Moms Supporting Moms ... in Business
Mom Inventor Interview: Elaine (Tan) Comeau of Easy Daysies Ltd.
This Award Winning Easy Daysies Magnetic Daily Schedule Kit show kids the "shape of the day". Use these great magnets for a single routine, like bed time or after school routine, or plan the whole day! This mom/teacher-created product, made with 70%
When (month and year) did you have your "aha" moment that became the basis for your business?
When I was pregnant with my second of three (2006) and thought that if I have been making visual routines for families in my classroom for years and for free, there must be a product here! I launched my first product 2 days after my third child was born.
Describe your moment, the problem you solved, or reason for starting your business.
Easy Daysies was created by parent demand. For the first 8 years of my teaching career, I had many parents ask me to make a visual routine for their child at home, similar to the one I had made for the front of my classroom, so I did just out of laminated paper. As an educator I had learned that 1 in 4 school aged children have anxiety, and having a visual routine helps children as young as preschool age helps them to be more co-operative, less anxious, and become more independent. Visual routines are very beneficial to children with special needs as well. Children have an intrinsic need to know what is going to happen next. After making these visual daily routines for so many years and for free, I did the research to see if there was anything out there like it, and there wasn't. So I decided to make a product to help kids have easier days and that is how it got its name, Easy Daysies.
How did you come up with the name of your product?
I decided to make a product to help kids have easier days and that is how it got its name, Easy Daysies.
What were you doing prior to starting your own business?
I was an elementary school teacher and mom of three little ones. I am just on a leave of absence from teaching right now.
How did your spouse or family react to the idea of you having your own business? Do they participate?
I am blessed to have the most wonderful, supportive, and talented husband. As much as I hope that I am his helper, he is definitely my best helper in every way! He encouraged me from the beginning and is now my partner in my business. My husband's photography skills and creative mind has helped me from product and packaging creation, to becoming my sound board and book-keeper! He even helps me respond to the countless e-mails we receive. My parents and sister, and my in-laws have been truly supportive and encouraging. They help me beyond measure too. They have helped with packaging and fulfilling orders, and most importantly, helping me with my three little ones by taking them to the park so I could go to a meeting, having them for sleepovers when my husband comes with me to trade shows. I am truly blessed and humbled to have such a wonderful family. My kids are sooo good. They are so used to living with boxes and boxes of Easy Daysies around them and have even helped mommy package too.
How long was it from the time you had your idea until you had your first sale?
About one and a half years.
What skills from being a mom or from your previous work helped you in your business?
As a teacher, I believe that I created Easy Daysies to be exactly what the parents demanded for in the eight years I made them for free. I saw the need for a solution to helping parents help their kids have easier, less anxious days. I saw frustrated parents of children with autism and other special needs search for schedules that they did not have to make for themselves and that were affordable, they needed something that was not just cut and paste clip art stuck by velcro that kept falling off. I saw the need for kids who were lacking confidence because they could not read and were frustrated, so I drew every illustration myself simple enough for non-readers of any age to confidently understand their day. Easy Daysies teaches kids the simple life-skill that completing a task is a reward in itself (when they shift the magnet/task from the "To Do" column to the "Done" side.
And finally, as a mom, I saw the need to help our children feel safe, secure and happy, in our fast paced lifestyles. As a mom, I hope that I am doing my best to help prepare my children with love, compassion and life-skills to make sure that they become confident and empathetic human beings in our world. Sorry for the long answer. But the point is, what I have learned from being a mom and teacher has made me aware that a product that you produce needs to be a solution to a problem that exists.
What has been your biggest challenge in business so far? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge, as a mom of three little ones and a working school teacher, while starting a venture like creating a product and selling it is the big huge learning curve. You learn very quickly how to balance your time or work until 4AM most nights. It helps to be very resourceful (thank God for Google!), and it helps to be a huge risk-taker (with lots of prayer!). But most importantly to the success of it all, is having a supportive network of people around you... family and friends. Believe me, it is nice to have a shouldre to cry on once in a while too!
What are some of your favorite business tools and/or resources?
Google! And Facebook is an excellent tool for networking and for free marketing!
What tricks or traps did you discover in your business journey that you would caution other moms to avoid?
Once you put your product out there, be ready for lots of strange and interesting contacts, from people telling you that it was their idea first and that you should be paying them royalties to people constantly telling you how to make your product. There is nothing wrong with advice and constructive criticism, but remember that a room of 50 people will result in possibly 50 view points. Go with your gut (and market research too :) ).
Who do you look up to, follow and/or admire in business? Why?
I am new to the business world (in my third year), but I watch a Canadian show called Dragons' Den. There are five venture capitalists on that show who are amazing self-starters. As tough as they may appear on TV, they each have amazing stories.
How have your revenues grown since you started your business? What helped the most? (Here you can phrase this however you'd like - year to year growth, actual sales figures, etc.)
I am in year three and still package all our products and orders off our kitchen table. In my first year that I launched my first product, my children were 5, 21 months old, and a new born, I just sold my product by word of mouth and sold only $12,000 worth of product, which was more than the $11,000 I made teaching part time. In my second year, while teaching and working on Easy Daysies between 11PM - 3AM, I sold about $25,000. And last year, we sold almost $70,000 worth of product. My profit has gone back to making the product and a portion has gone to International Justice Mission, a group dedicated to "helping kids have easier days" by freeing them from terrible bondage like child slavery and child sex trade.
What retail stores are you in? Do you have any advice for moms trying to get their products to retail shelves?
I walked into two local stores and asked if they would like to try selling my product on consignment because their was no risk to them, and the product was created by a local mom and teacher. Easy Daysies is now in about 100 stores in North America, I still have those first two stores and they are no longer on consignment. My stores are currently mostly independent stores with the exception of a few chain stores. Do not be afraid to cold-call, be friendly, polite and confident. You never know until you try!
What are your goals and plans for your business? What challenges and/or opportunities are ahead?
My goal to is keep building Easy Daysies up and hopefully get a licensing deal one day. My husband, children and I recently had the opportunity to go on that show I love so much called Dragons' Den (aka Shark Tank in the US). We had the opportunity to pitch my idea/product to the five investors and we were just amazed to have solicited a bidding war between all five Dragons. (See it here: http://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/2011/09/easy-daysies.html or here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7uuUu5_sNk) I am honored to have secured two of these investors. I hope now to take the manufacturing and fulfilling off my kitchen table and hopefully will get to go to bed before 3AM one day soon!
If you were mentoring a mom starting her business or developing her idea, what advice would you give her? What steps would you recommend?
If you are wanting to create and sell a product or service, make sure you do the research first. Research two things: 1) make sure that your product is not already created, because if there is a need, it most likely was created; and 2) make sure that your product or service is actually solving a need or a problem that exists. The worst thing is to spend a lot of money and time creating something that is unnecessary and then have people asking, " What on earth is this for?"
When you get time to yourself (if you ever do), what do you like to do that is unrelated to your kids or your business?
If I ever get time, I would LOVE to just be with my kids and husband, playinga game or having family movie night. It has been very hard to have quality time. Brace yourself for that. I just long to be with my kids. But I do love to cook and bake!