Zip sales to fulfill orders so that we weren't getting in over our heads. We knew in time we would be able to get a manufacturer and stop sewing Zipadee-Zips by hand; the key was to wait for the right time.
Q: What's even more astounding is that you grew your business by word of mouth. What is the key to successful word of mouth marketing?
A: We try to treat our customers the way we would want to be treated! Our emails to customers are more like a conversation than a short answer and we genuinely care for our customers and their babies, and we truly want them to succeed and get sleep using our product. We also have a wonderful Facebook community of moms, many of whom I've grown close to through the challenges that come with being a momma. We never pretend like we’re perfect and have it all together, and we're not afraid to say it...and I think people relate to that.
Q: As parents of two small children, how do you balance running a successful company with family?
A: This is a challenge for every mom regardless of what she does! I do my very best every day to just “be” with my kids, and my husband and I are a team and work together to make it happen! We also have recently hired a friend to help with some of the workload and she is FABULOUS!
Q: Now, we must talk about your experience on the hit ABC series Shark Tank! First off, congrats! What was your experience like and would you recommend other businesses to go on the show?
A: It was an incredible experience and we made a deal with Daymond John! The deal was for $200,000 in exchange for 20% equity in our company. The Shark Tank producers were so fabulous! 🙂 Once the show aired we nearly sold out of inventory – thousands of orders were placed. We also got over 10,000 new Facebook likes practically overnight. Plus, the best part was the outpouring of emails, praise and support we received. Staying true to our business values – we spent hours replying personally to each person who emailed. I would absolutely recommend other businesses to give it a try!
Q: How did you prepare for Shark Tank?
A: I honestly felt like we were preparing for the Apocalypse! Ha! We beefed up our website in hopes of it not crashing, we did our best to have as much inventory as possible for when it aired and we switched our email system to a more organized platform to create better work flow. Before pitching the Sharks, we thought of any and every possible question we could get asked and we practiced our responses. The most important thing is to KNOW YOUR NUMBERS!
Q: What is some of your best advice for other companies who are on Shark Tank?
A: I will say it again... KNOW YOUR NUMBERS! Also, if you are serious about getting a deal, don't go asking some crazy amount that is unrealistic because otherwise, you will go into the tank and they will talk all about your valuation and nothing about your business.
Q: On a more personal note, what does your family do for fun?
A: We are pretty goofy when it comes down to it! We go to a trampoline park nearby and jump until our hearts’ are content! We also go for lots of walks at our nearby park as a family.
Q: How has your family and personal values impacted the success of your business?
A: Our faith in God is the chore of everything we do! This business started one day when I was in tears at the thought of going back to a job I didn't love while our little girl went to day care and I opened my Bible to this verse: “To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ever ask or imagine, by the power that is at work within us through Christ Jesus… To Him be the glory throughout all generations forever and ever! Amen.” -Ephesians 3:20-21
It was that verse that gave me the confidence that if I placed my hope and trust in Him, he could do truly amazing things... and when I think about how far we've come in such a short time, God is the one I give the credit to! 🙂
Q: What is the best part about being a mom / dad inventor?
A: Being able to have ideas and implement them! My husband Brett is an out-of-the-box kind of thinker. I love to design fabric prints and the ability to take our ideas and bring them to fruition is incredibly rewarding!!
Q: What are the top three most important qualities that parent inventors must have in order to succeed?
A: Perspective, Drive and Ingenuity. Perspective because you have to always remember why you started and never lose sight of that. For us, we always keep our faith and our family in perspective. Drive because you will need the motivation to push through some really big obstacles and still come out on top. Ingenuity because you will need to think outside of the box to overcome a lot of those challenges that will arise.
Q: What was your biggest challenge to date and how did you overcome it?
A: Our biggest challenge has been running a baby business in light of losing a baby shortly after we launched. God and the sweet customers who also have lost children helped me overcome that and move forward stronger than before.
Q: What is your best piece of advice to other parents who have an idea for a new product, want to start a business or currently are launching their own business?
A: Before spending money on it, make sure you have proof of concept by trying it out with friends, family, etc.
Q: Where can we learn more about Sleepingbaby.com and the Zipadee-Zip?
A: Sleepingbaby.com! We are also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram 🙂
To watch Stephanie and Brett Parker bring tears to the Sharks’ eyes – even Kevin O’Leary – click here to watch.