June 30th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Dragons' Den

Snugabell Travels the Road to the Dragons' Den Part III

Dragons' Den photo op!

Lately I've been thinking that we've been home from taping our Dragons' Den pitch for over six weeks now and about the fact that I haven't had the time to get to this blog post (and honestly feeling pretty guilty about it). We got home very late the day after taping (a Saturday) and then had to go get the girls the following morning. And then it was straight into a new week in which we presented to a panel at Small Business BC for The Successful You Small Business Awards - Business Growth Category and then BANG! Rebekah got marrried and went on her honeymoon for two weeks and I'm still not caught-up! Finally, throw in an order to our distributor for almost 1700 pieces just to keep things hopping!

Then I thought... "Hey, I'm actually doing you guys a favour!", because now you'll have six weeks LESS to wait until Season 6 of Dragons' Den starts on September 22nd and we all start biting our nails to find out if we made it to air.

So really, that was a good thing right? I said RIGHT? Ahem...

Without further adieu, here's the lowdown on our whirlwind trip to Toronto, Ontario and the fabulousness that was standing in front of Jim Treliving, Kevin O'Leary, Arlene Dickinson, Robert Herjavec and W. Brett Wilson to pitch "our little business". Although I cannot tell you anything about what happened after I stepped onto that set, I will tell you that we had a blast and would do it all again in a heartbeat!

Fairmont Royal York lobby

Now all the moms out there will know that "getting out of town" when you have (two) small children, whether you take them or not, is no small feat in itself. Not only did I have to pack for myself, but I had to pack for the business AND for both the girls (in separate suitcases no less as one was going to my sister's in Vancouver and one was staying with my Mom so she could still go to school). And I HATE packing. I tell ya, I was cursing Mike's name under my breath when he was all done in 10 minutes!

Our flight was at 7 am, so we ventured to be at the airport and parked by 5:30/6:00 am.  I didn't get to bed until 3 am. (I was packing, remember?) Do the math people. At least I was nice and tired that evening to help me adjust to Toronto time.

We flew WestJet for the first time and were pleasantly surprised by the friendly staff, the easy check-in and the fact that after booking the window and aisle seats on both legs of our trip, that we ended up with the middle seat empty (which was, of course, our plan, he, he, he). But really folks, ANYTHING is better than Air Canada, right?! We are planning to fly WestJet again when we travel to Vegas in October for the ABC Kids Expo.

Fairmont Royal York hotel

So we arrive in Toronto, on time, collect our bags and jump on their amazing transit system, affectionately known as the TTC, which after paying only $3.00, dropped us off in the shopping mall below our hotel - how cool is that?! Speaking of our hotel, we splurged and stayed at the Fairmont Royal York, one of the old CP hotels, and it was grand to say the least (we didn't splurge THAT much, the Dragons' Den had a corporate rate there). Look up and to the lower right for a couple of pictures of this fabulous old world hotel. We get up to our room, I texted Pandora La Glamme, our fabulous model, to make sure we were still on schedule for taping the next day and then we relaxed for a bit while I went online to find a nice vegetarian restaurant to check out for dinner.

the BEST veggie burger I've ever had!After weighing online reviews against the distance from our hotel, we decided on Sadie's Diner, which was still quite the hike (but I needed it) and it turned out to be an EXCELLENT choice.

Sadie's made THE best vegetarian hamburger that I have EVER had and then our waiter offered to make me a fresh batch of his homemade lemonade (YUM!). Mike ordered samosas and a wrap and was very pleased (and stuffed) as well. If you're ever in Toronto, even if you're not vegetarian (because you know I'm a flexitarian), check it out! It had a great 50's diner feel, awesome staff, great food and even better prices! AND they had a "breastfeeding welcome here" sticker on their door! It was fun explaining my business to the tattied and pierced (male) waiter when the subject of the nature of our trip came up. He was all over it though!

