Time Out for a Lesson from a Mom with a Mohawk

My son has a big personality.

The kind that got him sent to the principal’s office five times that first week of kindergarten.

The kind that caused the bigger kids in the neighbor to pick on him when he was six. “Because,” as my neighbor told me in front of him, “he’s obnoxious.”

In 2nd grade, his big personality led to rounds and rounds of testing. ADD, he’s not. A frustrated, highly intelligent, spatial learner, he is. Given that schools traditionally cater to verbal and linear learning, his frustration in school is continuing to grow.

Now he’s finishing up the 3rd grade. This year, I spent considerable time and energy trying to get my sweet, happy but frustrated boy to restrain himself. I’ve prayed that he’ll finally grow up and there will be no more notes from teachers about how he’s a disruptive class clown who just can’t sit still for very long.

I’ve told him to try harder to be quiet, to fit in, to stop being so troublesome. You know, to be like everyone else.

Then today happened.He strummed too loudly, stuck his tongue out, and slid across the stage on his knees.

My son had his year-end guitar performance. While the other students had their eyes trained to the music sheets in front of them, my son donned a red wig and hopped all over the outdoor stage. He strummed too loudly, stuck his tongue out, and slid across the stage on his knees to rock it out as he’s seen real rockers do in videos.

 
He strummed too loudly, stuck his tongue out, and slid across the stage on his knees.

He had the time of his life.

I did not. I noticed some of the other parents sitting at the picnic tables shaking their heads and rolling their eyes. I could feel my body shrinking as if I were trying to hide. I turned my head in embarrassment and accidentally caught the eye of another mom. She looked a lot like me and was dressed similarly, too.

She could have been me. Except that she had a Mohawk. Her bright, beautiful blonde hair was shaved at the sides and the remaining strands were sticking straight up in the air.

What struck me more than the unexpected Mohawk was that her son who was waiting for his turn on the stage sported the exact same haircut.

Then, that beautiful rock star Mom who was so perfectly in sync with her son, smiled at me.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Years of struggling with my son and for my son all faded away into that one moment of clarity. My job isn’t to make my son fit it. It’s to help him stand out.

And my son’s job is to grasp life and shake it up. Hop around on its stage and live beyond its fullest—just as he is, not as I want him to be.

Instinctively, I know it’s not going to be easy or quick. We’ll have to work together to figure out how to make his bigger-than-life personality coexist in a world that values fitting in and behaving as expected.

As an entrepreneur, I fully understand doing what is easy or expected in the business world isn’t always the only way, or even the best way.

But it took a Mom in a Mohawk to make me realize that lesson is true in raising kids, too.

It’s likely my son will never be easy or quiet or expected. And while I doubt I’ll be shaving my head any time soon, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I Gave Myself 15 Minutes to Be Upset

When I received the notification from Kickstarter that my crowd funding project didn’t meet their guidelines, I put my head down and cried.

Yes, I admit it. I very unprofessionally cried. For 15 solid minutes.

I need funding for my new project, the Stikitty Base. It’s a product that completes my Stikitty System and it’s something that I know millions of cat owners around the world need and will love. After being rejected by the banks, the angels, and now Kickstarter, though, I thought I was out of options.

Every successful mompreneur I’ve ever met is tenacious. She has to be. I had to be, too.

Every successful mompreneur I've ever met is tenacious. She has to be.

Every successful mompreneur I’ve ever met is tenacious. She has to be.

After wallowing for as long as I would let myself, I wiped away my tears and started to get mad. I couldn’t be the only project to be rejected and they didn’t give me an explanation. Maybe they just don’t like pet products, I thought. So I Googled, “why did Kickstarter reject my project.” I found a really cool biomedical company that was creating a product that could help millions of patients. Their project was rejected by Kickstarter and then ended raising over $50,000 on Indiegogo.  The more I looked, the more “rejected” projects I found. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason–all of what looked like really innovative projects and companies were from different industries, had different funding needs, and were from different parts of the country.

