It sounds so sexy … “I’m an entrepreneur; I make a product designed to keep babies safe.”
I repeated that sentence a lot last week as we launched the Smitten Sleep System at the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas. Come to think of it, that also sounds sexy.
The reality? Not so sexy. This week we’re departing from our regularly scheduled, parenting-focused content to give you a behind-the-scenes look at launching a new product with your two best friends.
So let’s pull back the curtain and talk about how the expo really went.
I have two co-founders, Kate the behavioral scientist and Amber the child injury prevention specialist. We were friends long before we decided (over a bottle of tequila, naturally) to bring Smitten into the world.
The show was scheduled to run in the Las Vegas convention center for four days, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. That’s a lot of days. Figuring we needed a fourth teammate to evenly split shifts, we called in reinforcements… enter my ever enthusiastic, always supportive mom, Susie, and stepdad, Jeff. We love Susie and Jeff. Susie is a pint-sized mama bear and our biggest cheerleader. Jeff is the steady rock that isn't embarrassed to wear a "Pipster" shirt proudly in public. They played taxi and kept us fed all week. Did I mention that we love them?
We arrived on Monday from all corners of the country. After a heart-stopping moment while the FedEx representative searched a beat too long for our booth materials, we had the SUV stuffed to the gills and we were off to the convention center to set up. The show covers 1 million square feet and has nearly 13,000 attendees.
Being a self-funded startup meant that we cheaped out and carried our booth into the expo piece by piece.
Kate, bless her, volunteered to carry the 40-pound awkward, giant box and promptly tripped over a roll of carpet in spectacular fashion, throwing the box and badly bruising her knee caps. She would tell you that's a pretty typical day for her. I would tell you she's not wrong about that. Thankfully that was the only major tragedy of the week. Being a startup also means that the three of us shared a hotel room. It’s a good thing I love these girls. We had a LOT of together time last week.
This was the first time we'd truly released Smitten into the wild, so we were super nervous about the reaction - especially from a community steeped in the "more is more" baby industry. Thankfully, Smitten was warmly received in both concept and execution.
The first day, everyone had appointments and press conferences and meetings … everyone but us. Rookie mistake, I guess. Luckily we were the only bassinet box at the show, and we had a corner booth in a high-traffic area, so word spread quickly.
By the second day, people started stopping by saying "I heard about Smitten and wanted to come check it out." The momentum only built from there. We had multiple "trend spotters" from major retail stores stop by and collect information and photos. The media/mommy bloggers were smitten (see what I did there?), too. Smitten will be listed in some of the top-10 best of show lists (stay tuned), which is incredible, given there were 3,200+ exhibitors.
The days were long. There were blistered feet, sore muscles and lots of terrible convention food (think ballpark food on its worst day). We had fancy dinner reservations every night. And cancelled them every night because we were too tired to move. Aside from hours and hours in the convention center, I vaguely remember watching the debate in my parents' hotel room one evening. So, no, being an entrepreneur (at least at this stage of the game) is far from sexy, but we had a blast and feel like last week is the start of something big for Pip and Grow.
Pip & Grow co-founder, Lauren Hughey has worked across the country developing strategic partnerships and building new programs for both academic and start-up organizations. Somehow (ahem, tequila) she has found herself caught up in the whirlwind of the baby world - and she's loving every minute.