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

Snugabell Travels the Road to the Dragons' Den


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It was a little less than two years ago that I quit my job of almost 21 years at a large telecommunications company to accept a position in the BCIT Entrepreneurial Skills Training (BEST) program - a government sponsored self-employment program.  The program consisted of 10 weeks of classroom training and another 38 weeks of support from a business advisor, to whom we had to submit monthly reports, and a little bit of monetary support via Employment Insurance.

The program was one of the best things I've done for personal and professional development in recent years, but the PEOPLE are what I remember and value the most!  There were 17 of us "budding entrepreneurs" accepted into the program and I'm still in contact with more than 10 of them while three have become good friends whom I see or talk to on a regular basis.  We also keep in touch with our business advisor who joins us for coffee from time to time.

It was during the BEST program that I was reintroduced to the show Dragons' Den on CBC (I had heard of it, but had never seen it).  We watched a few episodes as part of our classroom training.  I was intrigued.

Dragon's DenDragons' Den originated in Japan and versions of it have emerged in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, The Netherlands, Finland, in the Middle East and of course our own here in Canada. More information can be found on Wikipedia.  There is also a similar show in the US by the name of Shark Tank in which Robert Herjavec and Kevin O'Leary also appear.  (I watched this show once, but didn't like it nearly as much).

This is how it works in a nutshell... you pitch your business to five self-made millionaires/billionaires in the hopes that they will invest in your company in exchange for a stake in it.  The catch is, you have to leave with at least as much money as you asked for.  Therefore, if you over-value your business, they will have to take a larger stake to give you the money that you're asking for.  Capisce?

Back to the classroom...  so the Dragons' Den audition tour came through town and our business advisors and instructors encouraged us to apply.  I considered it... briefly... and promptly chickened out. ;-)

Fast forward to the Fall of 2009.  I generally don't watch TV, but I am now ADDICTED to Dragons' Den on CBC, Wednesday nights at 8 pm.  My husband is too.  I now feel like I'm ready to apply but according to the website, "Applications are currently closed. If Dragons' Den returns for another season, applications will open in spring, 2010. Please subscribe to the newsletter for audition announcements."  What do they mean "if"?  I start visiting the website regularly only to see the same message over and over.

Now it is, I believe, February 2010.  Mike and I are in our usual spots on the couch snuggling on a Wednesday night when "the Den" breaks for commercial and they announce the audition tour!  I immediately go online and sign-up for an email alert that will advise me of the date(s) for Vancouver.

The dates are set within a few weeks - I can audition on March 13th or March 27th.  I ask my friend Donna to model for me.  She says yes (YAY!) but can only do the 27th (I am relieved that I can procrastinate until then).  You may remember Donna from our How to Take an Overbust Measurement video.  Donna had her baby just a few days after that video was shot - a little girl named Serenity who is now almost six months old!  Honestly, it feels just like yesterday that we shot that!

It is now a few weeks before my audition.  My "BEST" gal pals Pauline Siu of flora and fauna and Kathy Day of Earthly Presence and I decide that a "dry run" is in order.  Kathy recruits Ethical Bean's owner Lloyd Bernhardt to participate as well (thanks Kathy!).  We scramble to find a time that works with everyone's schedule.  Another date set - whew!  Finally the day arrives and I head over to EB at an ungodly hour with my homemade banana cake (it was the least I could do).  Let me say once again - THANK YOU ALL for participating.  The feedback that I received was invaluable.  Really.  Oh and if you haven't tried a Chai Tea Latte from Ethical Bean.  Oh my GAWD you haven't lived yet! (and I'm a Starbuck's Toffee Nut Latte die-hard).  But I digress...

Up to this point, I hadn't allowed myself to TRULY think about the audition or the possibility of me ACTUALLY going to Toronto (if I was chosen to go to tape) and thus I was pretty non-chalant about this whole "Dragons' Den thing".  But when I got to the EB boardroom last Wednesday morning, I got nervous!  I realized after the fact, that I was nervous for a couple of reasons.  First, I wasn't prepared enough.  And second, it was now REAL.  Probably the biggest thing that I took away from those couple of hours, aside from all the great advice and feedback that I received, was that in order to get through this audition, I had to prepare, prepare, prepare and then prepare some more!

