In episode 21, Lauren shares her experience founding Life in Play – from idea to Kickstarter campaign to profitable business. She shares the highlights challenges along the way and how she accomplished this while starting a family.
This episode is also available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio.
Lauren is the Founder & CEO of Life in Play, a family-friendly fashion company. Life in Play sells a product called ToteSavvy, which turns your designer bag into a diaper bag. Prior to founding Life in Play in 2014, Lauren founded LHC Couture, a bridesmaid dress company, and before that had worked as designer for bebe and Levi Strauss. Lauren is also a mom to three kids under four!
Founding Life in Play
- Was pregnant with first child and could not find a fashionable diaper bag. Found that regular fashionable bags lacked the organization system necessary.
- Sketched an idea for adding removable pockets to her bag, sewed a prototype and used it. Realized other parents could find this product useful as well.
- At the time, was doing LHC Couture and hand-sewing all of the bridesmaid dresses. Knew she didn’t have time to sew ToteSavvy products too.
- Realized she could have one SKU manufactured and spend her time on building a business, marketing, etc. rather than creating the product by hand herself.
- Spent a year vetting the idea, launched in 2014 with a Kickstarter campaign.
Learnings from the two companies
- The two are completely different.
- LHC Couture – spent too much time manufacturing herself, also wasn’t focusing in on one key thing that she and her customers could hold on to.
- With ToteSavvy it was a simple product, much easier to find our niche, find customers and explain to them why it was going to be so useful for them.
What’s next for Life in Play
- Launching three new products in late 2016/early 2017.
- One is a Handbag for Totesavvy to go inside, essentially the diaper bag she had initially wanted.
- Using customer feedback to shape product roadmap.
- Considering doing a bag geared towards dad as well.
- Moved forward with manufacturing after Kickstarter campaign.
- Didn’t fully research some certifications needed within the baby space.
- Had to scrap some parts from the original order and manually replace all of them.
- Now are much more rigorous about triple-checking before ordering any parts or materials.
- Raised $35,000.
- Expected pledges to just roll in, but had to work for it. Friends, family, then eventually people they didn’t know pledged.
- Had a few pieces of press form mom & style bloggers – this was very helpful
- Tip: start PR push at least a month ahead of time. Digital publications were interested in featuring them, but by the time they could work it into their content calendar, the campaign had ended.
- Incentives for pledging – the product was the main incentive. Also a few other prizes e.g. the ability to name the product, video with song thanking pledges, etc.
Ending Partnership with Co-Founder
- After deciding to take the prototype to market, realized it would be helpful to have a co-founder – asked a family friend.
- The relationship didn’t work out. Ended up going separate ways.
- This experience has helped her better prepare for going into other types of agreements- knows what questions to ask and is smarter in decision-making.
Fully consider every benefit and potential concern prior to jumping into a partnership.
- Has two employees now. Everyone wears a lot of hats.
- Lauren typically handles finance, product development, photography, graphic design, web design, logistics, and distribution.
Key area she had to learn
- Photography – decided to save money doing photos themselves.
- Initially would spend hours shooting, hours editing.
- Have learned a lot about how to photograph this product, to get people to notice the features.
- Last year were organically placed on a gift guide on Vogue.com.
- Didn’t know they were going to be featured. Another brand tagged them in a post on Instagram about it.
- Website traffic and social channels had spikes during that time. Also put it in their marketing materials now.
- Hit this early in year 2
- People starting finding them organically and orders increased significantly.
- Haven’t take on any funding – sustained by their revenue.
- Able to spend marketing dollars where they count.
Working for self vs. established company
- Pro = time flexibility
- Con = amount of time spent working
I’ve had to accept not getting everything done in one day or even a week.
Work + family
- Working on the business with a new baby was tough, and it still is.
- Lucky to have family nearby, mom helped with first daughter so Lauren could work on the business.
One important lesson I’ve learned from being a working mom is to fully separate work life and home life.
- Twins were born right when Life in Play started gaining traction. It was tough but I was able to maintain the business because of great childcare.
- She had assistants helping with kids, was able to set aside time to focus on work with breaks in between to spend with the babies.
- Husband is also very hands-on.
Tips for others considering starting a business with a family
- Before trying to balance work life with home life you need to think about what your goals are.
- Guilt is a huge factor. Understand what will lessen the guilt (e.g. always being home one hour before bedtime,)
Whatever those goals are, strive to achieve them 90% of the time.
- The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is taking the first step.
- You might fail, but you’ll learn from the failure and the next time will be a success.
It’s better to give it a shot than to wish you would have.