Feeling much better about my new pet product, I did much more research on crowdfunding platforms this time. I realized there were many more options than I thought. I chose Indiegogo because the platform gave me a lot more flexibility in terms of how and whether I would receive funding.

I have been live for four days now! http://igg.me/at/stikitty

It’s been fun and hard and exhausting. I’m getting hundreds of referrals and even more site visits so I know people are interested and following the campaign. We’ll see if that translates into funding! Wish me luck…

The Path that Led Me to Crowdfunding

I have this idea for a base for my award-winning product, the Stikitty.

The Stikitty is a cat litter mat fashioned after a cleanroom tacky mat. These mats sit outside cleanrooms and workers step on them to ensure all of the dirt and gunk from their shoes are removed before they enter the sanitary environment. Not long ago I accidentally spilled kitty litter on one and realized it gripped cat litter like nothing I’d ever seen.

A product idea was born! Knowing how much cat litter mess bothered me, I researched to determine if there would be a market for my sticky cat litter mat. As it turns out, the majority of cat owners report that cat litter tracking is the number one headache of owning a cat. Further research showed that many cat owners were not happy with the current cat litter mat options.

Cookie with the Stikitty

Cookie with the Stikitty

Encouraged, I had the Stikitty manufactured and packaged and it is now selling via retail pet shops, online merchandisers like SkyMall and Amazon.com, and my own Web site. My customers and potential customers tell me they like the way my product works, they’re just not thrilled with the way it looks.

So I went back to the drawing board and designed a base into which the Stikitty could slide. This base would be made of a waterproof material that is safe for cats and appealing to their humans. I’m choosing animal prints as those are very hot in the pet industry today!

Stikitty System: One of the World's Most Innovative Cat Litter Mat Systems

Stikitty System: One of the World’s Most Innovative Cat Litter Mat Systems

With the Base and the Stikitty (now acting as a Refill for the Base), I’m creating one of the world’s most innovative cat litter mat systems.

But to do so, I need funding. Having been rejected for more traditional funding–multiple times–I decided to check out crowd funding. This is where everyday individuals donate small amounts of money to help entrepreneurs launch their initiatives.

I had heard of Kickstarter before so I went to them first. I filed my patent application, filled out the online forms, and hit submit to have my project approved.

It was rejected.

“How much rejection can a person take,” I wondered.

(Sneak preview of my campaign as described in the next post:http://igg.me/at/stikitty/x/3229527)

Funding: Plan B

I allowed myself some time to be dejected after being rejected for a bank loan.

High Risk, Small Business--Yep That's Me!

High Risk, Small Business–Yep That’s Me!

My dream of creating a stylish base to extend the performance and looks of my popular product, the Stikitty, wouldn’t die though. I had heard of crowd funding at that time, but my eyes were set on angel financing.According to many experts, angel financing is perfect for high risk, small business entities that need funding but are too small for the venture capitalists and too risky for the banks. Yep, that sounded like me!

So what are angel investors? Think Shark Tank, but for the real world. These are typically wealthy individuals who like to invest in small companies, but are first and foremost business people. They’ll take a chance on you but want a return for their money–typically in the form of a percentage ownership, and they often want a return of 5-10 times their investment within 5 to 7 years.

In Austin, TX, where my company is headquartered we have several networks of angel investors. The advantage of a network is that entrepreneurs can pitch to several investors at one time.Before approaching any of the networks, I did my homework–literally. I took Kim Lavine’s Academy Course on “How to Raise Angel Financing.” I dusted off and refreshed my business plan, perfected my pitch sheet, and prepared my pitch presentation. Then I practiced, practiced, practiced.

The network I chose to pitch to had several phases of the funding process. I made it past the video pitch. Then the screening pitch and even the general pitch. My cat litter mat, the Stikitty, and I even made it to the final pitch phase with three other hopeful entrepreneurs.

