This month, we’re introducing some of America’s most inspiring entrepreneurs by interviewing all 18 finalists for this year’s Dream Big Small Business Awards. The awards program honors the achievements of some of our nation’s most remarkable small business owners and celebrates their contributions to the American economy. We’ll be spotlighting a different finalist every day between now and the Small Business Summit 2017, where the winners will be announced (register to attend here).
The company: Beau and Belle Littles
Who’s in charge: Rachelle and Paul Baron
Where are they: Loveland, Colorado
What they do: Make beautiful, reusable baby products
Q: How did your company get started?
Rachelle and Paul: Our son, Beauregard, is the inspiration for our business. When Beau was about 6 months old we were given our first reusable swim diaper. At the time we didn’t even really know that reusable swim diapers existed, but being frugally-minded people, we decided to give it a go. Rachelle hated it. Hated it. It was supposedly 6-12 month sized but it was SUPER tight around Beau’s little legs and we didn’t like how, if he did end up pooping in it, we could pull it off without pulling the poop all down his legs. Instead, we resorted to use disposable diapers, which neither of us really liked.
Beau loves the water, too. If that kid could live in a pool or a bath, he would. Because he likes water so much, we were blowing through disposable swim diaper and we got really tired of wasting that money. Sometimes we wouldn’t really even use it that much, but because it got a little wet, we’d have to throw it away. So we decided to keep looking for reusable options. In our search we really didn’t find any in the marketplace that we thought were good enough. We thought it would make much more sense to have a one-size-fits-all type swimming diaper rather than single-size ones like that one we were given. Further, we wanted it to be both cute and functional. Nothing like that really existed at the time so we decided to investigate making some ourselves.
Q: How did that initial idea become a business?
One thing led to another and it went from just having a few cute swim diapers for Beau and his little friends to eventually manufacturing and selling reusable swim diapers. In July of 2015, we launched our very first product on Amazon called the Nageuret Swim Diaper. The word Nageuret (pronounced nah-jour-ay) is French and roughly means small/little swimmer.
We were absolutely blown away by the reception of our swim diapers. People loved them just as much as we did, and they started selling really, really well in a very short amount of time.
Q: What barriers have you faced while building your company and how did you overcome them?
A: Tons of barriers. This was the first physical product based business that Paul and Rachelle ever started together. Paul has started nearly a dozen other small businesses, however, all of them had been service-based businesses. Figuring out how to source our manufacturing and deal with manufacturing a physical product was and still is a huge learning curve.
Since the majority of our experience in business prior to Beau & Belle Littles has been in service businesses, managing inventory and cash flow are also challenges. We have dozens of products we want to launch and know can make millions doing so. But all of that takes money, which we don’t have. We are pretty much bootstrapping this business and have taken very little outside money along the way.
Q: What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur?
A: Meeting Shark Tank investor and entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran, appearing on the Rachael Ray show, and Rachelle being featured in Forbes magazine – those have been some of our highlights.
Q: Tell us about your company’s role in the community. How do you use serve your hometown?
A: We are a socially conscious company and are heavily involved in our community. Paul has been a member of Kiwanis serving the youth of Northern Colorado of the past 3 years and has volunteered with the Thompson Valley School District’s entrepreneurship program for the past 2 years. This year two of the teams he mentored won 1st and 2nd places in the end-of-year pitch competition winning $1,000 and $500 respectively to help fund their businesses.
We are also devoted to helping children and their parents out of poverty by donating 5 percent of our profits to Compassion International, and we support our local House of Neighborly Services through volunteering and fundraisers. And we recently released a limited edition print in partnership with former U.S. Women’s National Team (soccer) star Lauren Holiday, where all the proceeds from the sales will go to the charity she and her husband, NBA star Jrue Holiday, are starting, the Full of Grace Foundation. They will use the money donated to help fund Cystic Fibrosis research.
Q: What does it mean to not only have created your own job, but to also create jobs for others?
A: I love this- it makes my heart smile. We love the idea of growing larger so that we can provide even more jobs and better jobs locally and in the future. Paul has this crazy idea of being like the Guinness family in Ireland, the way they provided amazing jobs for Irish workers and were trailblazers in the area of employee healthcare and benefits. Paul also really wants to bring 100 percent of our manufacturing to Northern Colorado, and we want to provide free, on-site child care, healthcare packages, and free marital counseling for all employees, because we have benefited greatly from marriage counseling.
Q: What would you do if you won the Dream Big Award’s $25,000 grand prize?
A: We have been developing several different products over the last year and have had them in prototype-phase, and they’re nearly ready for manufacturing. When we’re selected as the winners, we will use the money to launch those products into the market to help grow our company even more.
Q: What’s your best advice for other small business owners who want to Dream Big?
A: Failure is not fatal. In fact, failing is a necessary part of success. Know when something you do is a learning experience and when you need to press on. Failing and being a failure are two different things. The only way you will be a ‘failure’ is by capitulating and giving up. Mind you, there are times you have stupid ideas that you need to give up on. But the drive to succeed – you should never give that up.
Piggy-backing off of the failure thing, you absolutely need to be doggedly-committed to succeed and find people who have done what you are trying to do before (or similarly successful people) and listen to them. Never quit. Go all in, if you ‘try to succeed’ you won’t be successful. Success needs to be your only option. You must make it your Plan A and there is no Plan B.
Third, be a continual learner. Know that you’re not perfect and know that even if you are the best in your field, you can still be beaten by a hungrier, more agile startup. In order to succeed and stay the best, you need to be a perpetual learner.
And finally, instill the above in your team. Create leaders who create leaders and inspire others to do likewise. No great company is ever a single-person show. It’s all well and good if you as the owner can do the above three things but just because you do them doesn’t make you a leader. You have to make a conscious decision to instill these values into your people, nurture them and help them be their best selves. Your goal should be to positively impact every life you touch.