Next on the agenda was COFFEE!!! I had spied a Starbucks on our walk down so we headed towards it and got caught in a horrendous downpour. Even with an umbrella (thank GAWD I grabbed it), we were still soaked by the time we got inside. So we hung there for a while, then caught a bus back downtown and hit a liquor store so we could have some drinks back in the room.

We hung out, had a drink and I rehearsed my pitch with Mike a few times before turning in. Then I was up again at 6 am (that's 3 am my time) to get ready and rehearse some more before Pandora La Glamme showed up. (No rest for the wicked huh? For me, it was all about being prepared).

the entrance to the CBC Studios in downtown Toronto

It was so great to finally meet Pandora (Suzy) after only speaking on the phone and via email for over a month. Well, she was just as fabulous in person (maybe more? is that possible?) as she was long distance and I was psyched for the pitch. She got ready, I practiced the pitch some more, we practiced together and then it was time to head to the CBC Studios about a five minute walk away. BUT, Pandora was having pastie problems. She had hand-made beautiful, red, glittery, heart-shaped pasties to wear during the pitch, but they weren't dry enough and thus weren't staying "in-place". What to do.... what to do... yikes!

We arrived at CBC just before our noon call time and after checking-in (and being told we were third on), were given a multi-page NDA to sign (and attempt to decipher). We waited in the lobby for about 40 minutes for someone to come get us. While waiting, a bunch of other pitchers arrived and it was fun trying to figure out
what their businesses were by what they were wearing, and what props they were carrying.

prop checkFinally a runner - Bryan - came and got us and took us upstairs via a large freight elevator. First on the agenda was a prop check. We were instructed to lay out everything that we were taking on-set onto the table. Then we waited for executive producer Tracie Tighe, senior producer Lisa Gabriele and our segment producer Molly Duignan to come by to check the props and hear about our pitch. We had already discussed our pitch with Molly at length weeks ago over the phone, but this was the other producers' first taste of it.

Bathroom break! Pandora checked her pasties again and we realized that we couldn't use them at all. We let Bryan know and he called for the costume department. (Sorry, we don't have any pics of the problematic pasties.)

Next was a tour of the set. Along with the four other pitches in the afternoon segment of taping that day, we walked through the big doors (the ones that you see people LEAVING the set through on the show) onto the set and met Kevin, the floor director, who told us where to walk onto and off the set, where our "mark" was when we stood in front of the Dragons, what not to do (mention the date or time of year as who knows when your segment will air) and a bunch of other "TV stuff". This was our first glimpse of the set and especially the chairs that would every so shortly be filled with actual Dragons. The whole thing was VERY surreal. At this time we got an update and were told we were second on.

hair & make-up!

Bathroom break again (just in case) as we were getting mic'ed next! We were supposed to go to the lounge/holding area next, but there was no time...

Next was hair and make-up along with a chat with Sandra Rayner - the CBC business consultant - about our numbers and our "ask".  After being told previously that my numbers were "good", I was encouraged to raise the stake that I was offering for the amount of cash that I asking for. I was a little thrown-off by this so late in the game, but dealt with it all the same...

Then a lovely lady from the costume department showed up with some new (albeit oh so generic) pasties for Pandora and she went to the bathroom to take care of her booby business! (Sorry, no pics of this either guys!)

Dragons' Den - "the walk"

Then we were on! eep! I was pumped up with adrenaline more so than nervous. Another lovely lady walked Pandora and I out of hair and make-up and down the hall to a sign that said "ON THE AIR". We walked onto the backside of the set where a bunch of sound techs had me start my pitch to check my mic. It was a dud - and apparently the first one in something like 14 days of taping!  So then they had to re-mic me... (Hey, I didn't mind all those male hands down my top for a second time!)

Then it was time for "the walk". If you've ever watched the show, the pitchers walk across a breezeway with backlit windows and then down a flight of not-so-easy-to-navigate stairs onto the set. Well, to get up to that breezeway, we had to walk UP the stairs behind the set. I admit my knees were a little wobbly as I walked up the steps and then down the other side - I didn't exactly wear flat footwear... <-- fashion victim!

