How one mother started a business to improve on the baby bib

Dawn Howe discusses how she navigated the early stages of her baby bib business.

Dawn Howe saw an opportunity for feeding babies in a cleaner way

Dawn Howe saw an opportunity for feeding babies in a cleaner way

Messy Little Thing evolved quite naturally. It was very simple: I came across a problem and found a solution. I designed a baby bib that works, keeping babies clean and enabling happy carefree mealtimes. While weaning my messy daughter, every bib I tried failed to hide the evidence of a mealtime massacre: surely soiled cuffs and ruined t-shirts were not my problem alone? Surely I couldn’t be the only new mum who stood exhausted at the sink, scrubbing clothes?

The ‘Long Sleeved Weaning bib’ solves this issue as food and juices can’t get down the sleeves or on to the baby’s legs. As my daughter grew, so did the Messy Little Thing range; I realised that by age one, kids don’t suddenly start eating neatly. So I created bibs for toddlers which includes the ‘Apron’ and ‘Lapkin’. I created a floor mat, using the same lightweight, waterproof fabric as the bibs, meaning these too can be washed and dried in time for the next meal.

So what have I learned? I could easily write a book of errors as long as a Thesaurus. But time and editing restrictions don’t allow for that, so here goes…

Strategy vs tactics

Know where you want to end up. Maintain a strategic overview, but remember that battles win wars. All of your battles should take you one step closer to your ultimate goal. A friend offered to conduct board meetings with me once a month, where in 40 minutes, I present the previous month’s results and review performance against quarterly goals. Six months on, I can’t tell you how helpful this is. I’ve created a standard report format as it’s important the report doesn’t take more than an hour to prepare (time is precious). Taking time to reflect helps me plan for the future – I am focused, productive and more effective.

Prioritisation

I’m a one (wo)man band – I do everything for Messy Little Thing. I design the products, source fabric, manage the website, the advertising and deal with the invoices. Managing everything can be overwhelming and at times, exhausting. Effectively prioritising can make the difference between a successful month and a wasted one. Don’t always deal with the crocodile closest to the boat!

Finance

That all-important word: money. The very early days were financially challenging to say the least. Watching a joint savings account dwindle is no fun, but having absolute faith and confidence in your product is paramount. I’m now at a point where the business is generating revenue (hurrah!), so I’m able to invest money back into the business when ordering new stock instead of constantly dipping into our personal account. I buoyed myself with the knowledge that even Branson made costly mistakes setting up Virgin Atlantic. And he seems to have done rather well because of it.

Advertising

I want everyone weaning a baby to know my bibs exist. I designed them so that my daughter can enjoy her food and not have me sighing whenever strawberries fall onto her top. Creating a positive relationship with healthy food from the start was so important to me. Messy Little Thing’s bibs do just that and I know other parents and carers will benefit from this too. I find Facebook a fantastic platform to advertise on and most sales come from this. But ranking on Google is key too; luckily, my background in Marketing has been a huge benefit in this respect. I’m very aware I’ve only touched the surface, but it’s an area I love and am keen to exploit further.

Success vs sacrifice

Expectation over realism: Everything takes longer than you think. Suppliers, prototypes, manufacturers, prototypes, contracts, more prototypes…. Just some of the things that eat up time without you even knowing! Murphy’s Law: whatever can go wrong will go wrong. I learned to add a conservative 25% to every cost and every timing. And the cruel irony is that you do all this, you take all this time away from your family, FOR your family. Finding that balance is key. I initially designed my long weaning bib in late 2013 but didn’t start selling until summer 2016. I became increasingly conscious of the need to balance my time with my family so there’s no question this impacts how long it takes to get things off the ground.

To summarise, the biggest ‘pain’ is definitely time management. I could spend hours on Instagram but the reality is, my sales do not come from this social channel so I don’t invest as much time on this anymore. I focus on striking a balance between hitting the short term goals to generate sales yet also reach the long term goals which will really drive my business forward.

Dawn Howe is the founder of Messy Little Thing.

Further reading on mumpreneurs

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