I know my product inside and out, I know my numbers inside and out.  But when I get frazzled (yes I DO get frazzled sometimes), I forget everything. And then some!

So true to form (I'm a master procrastinator), there I was on Friday night - AFTER movie night with my daughter - re-writing my pitch, timing my pitch, editing my pitch and practicing my pitch while folding the laundry (so that I had clean clothes to wear to the audition).  I was feeling pretty good about it when I turned in around midnight and quickly hoped to myself that I didn't dream about the audition ALL.NIGHT.LONG.

Mission accomplished - no dreams about Dragons. :-)  I got up early and decided to see how much of the pitch I had retained overnight.  It must have sunk-in overnight as I felt pretty confident and decided to jump in the shower (where I practiced my pitch some more).  Then Donna arrived and I ran it by her, Mike, Antonia and Michaela.  Oh no!  Feeling a bit nervous again.  Well, no time for that - off we went to hook-up with Leslie Cairns - founder of the Buggy Bag - who was also auditioning.

We had previously discussed going down early - around 8 am - to beat the line-up.  Then we heard from someone that auditioned last year who said not to bother going down early as they scout the line-up and pull people randomly (my girlfriend that works in film had told me they might do it this way, so it sounded legit).  So we showed up right at 11 am...  aaaaaaand there were already 37 people ahead of us.  Yup, first come, first served.  They told us to put our name up on the board and allow 15 minutes per person.  Quick calculation...... that's 9+ hours.  GROAN!

I texted Mike to let him know that I may be a little later than I had originally thought.  And I updated all my friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.

We found some seats and tried to digest the fact that we may be spending the next nine hours in this room.  I tried to practice my pitch some more, but it was pretty noisy in there with more than 50 people, plus they were playing last season's episodes of the Den.  So we started chatting with people to pass the time.  I met the owners of Pee-pee Teepee.  I was familiar with their product but didn't know that they had diversified to include other products like shoes, blankets and clothing.  So awesome!  We'll see them in Vegas this year at the ABC Show.  And Jamie from S2S Nation (his website isn't quite live yet) - cool, limited-edition, custom-designed, bamboo and organic cotton t-shirts.

A couple of hours in, they were only at #11, so we decided to refuel.  I had been craving sushi for a couple refueling at Starbucks (L-R: Donna, myself & Leslie)of weeks so we headed across the street to a Japanese restaurant.  I eyed the Starbucks on the opposite corner for my "dessert".  After stuffing ourselves with yummy sushi and then grabbing a Chai Tea Latte (not nearly as good as EB though), I was totally recharged and feeling über confident for the first time since arriving!

When we got back to the room, the board was a mess - there seemed to no longer be any semblence of order with names crossed off randomly all over the place.  So Donna went up to the fellow holding the "official list" and asked him where we were at.  Donna came back and I asked her what the verdict was.  She said, "I'm not telling you."  I said, "We're next?"  She said, "Pretty much!"  I was ready!  Woot!

The next thing I knew, we were in the next room pitching!  I started my shpiel when about 1/2-way through they interrupted us to say, "Show us how it works."  So we jumped to the demo portion of the pitch and they started firing questions at me, all of which I answered. :-)  Then they took a picture of Donna with the PumpEase on and asked if they could take two samples back to Toronto with them.  And then they told us we did a great job and we were done!

After we left the room, Donna said, "You are SO going to Toronto." and promptly offered to be my model there as well.  I was so focused on my pitch that apparently I missed a bunch of stuff - whispering, body language, eye contact.  But I'm not counting my chickens just yet...