Aaaaaand that is where the story ends (for now) my friends.

Before I go however, I must give a huge shout out to ALL of the people that we met during our short, but memorable afternoon at the CBC - Dragons' Den studios. Not only was everyone we met friendly, down-to-earth and super helpful, but they genuinely wanted you to do well! And for that, I thank you!

view from the CN Tower during dinner

After dropping off our gear at the hotel, Suzy, Mike and I headed DIRECTLY for a cute little Irish pub downtown and had a much-deserved drink and late lunch. It was good to finally take a breath and relax, even if just for a moment.

To top-off the day, Mike took me to the top of the CN Tower for dinner as an early birthday present.  We had a wonderful time - good conversation, great wine, fantastic food and we had an excellent view of the sunset. Then we spent Saturday cruising Toronto's famous shopping districts - Yonge Street, Queen Street and Yorkville among others - and I picked-up a few things.

So if you have questions about anything that you just read or saw in the pictures, please leave a comment below and I will try my best to answer them. And please also keep your fingers and toes crossed that the next Dragons' Den blog post comes sooner than later...

Stay tuned!

 

Tags: 'dragons den', travel, CBC, Toronto

June 28th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Breast is BestGiving BackIn the News

Best for Babes Debuts Game-Changing Breastfeeding Ad in USA Today

Mark Friday, June 25, 2010 on your calendars.  Why?  Because years from now we will be looking back at this date as THE turning point for breastfeeding in our culture.

Best for Babes Miracle Ad in USA TodayLast Friday, the USA Today Pregnancy & Wellness Report, produced by Media Planet, will reach 2.2 million readers in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.  It will be distributed to ob/gyn offices and physicians through the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, will be carried in all Destination Maternity stores, will be distributed at March of Dimes events, will be circulated to 25,000 members of the United States Breastfeeding Committee and all member organizations, and to all physician members of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.   

The ad was the brainchild of The Best for Babes Foundation, whom I am extremely proud to be a sponsor of at the Silver level.

Why is this ad different from others?  Why did I support this unique, groundbreaking ad?

Bettina Forbes, co-founder of Best for Babes explains:

No scare tactics: There are no pregnant moms riding mechanical bulls or participating in log-rolling contests, unlike the government's ad campaign, which was criticized for a whole lot of things, including succumbing to formula lobbyists and making moms feel guilty if they couldn't breastfeed.  Breastfeeding rates actually went down after that campaign.  (Too bad we don't have the $3 million to spend on our campaign!)

It has mass-market appeal:  Unlike the Ohio billboards that got flak for showing a black baby drooling breast milk that looked really unappealing, the ad urges all moms to find the right support, whether they breastfeed or not!  THAT is truly a first.  We're taking the pressure OFF moms and putting it on the "Booby Traps".

Highlights donor milk:  Most moms don't know that donor milk is the 2nd best choice to breastfeeding, and don't have access to it.  Formula is 3rd.

Raises awareness of the WHO Code:  The WHO Code was designed to protect moms who WANT to nurse from being derailed by aggressive formula marketing (like doctors giving mom free samples, which have been shown to decrease breastfeeding duration) but which NOBODY in the mainstream knows about.  There is NOT ONE formula ad in the issue, unlike practically every high-circulation, mainstream pregnancy & parenting magazine and website, which we worked very hard to persuade Media Planet to uphold.  All of the sponsors in our ad are WHO Code compliant, including Evenflo, the only WHO Code compliant bottle maker (and parent company of stellar breast pump Ameda) - we think they deserve kudos for that!

It's positive!  Just like with parenting, we have to be careful not to only react to bad behavior but to recognize and reinforce good behavior.  We need to create as much media attention and buzz for ads or marketing campaigns that get it right as we do for those that get it wrong.

While Best for Babes has already experienced tremendous support and kudos including feedback from actress Alysia Reiner...

