Moms are amazing! And not just at being moms. We know plenty of mothers who are also savvy innovators and businesswomen, and we're in awe of what they do! We're getting up close and personal with them and finding out their secrets to success in our new Inspiring Mompreneur series. First up, Julie Pickens, CEO and founder of Boogie Wipes.
The Bump: Julie, how was your business born?
Julie Pickens: My business partner at the time, who was also a mom, put baby nose drops onto a wipe to get them into her daughter’s nose. She realized that if she did it that way, she didn’t have to hold her down while she was kicking and screaming! That’s where the idea was born. It worked and we took the concept, named it and quickly went to work on formulating it. That was in May 2008, and we hired a chemist, since we didn’t have that technical background but we knew how we wanted it to perform and work. We developed the product and by October that same year, we had our first shipment of wipes and started selling them online. By January 2009 we were selling in retail stores. It happened really fast, and it’s been wild since then! I keep thinking, “Okay, when it calms down, when it calms down…” but it doesn’t calm down!
TB: Did your kids play a role in the creation of the product?
JP: At the time my kids were aged 13, 9 and 2. (Now they're 18, 14 and 8.) We tested the product on them! Boogie Wipes were very helpful for my 2 year old. My older girls use them to this day use it take their makeup off. We stumbled on all kinds of uses we didn’t expect when we were developing because of trying our products on our own kids.
TB: Was it challenging juggling motherhood and starting a business?
JP: Yes, it has been a struggle. Being a mom is a demanding job, and it’s a challenge to be there for your kids and also make sure you have everything covered at work. When the business started, I thought, “This is great, I can bring the kids to the office with me,” and I really instilled a friendly workplace that embraced that. We hired other moms, we have flexible work schedules and people work around their kids' activities. It was super important to us to create a fun working environment and everyone got their job done because the flexibility allowed them to work harder and get their job done.
But for me, personally, it was hard. I took on the role of CEO, did the capital raises and sales and distribution, and it became demanding very quickly. So I did have to learn how to balance all of that. At times I did it relatively well, and other times it broke my heart. I had to, at times, miss things because the business was growing and it got demanding. One night, I stayed at the office until 3 a.m. When I got home, there was a note on the stairs from one of my daughters. It was about how I was an inspiration to my girls to follow their dreams and to do what they wanted to do. She said she knew that it was hard for me and that I was tired. She thanked me for going to as many of their events and activities as I could. She also said she wanted to be like me when she got older. I'll keep that note always.
Really, I think it’s a trade off. You do the best job you can. It’s not going to be easy; you can’t have it all. Sometimes you do feel like you let things slip, but in the end if you do your best, your kids really do see it.
TB: What three pieces of advice do you have for women wanting to start their own business?
JP: Number one, make sure the product or service that you’re putting out is something that really fills a need. Something that isn’t a “me too” product or service. Try to be unique and innovative.
Number two, always test your products. Run a focus group, do consumer testing. Talk to other experienced (and brutally honest!) people for feedback on what you’re doing and to validate your concepts.
And last — the advice that saved us: Take a step back and write a business plan. You need a plan, so you know what it’s going to take to make this business a success financially. That will allow you to make smart strategic decisions about how to move it forward. Ideas are great, and there are a million of them, but planning and making sure you have the back end capital and resources to make this idea work are so important. Sometimes people miss that boat.
TB: What has been your biggest challenge throughout the process of starting your company?
JP: My biggest challenge really has been keeping up with the growth of our company. It took off fast in the first three years. And keeping up with that growth can give you some sleepless nights. When you have the growth, you have to fund the growth and it can be really stressful! We’re in year six and we’re finally profitable and to a point where I’m not losing sleep every night. It’s a very long road.
TB: Biggest reward?
Learning! I started with what I thought was pretty good knowledge and background on business. But to get to where I am now, running this company has provided me with so much learning about how to work with people and how to give back to the community. That has been so rewarding.
TB: Looking back, is there anything you’d do differently?
JP: There’s a million things I’d do differently! But I wouldn't go back and change it because the mistakes provided great learning experiences for us.
TB: What’s a typical day in your life like?
JP: Disorganized chaos! I leave at 6:30 a.m. to take my high schooler to school, and I’m at the office until 5:30 or 6 p.m. two or three times per week. The other days I leave at 3 p.m. Both of my daughters are competitive cheerleaders and gymnasts, so they spend four hours in the gym a night. So I leave work, grab dinner at home or takeout. (We sometimes eat in the car or at the gym!) Once we’re at the gym, I get my computer back out and work while they’re practicing. My life is work and their activities, and I think most parents can identify with that for older kids — your life is ruled by their activities. We get home at 8:30 p.m., they finish up their homework, have a snack and then it’s off to bed by 10 or 10:30. I usually work again until 12:30 a.m. The weekends are different. I might answer a few emails, but I really try to focus the weekends on the family.
TB: How do you think being a mother makes you a better businesswoman?
JP: You have employees that need you because they need a job and an income. And they may come to you with personal issues. Being a mom, I have compassion and care for people and care about making my company a family. But truthfully, all those things have made me a better mom because I can model those work situations to the girls now. When they come home and tell me they’re mad at someone I can say, “Well what was their perspective and how can you work with them?” I have a lot more patience. As moms, sometimes we're, like, Patience, where is that? That’s what has helped me.