We walked back into the waiting room and everyone asked how we did.  I said it was awesome (because it was) and I tell ya, if it hadn't been 4:00 already, I would have dragged both Donna and Leslie off to the bar for a double!  We were definitely on a "high"!  As it was, had to get home to Mike and the girls for dins.  However, we did head out that night to a local pub with a bunch of friends including Angie, whose hubby was playing in the band.  I had a coupla Caesars, danced a coupla songs, caught-up with a coupla friends and had a great night!  Cheers Dragons!  I'll catch-up with you in T.O.!

Are you a fan of Dragons' Den?  Do you have a favourite pitch?  Please share it with us below...

March 16th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Customer ServiceInside SnugabellMedia & Marketing

PumpEase Wins PTPA Award "Because Parents Know Best"


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Parent Tested, Parent Approved Seal of Approval!We are excited and honoured to announce that earlier this month the PumpEase hands-free pumping bra was named a winner of the Parent Tested, Parent Approved (PTPA) Seal of Approval!

After our last attempt at being recognized for our product, you may think we were a glutton for punishment, wouldn't you?  Well, I dusted off my pants, dried my tears and did some extensive research on the other programs out there before I got back on my horse.  And I am pleased to share with you that, after doing said research and narrowing my choices down, I found myself chatting with the people at PTPA Media (before I submitted my product), and my faith in these "awards programs" was somewhat reinstated.  At least enough to give it another go.

During my "pre-submission" chat with PTPA Media, they were completely up-front about ALL the fees involved to be evaluated by their product testers as well as the licensing of the Seal of Approval if you indeed are named a winner.  Everything we discussed was also clearly outlined on their website on an easy-to-find page.

Let's be blunt here.  These awardsPumpEase converts any pump to hands-free! programs are a business, plain and simple.  They are out to make a profit just like the rest of us.  Having said that, there are businesses out there that provide a good product/service/customer care and then there are others that.. well.. don't.  Guess which one I am going to choose to deal with?

However, I'll admit that I was nonetheless expecting the worst (still licking my wounds I suppose), but was pleasantly surprised with the level of customer service that I received from PTPA Media.  Every email, every phonecall, every voicemail and every letter that I was promised, I received.  There were no surprises, no delays and no misunderstandings.  Everything that I paid for, that was CLEARLY explained to me, I received.  This makes Wendy a happy girl!  (I love happy endings!) :-)

As you may already know, I am a huge proponent of extraordinary customer service.  Not just good, not just excellent, extraordinary.  And if you've ever had the occasion to deal with me on a customer service issue, then you already know that I won't stop until you are happy.  Really happy.  I want to make you say, "Wow!".  Aside from the obvious reasons that customer service is so important to us, I believe that this, along with web 2.0 practices (I'll quote Peter Shankman here) transparency, brevity, top-of-mind and relevancy, FLATTENS THE PLAYING FIELD for smaller companies like ours to compete with the "big guys".  This is the beauty of doing business in today's world.  And I love it!

But let's get back to the award!  We received some great feedback (both positive and not so much), all of which is super useful for us going forward with new product development and current product improvements.  I will now share some of the accolades with you... *blushing*

"This product more than met my expectations. At first, when wearing the hands free pumping support, I was very stiff and slow in my movements as I was unsure how supportive the product would be in holding my breast pump. In a short period of time, I realized that the breast pump was secure and I was able to move normally without worrying about my breast pump falling off.  I inserted batteries in my breast pump so as to not be restricted by the cord length and then attempted various activities. I was able to clean my house, prepare meals, surf the internet, type emails, read books, knit, and interact and play with my 2-1/2 year old and 6 month old, all while pumping. In addition, I pumped with the PumpEase hands-free pumping support while nursing on the other side. With all these activities undertaken while wearing the support, the breast pump was held securely. At no time did it feel like the breast pump felt loose or in danger of falling off. The hands free pumping support held the breast pump on my breast with evenly distributed pressure in such a way that was more consistent and secure than holding the breast pump by hand, resulting in an increased amount of milk being expressed."

"The quality met my requirements. The product appeared very well made and was very easy to care for. It cleaned up very well and dried quickly. I wore the product for lengthy periods on its own and with the breast pump in order to see if it would begin to sag or stretch out. After lengthy and day to day use, the support maintained it's shape, and comfort without stretching out or becoming loose."