"The ad is so fantastic, so hip but informative, warm but also sassy & smart, LOVE IT!  So proud to be involved with you guys." ~ Alysia

I'd like to appeal to you to help them raise further funding to roll-out this campaign on billboards, bus stations and doctors' offices around the country.  Please help to spread the word about it via Facebook, Twitter, email and by simply talking to others.  (To make it easy for you, there are quick links to share on Facebook and Twitter at the top of this post... click away!)

So did you get your copy of USA Today on Friday?  If not, you can download the Pregnancy & Wellness Report here.  Tell us what you think of the ad, the report and let us know if we can count on your for support of this very important initiative.

 

Tags: 'best for babes', 'breastfeeding versus formula', USA Today

June 7th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Inside Snugabell

PumpEase Organic™ - hands-free pumping designed by Mother Nature™

PumpEase OrganicWell, the road to PumpEase Organic has been a bumpy one to say the least.  From figuring out what an organic PumpEase should actually look like to sourcing fabric, then having said fabric delayed by fires and volcanic ash (no joke!) to a flooded photo studio, you might have thought we'd give up!  However, if you know me, you understand that I rarely step down from a challenge (read: I'm incredibly stubborn) and actually experience great pleasure from overcoming adversity.  Remember the old adage, "Nothing worth having is ever easy".  And just like childbirth, I've forgotten all (or most) of the pain and am now gushing over my "new baby"!

It was actually Madeleine Shaw of LunaPads that first put the bug in our ear about producing an organic version of PumpEase.  Honestly, I wasn't that jazzed about the idea at first.  For starters, I knew printing organically on a knit was a long shot.  And we are all about the fashion here at Snugabell, right?PumpEase   Organic

And then Madeleine mentioned it to me again - expressing how well-received she thought an organic PumpEase would be by moms.  I agreed the "green" trend was very prevalent in our industry and was likely going to continue.  I voiced my concerns about the prints and we discussed the options.  I considered producing organically dyed solids - picturing a soft green and a lavender (green and purple being my favourite colours, so no surprise there).  We also discussed doing "natural" or unbleached cotton, but I was worried it would look "dirty" next to our white hook & eye.  Something just wasn't sitting right in my gut (and I REALLY listen to my gut!).

But I continued to move forward...  I worked with my wonderful fabric supplier, ordering several strike-offs before the custom-milled organic knit was perfect.  Our final pick had a wonderful weight and hand - so incredibly soft!  And then we sampled it, and something happened...

PumpEase  Organic packagingI had this incredible vision of an unbleached organic cotton PumpEase - the beauty being the simplicity of it all.  And in the next moment, I remembered what my design teacher always told me, "KISS - Keep It Simple Somehow" - aaaah, affirmation.  It saw it and it was beeee-autiful!

In the meantime, we were also designing the new packaging with the help of Sally of Whitespace Design.  All of our current boxes are recyclable, but after consulting with our packaging manufacturer, they helped us choose a stock for the box that was more eco-friendly.

Things moved along swimmingly for awhile until it was time to schedule the photo shoot and I got stuck again - really stuck!  I wasn't sure how we could communicate "organic" while maintaining our signature cheeky marketing style!?  Then one sunny afternoon, I was driving home from my fabric supplier, (I do all my best thinking when I'm driving) not even consciously thinking about the look for the shoot and it came to me - Mother NatureThe model would depict MOTHER NATURE!  I was STOKED!  As soon as I got home, I went online and two hours later I had the whole look finalized.  It just goes to show that you can't force inspiration!  :-)

Everything pretty much fell into place from there (even despite the delays).  I got to play stylist and source the model's ensemble - borrowing an incredible corset from Melanie Talkington of PumpEase  OrganicLace Embrace (we went to design school together) and enlisting my talented friend Dawn to help me make the headpiece.  Add a ballet skirt and white leggings and we were set!

The day of the marketing shoot was incredible!  As always, Claire Reid was behind the lens and thanks to my husband Mike's suggestion, Talysia Ayala was in front - she depicted "the look" so perfectly that the images barely needed editing!

