Mom Talk: I Built A Better Binky & Got On Shark Tank
Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano
Photography by Photo Courtesy of Nicki Radzely
Having a kid and being inspired to start a kid-related product isn’t exactly a new story. But taking that product and making it a million dollar business in under two years, not to mention landing on Shark Tank, is definitely less common. In today’s Mom Talk column, Doddle & Co. co-founder Nicki Radzely shares her impressive business story. -KHZ
I set out to build a business and I ended up creating a million dollar brand with a woman I didn’t know over Skype.
I “met” Janna Badger in 2015 over Skype after a mutual friend introduced us. I had come from pharma sales and marketing and Janna was an industrial designer and expat in Seoul. We shared an interest in motherhood, as we collectively had four baby boys, all under the age of four at that time and the restless desire to see if we could bring a beautiful and innovative pacifier to the world. Janna had dreamt up the idea after seeing a woman struggle endlessly while her baby continued to drop his pacifier in church, where there was no sink around to clean it. She thought: There’s got to be a better way.
It took a long time (from May 2015 until February 2017) over Skype to design, build, and launch The Pop. It was a process that to this day makes me proud, but also wince at the endless attempts to make a perfect pacifier that was safe and had this ingenious ability to pop when it dropped!
We launched on Valentine’s Day, 2017, which was fitting because we love this little Pop so much. After our launch, Shark Tank was in the cards and on the table.
Fast forward only 4 months after our launch in early June. I’m walking through the double doors to take my mark in front of the sharks and Janna is giving birth to her third child, a baby girl!
The experience was as intense as you can imagine. What you don’t see is the prep work beforehand. You study, talk to producers for weeks on end, and you design the presentation and setup all yourself. We made a video, searched for the perfect dress and shoes, and scrolled Pinterest for hair and make-up (admittedly). At that point, I wasn’t nervous at all because I had done so much work to prepare. Which of course includes practicing in your living room, watching episodes, and trying to figure out every weak point they could tap into.
The day before your pitch (if selected to go), you practice in front of the producers and executives. They open the curtain, you’re all dressed up, and voilà. I took my mark and then completely and utterly lost my voice and forgot my name! Literally, my name was gone. It was as if someone had asked me to recite a random math problem from my homework back in 1995. Yup, gone. I apologized for the nerves and decided to go back and try again. Took my mark and…nothing again. My name was gone. I went back to the hotel room and all I can think of is the fact that I will make a complete fool of myself of national television with millions of people watching. What had happened? Nerves happened. Sunk in and wouldn’t leave. Me, someone who thought she was confident and prepared.
If you’ve ever been up all night staring at a ceiling with a racing heart, you know how I felt. I couldn’t calm down and settle into sleep. I woke up with a headache and a full schedule of greenroom interviews to go. I got through the interviews, hair and makeup was done, and now it was go time.
They get your mic clipped on, tell you where to stand, and off you go. Doors open and you walk down a silent hallway without any of the theme music.
The only thought that ran through my mind was, “This show is about entrepreneurs and our journey. Doddle & Co is a special company and if you want a piece of it, then we need to make a deal that is favorable to both us. I’ve missed too many bedtimes, school pick-ups and play dates for you to take too big a bite out of my baby! You are just as lucky to have a piece of this company as we are to have you, so this needs to be good for both of us!”
The walk down the hallways for me was the moment that my nerves evaporated. For a peek, take a look here at how it all played out.
Fast forward a year later and like every entrepreneur journey, we came into more challenges. The resounding truth in all of this is if you are going to have a big vision, with it will come enormous challenges. Always a practice for whatever might be around the corner. In March I had a very scary near-car accident on a highway headed to Washington DC for a trade show. In April, JPMorgan Chase Bank closed all our bank accounts and credit cards, which paralyzed the business for over 20 days. Luckily through the media, Chase re-examined the closure and re-opened our accounts moments before our next product launch. The summer continued with personal challenges and some tough business decisions. All amounting to a new product launch and an improvement to our original design.
In June 2018 we launched the loveable Chew™, a pop-able teether! We are proudly carried at Nordstrom, Buy Buy Baby, Pottery Barn Kids, Anthropologie, A Pea in the Pod, Babylist, Maisonette—6 countries and coming to Europe soon!
Our Pop pacifier is now better than ever with a nipple that stays extended for a bit longer so little ones can more easily keep it in place. When it takes a soft tumble, it stays extended. When it bounces to the ground, it pops back!
Between Janna and I and our incredible team, today Doddle has crossed over the $1m dollar mark in revenue in the first 18 months!
We are mothers working from home, chasing down this incredible vision to make better baby products for the world. We are the proof that if you have something to share, grit and people believe in you, it will be possible. In fact it may actually come true. Sometimes the biggest challenge is to dream that big.
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