"The hands free pumping support is very comfortable to wear. It is supportive enough to hold the breast pump in place securely, while not feeling restrictive. There were no parts of the support that scratched, poked, pulled or pinched the skin. I wore the support both alone and over my nursing bra. The product was just as effective either way."

"I received the "Tuxedo" style which is black with white trim. It is very appealing and classy looking. For others that enjoy more colour, there are other prints available which are just as fashionable."

I could include more, but don't want to bore you.

And here is some of the constructive criticism...

"There were a lot of latches on the front of the bra to close it. Too many for my liking."

"I didn't really care about the style and colour because no one sees it but me."

"Taking the equipment out and apart was a little challenging and sometimes my milk would leak onto the bra as I was taking the equipment off."

"I found it took extra time to set up to pump rather then just pumping like I normally do, it took me some time to get comfortable."

"I think the product is over priced. I think that $30-ish would be fair. I think that the competitors are over-priced as well."

At this point, I'd like to thank all the product evaluators for their thorough and honest opinions.  As I've said many times before, we LOVE feedback because that is one of the many ways that we can make things better for YOU, our customer!  And isn't that what it's all about?

So keep your eyes peeled for further announcements about PumpEase as this marketing campaign unfolds.  If you have any feedback about PumpEase, please leave it in the comments below.  Bring it on!

And for the record, I have STILL yet to hear from iParenting Media. I guess they're not calling me back huh?

January 27th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Giving BackHuman Milk Banking In the News

Breastfeeding is the First Line of Defense in a Disaster


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The United States Breastfeeding Committee issued the below updated press release today.  Please donate milk via an HMBANA milk bank (and that includes our milk bank here in Vancouver, BC) and/or continue to donate funds to HELP HAITI!  Here at Snugabell Mom & Baby Gear we are proud to donate $2.00 from every PumpEase sold to Doctors Without Borders until February 14th (which will then be matched dollar for dollar by the Canadian Government).

United States Breastfeeding Committee

January 27, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

UPDATED STATEMENT:

Breastfeeding is the First Line of Defense in a Disaster

Washington, DC--The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), International Lactation Consultant Association/United States Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA/USLCA), and La Leche League International (LLLI) strongly affirm the importance of breastfeeding in emergency situations, and call on relief workers and health care providers serving victims of disasters to protect, promote, and support mothers to breastfeed their babies. During an emergency, breastfeeding mothers provide their infants with safe food and water and disease protection that maximize their chances of survival.

This week, the International Milk Bank Project and Quick International Courier coordinated a shipment of milk from the HMBANA member banks to supplement a mother's own milk for the premature, medically fragile, and orphaned infants aboard the U.S. Navy ship Comfort stationed off the coast of Haiti. This milk will help this small group of infants. In this highly unusual circumstance the infrastructure associated with the Comfort's resources allows U.S. sourced donor milk to help fragile Haitian babies.

Donor milk, however, is not a solution for the large number of infants and young children affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Members of the public who wish to promote the survival of mothers and babies in Haiti can donate money to the following organizations: UNICEF, Save the Children Alliance, World Vision, and Action Against Hunger. These organizations are using best practice to aid both breastfed and non-breastfed infants. Members of the public can be confident that donations to these organizations will support breastfeeding and help save the lives of babies.

Interventions to protect infants include supporting mothers to initiate and continue exclusive breastfeeding, relactation for mothers who have ceased breastfeeding, and finding wet nurses for motherless or separated babies. Every effort should be made to minimize the number of infants and young children who do not have access to breastfeeding. Artificially fed infants require intensive support from aid organizations including infant formula, clean water, soap, a stove, fuel, education, and medical support. This is not an easy endeavor. Formula feeding is extremely risky in emergency conditions and artificially fed infants are vulnerable to the biggest killers of children in emergencies: diarrhea and pneumonia.