A couple of weeks later, we did our product shoot at the beach, which was equally fabulous as you can see from the image above.  OK, I'm gushing again now... you better go check out PumpEase Organic and tell us what you think before I become "that parent" and pull ALL the pics out of my wallet.

 

Tags: organic, 'hands-free pumping bra', 'organic nursing bra'

May 23rd, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Inside SnugabellResources

PumpEase and Dr Sears

tired new momSo you know we're all about the fashion here at Snugabell, right?  Our goal is to help new moms refind their mojo - to help them feel pretty when they are often healing and hormonal, haven't showered "lately" (let alone done their hair and make-up) and are sleep-deprived.  If you've had a baby recently, or not (my youngest was three in January and I still remember what it was like), I'm sure you'll relate.

Even though it is all about the fashion, it isn't ALL about the fashion!  Yes, that's right - the bold colours and prints of PumpEase are better for your baby too!  According to Dr William Sears...

"The best way you as a parent can stimulate baby's vision is using black and white stripes or light and dark contrasting colors. So what about those nice soft pastels that used to be so popular in baby toys and nurseries? While these may look pretty to you, they do nothing visually for your baby. Research has proven that black and white contrasts register powerfully on baby's retina and send the strongest visual signals to baby's brain. Stronger signals mean more brain growth and faster visual development. Surround a baby with soft pastel colors, and you might as well be blindfolding him. Surround your baby with black and white or light and dark pictures, and watch your baby's eyes light up.

While baby's vision may be one of the least developed senses at birth, Dr Searsvisual input during the early months may have the most profound effect on baby's developing nervous system. What exactly does this mean? Why is visual stimulation so important for a baby? How can you as a parent or caregiver best stimulate your newborn's visual senses?

How a newborn's eyes detect light.
At birth, a baby's retina is not fully developed. The retina is the back layer of the eye that detects light. An adult retina can distinguish many different shades of light and color, but a newborn retina can only detect large contrasts between light and dark, or black and white. So while an adult can appreciate various shades of pastel colors on the wall of baby's nursery, a newborn may only see them as one shade all blurred together. Why is this important?

How visual stimulation makes baby's brain develop.
At birth, the nerve cells in baby's brain are disorganized and not well connected. While baby grows, the brain receives input from all five senses. This input causes nerve cells to multiply and form a multitude of connections with other nerve cells. This is why visual stimulation is so crucial. For example, if a baby is kept blindfolded the visual center in his brain would never develop, the optic nerve would shrivel up, and baby would never develop vision. On the other hand, if you provide continuous visual input into baby's eyes, the retina thrives, the optic nerve grows, and the visual part of baby's brain thrives and develops by leaps and bounds."

Galaxie BlackSnowy LeopardSo if you're planning on pumping on one side and nursing on the other (yes you can do this with your PumpEase!), choose Snowy Leopard or Galaxie Black to best stimulate baby's vision.  And if you've never considered pumping on one side and nursing on the other, you might want to.  Here's why...

1.  When you nurse your baby, your body releases the hormone oxytocin which causes
     your milk to "let down".  So while you're suckling your baby on one breast, your other
     breast will often leak (usually into a nursing pad that you throw away or wash).
     Although it varies, some moms leak a LOT of milk.  Regardless, I'm sure you'll agree
     that any milk saved is a good thing!

2.  The more frequently both breasts are emptied the better it is for your milk
     supply/production.

3.  This is the ultimate in multi-tasking (and we, as women, were made to multi-task
     right?)

So there you have it - look HAWT, stimulate your baby's vision to promote brain development and make more milk - ALL with PumpEase!

I have to add that I find it über interesting that if you were to blindfold your baby from birth the optic nerve would shrivel up and your baby would actually end up blind.  I know that newborn babies don't see much more than shadows and I know that black and white patterns are good for baby's vision, but had no idea the extent of the consequences if baby's vision wasn't stimulated fully.  How about you?  Tell us about it below.

