Mothers only want the best for their babies. As such, it is not surprising that the coolest and most practical products for babies are created by mothers.
Mother Jeanne Roth, an entrepreneur, and daughter Leslie Smith, an elementary teacher, teamed up to form L’il Darlins, LLC to create must-have accessories for moms, infants and toddlers. They offer a wide variety of products such as BibARoo™, Burpee Cloth, Burpee Bouquet, Hoodie Bath Towel, Sweet Dreams pillowcase, Love My Cozy, and Kidz ApronAll.
We interviewed Leslie Smith, the daughter in the L’il Darlins team, about starting and running the business:
What inspired you and your mom to start your company L’il Darlins?
My three little girls were the inspiration behind L’il Darlins. As a Mom, I was looking for high quality, practical children accessories that I knew my kids would grow with. Our first product, the BibARoo™ filled all the requirements!
What was your first product? How did the idea for this product come about?
Our first product, a full body bib for infants and toddlers, called the BibARoo™ was and is still our most popular product. The BibARoo™ was an idea my mom and I had when my oldest daughter was an infant (about 6 yrs. ago). She was eating baby food and most of it was ending up on her tummy or lap! My mom and I looked at each other and said wouldn’t it be great if there was a bib that covered her whole body?! It was that moment that we were on a mission to find a full body bib. Unfortunately the ones we saw either looked like a blanket or were just not fashionable.
We put our heads together, and my mom, being the master seamstress that she is, worked on our prototype of a full body bib. Once we had the design perfected, we tried it out on my daughter and it worked like a gem! She not only looked adorable, but it protected her clothes from food stains and spills! All of our family and friends wanted one for their kids or as gifts. It wasn’t until I had my twin daughters, 18 months later, that we decided to market our BibARoo™ and startup L’il Darlins, LLC.
At what point did you think that you have a great business in your hands? Why do you think your products resonate with moms?
We knew we had a great product when we would take my girls out to lunch or dinner and had complete strangers asking us where they could get one of our unique bibs! I think our products resonate with moms because they practical, affordable, and trendy!
What was the toughest part of getting the business off the ground?
The toughest part of getting our business off the ground was finding a manufacturer in the USA that was within a reasonable distance and one we could trust would produce quality products.
How did you finance the startup of the business?
We personally financed the startup of our business.
Working with my mom is the best! We tend to compliment each other very well because she has startup business experience (she owned a luggage store and a bakery) and I was a teacher so I am very creative & organized. She is also my best friend so we know we can say anything to each other and be completely honest with one another. My Mom is in charge of manufacturing and design, while I am in charge of marketing and sales.
How are you bringing your products to market? Where can folks buy the products?
We currently have a fabulous manufacturer in Trenton, NJ called Harris Manufacturing Inc. They are reliable and produce quality products! You can find our BibARoo™ mostly on the East Coast at Shop-Rite Grocery Stores and in some local boutiques in PA. In a few months, we hope to see our BibARoo™ in Acme Markets and Wal-Mart!
What were the challenges you faced in convincing chains, stores and other distribution channels to carry your products?
The biggest challenge when facing a major chain store to carry your product is proving that your product is like no other. I’m always asked by buyers, “What makes your product better than the rest? and Why would moms want to buy your bib than any other bib?” You have to be prepared to make your product sound like it’s the only one that can fulfill the customers need. Also, by building our product’s “resume” over the last few years has been crucial. You want to be able to tell a buyer that your product has been in so and so magazine, on this television network, in so and so newspaper, etc…It’s very important to have that press when selling your product to a buyer.
As a mom of 3 girls, how are you balancing the demands of a growing business and your family?
As a mom of three, and owning L’il Darlins has been a challenge but I am so lucky to have a husband who supports what I do, as well as other family and friends. We have definitely had our ups and downs but it’s what keeps us motivated!
How do you see L’il Darlins in the next 5 years? Are you planning to develop other products?
I see L’il Darlins’ BibARoo™ on the shelves of every Wal-Mart, as well as in the baby aisle of many major grocery stores. Our first focus was boutiques but as the economy has shifted, we too must change and redirect our focus. I think that is very important when running a business…you must be able to adapt to change and be willing to step back and rethink how you can continue your success. As of right now, we do not plan on coming out with any new products. Currently, we have 6 and may even scale down some so we can focus on the ones that are selling best.
What advice can you give other women who want to start their own businesses?
If I could give any advice to women starting their own business it would be the following: Be willing to change your business plan to succeed, mistakes are learning experiences-not failures, become certified by WBENC (organization that supports minorities and women in business), network/network/network!