As stated by UNICEF and WHO, no donations of infant formula or powdered milk should be sent to the Haiti emergency. Such donations are difficult to manage logistically, actively detract from the aid effort, and put infant's lives at risk. Distribution of infant formula should only occur in a strictly controlled manner. Stress does not prevent women from making milk for their babies, and breastfeeding women should not be given any infant formula or powdered milk.

There are ongoing needs in the U.S. for human milk for premature and other extremely ill infants because of the protection it provides from diseases and infections. If a mother is unable to provide her own milk to her premature or sick infant, donor human milk is often requested from a human milk bank. American mothers can help their compatriots who find themselves in need of breast milk for their sick baby by donating to a milk bank that is a member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

For more information about donating milk to a milk bank, contact HMBANA at www.hmbana.org. Additional information for relief workers and health care professionals can be provided from the United States Breastfeeding Committee at www.usbreastfeeding.org, ILCA/USLCA at www.ilca.org or www.uslca.org, or La Leche League International at www.llli.org. A list of regional milk banks is available on the HMBANA Web site at www.hmbana.org/index/locations.

USBC is an organization of organizations. Opinions expressed by USBC are not necessarily the position of all member organizations and opinions expressed by USBC member organization representatives are not necessarily the position of USBC.

United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC)

The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) is an independent nonprofit coalition of 41 nationally influential professional, educational, and governmental organizations. Representing over half a million concerned professionals and the families they serve, USBC and its member organizations share a common mission to improve the Nation's health by working collaboratively to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. For more information about USBC, visit www.usbreastfeeding.org.

###

________________________________________

United States Breastfeeding Committee

2025 M Street, NW, Suite 800

Washington, DC 20036

Phone: 202/367-1132

Fax: 202/367-2132

E-mail: office@usbreastfeeding.org

Web: www.usbreastfeeding.org

Have you donated to the relief effort in Haiti?  If so, tell us to which organization you donated and why you chose that particular one.  If you have any other thoughts about what is happening in Haiti, please share.

December 30th, 2009 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Fabulous Finds

Nursing Mother Goddess Pendants are Here!


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In the summer of 2008, I exhibited at the DONA Conference here in Vancouver, BC.  As we all filed-in to set-up our wares for the vendor area, my eyes kept wandering over to my neighbour's table.  If you don't already know this about me, I am a jewelry FREAK!  My neighbour was ceramic artist Susan Kirk and her beautiful, hand-crafted Nursing Mother Goddess Necklaces had caught my eye.  I'll admit that by the end of the 2-day conference, I left with several of her pieces.

ivory nursing mother goddess pendant

A Nursing Mother Goddess Pendant celebrates and honours breastfeeding, thus making it "the" perfect gift for new mothers and their families, doulas, lactation consultants, midwives and ob/gyns.

These stunning hand-crafted ceramic pendants are available in four non-toxic, low-fire glaze colours - Stone Turquoise, Ivory (shown left), Ebony and Terra Cotta - effortlessly coordinating with anything and everything in your wardrobe!

Understated yet eye-catching, she will be a conversation-starter every time you wear her!  I can't tell you how many people have commented when I wear mine.

The Nursing Mother Goddess Necklace measures 2" tall (pendant portion) and is carried by a 25" black satin cord that is easily adjusted to be shorter if desired.

Tell us what you think about these necklaces.  Would you like to see more of this type of product in our online store?  Leave a comment below to share!

{Photo credit: Susan Kirk}

November 3rd, 2009 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Inside SnugabellPumpingResources

How to Take an Overbust Measurement


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Today we updated our Fitting Room with a great video, that you can view below (and you're not allowed to laugh about the still image, ahem), demonstrating the correct way to take an overbust measurement.  About a month ago we also added a third size chart containing the measurements between the horn openings on the different sizes of PumpEase.  You asked.  We delivered.

It IS all about YOU, our customer (and no, I'm not being corny).  Our goal is to make your visit to our website as enjoyable, informative and satisfying as we possibly can.  So take another look around and don't forget to leave a comment with your feedback about what you DO see/like/dislike and also about what you WOULD LIKE to see... so we can make PumpEase.com even better!

xo
Wendy