Tags: 'baby brain growth', 'visual stimulation', 'PumpEase prints'

{"Baby and mom" by Kaeru Sand is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0}

{Photo credit: Dr. Sears Wellness Institute}

April 24th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Dragons' Den

Snugabell Travels the Road to the Dragons' Den - Part II

It was just last week that I was on the Dragons' Den Facebook Page reading comments from other entrepreneurs who had already "got the call".  It had been 3-1/2 weeks since my audition, but I had heard nothing.  The producers had just finished the forty-city, Canada-wide audition tour the previous Saturday so I kept telling myself that they wouldn't be calling until they got back to their offices and started short-listing.  That's what I kept telling myself.  I also told myself that if I hadn't heard from CBC within the two weeks "post audition tour", that I wasn't going to.  I was preparing myself for the disappointment, not to be negative or anything, just trying not to have any expectations.

And then literally FIVE minutes before heading into a meeting on Wednesday morning, my business line rang downstairs in my office.  I high-tailed it down there, although not exactly sure why as it wasn't yet 9:30 and that is generally when I start my day.  I also don't usually answer calls that say "blocked" on my call display, but I answered this call.  And it Toronto, Ontario, Canadawasn't like I was even THINKING about it being Dragons' Den.  Come to think of it, since my audition, I haven't been rushing to the phone every time it rings hoping the call display reads "CBC".  Honestly, we've been so busy with the new product launch, that I keep forgetting about the whole scenario (until someone asks me about it of course).  But there she was on the other end of the phone - the producer that I pitched to on that day 3-1/2 weeks ago in downtown Vancouver.  I actually recognized her voice as she has a raspy, Bonnie Tyler thang goin' on.

OMG!  I'm going to Toronto!  Holy crap!  She gave me a few dates to choose from and told me to get back to her ASAP as they fill-up fast and I "don't want to get stuck with the last day as the Dragons are grumpy by then."  OK then...  not going there!  She also sent along a 10-page "Contestant Guide" with tips and tricks, what to expect, what you can and cannot do, etc.  Interesting reading...

What did I do next?  Update myTwitter status Facebook and Twitter statuses of course (lol).  "Wendy is goin' to Toronto. woot woot!" it said on Facebook.  The ensuing comments were hilarious I must say.  And so supportive once I'd fessed up.  Thank you all again for being so wonderful!

After my meeting I called Mike at work to tell him.  I don't call him at work often as I have to call his team leader and ask to speak to him.  Previous calls of this nature have occured when my water broke (with both my daughters) or when Antonia recently was injured at school - you get the picture.  He said, "What's up?"  So I told him and he answered, "I knew you'd get on."  (Thanks hon).  Then I emailed all my friends that are not on Facebook (or not on it often) to share the good news as well.

That evening I sat down and searched for flights.  I was pretty envious of my friends to the south as I scoured different dates on our whole TWO airlines that fly to Toronto right now.  NOT.MUCH.TO.CHOOSE.FROM.  However, by the end of the evening, I had decided that May 13th was the date (Lucky 13 right?).  So I emailed Molly (the producer) before I went to bed so that she would have the information first thing in the morning Toronto time.

Upon waking the next morning I had an email from Molly stating that "the 10th and the 14th are better now".  So... back to the drawing board.

According to the guide, I have to fly-in at the latest the evening before and cannot fly out the same day as my taping (in case they run out of time and have to push me to the next day).  I have now decided on the 14th of May, so we will be in Toronto from the 13th to the 15th.  Still have to book our flights though...  I am just relieved that we have a firm date.

Later that same day, Molly called to discuss my pitch and my numbers and gave me even more great advice and ideas on how to NOT end up on the cutting room floor.  She was so helpful.  Fantastic!

So my next order of business is to edit my pitch according to her advice, book our flights and find a model that lives in Toronto who wants to appear on Dragons' Den.

Oh, and to decide what to wear.  Can't forget that!

Stay tuned...

 

Tags: 'Dragons Den', CBC, Toronto, audition