I admit I felt a little ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong; I had a great story. The Stikitty was doing well with online sales and had been picked up by three of the top 6 US pet distributors and was in retail stores throughout the US. I had generated just over $50,000 in retail sales for 2012. And, I had a new idea that could be patent-protected.

However, I was up against three technology entrepreneurs; two had already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in earlier rounds of funding and were asking for millions of dollars to continue their businesses. In a tech town like Austin, it’s hard to find an investor that gets excited about a cat litter mat over the latest tech gizmo or mobile app.

In the end, the angel network chose two of the tech entrepreneurs. They invited me to come back, though, when I generated more than $100,000 in sales and needed “real money.”

Did I have it in me for a Plan C?

Where Does a Mompreneur Go When She Needs Funding?

What's a Mompreneur to Do When She Has a Great Idea and No Way to Fund It?

What’s a Mompreneur to Do When She Has a Great Idea and No Way to Fund It?

What’s a mompreneur to do when she has a great idea and no way to fund it?

If you’re like me, I started at the bank and asked for a SBA loan. I had just come off a good run in SkyMall where my Stikitty sold over 700 units. I made enough money to buy more inventory, but didn’t have enough to do any additional advertising.

And, I had a great idea for a new product. Something that would extend the performance and the appeal of the Stikitty. Better yet, it was something I could patent.

But I needed money.

I had tapped out my own funds, and those of my friends and family, with the launch of the Stikitty.

So I went to my business bank and applied for a small business loan, to be backed by the Small Business Administration. (Side note for mompreneurs: the SBA doesn’t actually loan money to entrepreneurs. They offer protection to the bank in case the entrepreneur defaults on the loan. It’s a way to make it less risky for banks to take a chance on entrepreneurs).

My banker was fantastic. He did everything he could to help me get the loan. Unfortunately, what he couldn’t do was create cash flow for me. Before banks will give you a loan, they want to see that you have enough cash flow to pay back the loan. Of course, if I’d had cash flow, I wouldn’t have needed the loan!

My sales from SkyMall were great, but I hadn’t started another run with them yet as I was building back up my inventory. Despite my proven potential, I didn’t have immediate cash flow.

Rejected, I went to Plan B.

Advice for Mompreneurs: Motivation to Launch Your Company

YoAdvice for Mompreneurs about Launching Your Companyu’ve done your market research, set your time and dollar budget, and are ready to launch your company.

So what are you waiting for?

It’s scary, isn’t it? All entrepreneurs have been where you are right now. Eager and excited to take the plunge; deathly afraid of failure. When writing my book, Think. Create. Sell., The Insider Secrets Your Best Friend Would Tell You About Entrepreneurship, I asked other entrepreneurs what advice they’d give their best friends about launching their companies.

Here are a few of the best responses; I hope they help you gain your motivation:

What would I tell my best friend if she were thinking of launching a product? I would first ask her three questions: Is there a need for your product? Is there a market for your product? Would you use your product? If she can answer “Yes” to all three, I would encourage her to move forward.

Kathy Baker
Founder
Vanity Fixes, Inc.
http://www.bralief.com

My best friend is also my pastry-chef, so she has heard all of this already, but what I would tell her about launching a product is: Go for it! Take every skill you have and figure out how it can help build your business, come up with an amazing, unique idea and get out there.

Mari Luangrath
Founder
Foiled Cupcakes
http://www.foiledcupcakes.com

Why Would Anyone in the World Want My New Product?

[tweetmeme]One of my favorite things about being an entrepreneur is coming up with new ideas for products. I’m constantly seeing great ideas and opportunities at every turn.

Then It's All You Think About for Days

Not many of them stick, though.

When one does, I know I have to pursue it. It’s like when you see something at the department store, struggle with the decision a bit, and then decide not to buy it. Then it’s all you think about for days. That’s when you know you really want it.

I have an idea that just won’t go away. 

So I’m giving in.

I’m following my own example from What I learned from Negative Market Research and I’m starting from the negative and questioning why anyone in the world would want my product idea.

If you have a moment, please share what you think via a short survey:  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/87NX9T3 .

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