First things first – how do you stay motivated?
We always look to our three beautiful daughters – providing for and being strong for them is so important for us. We also love hearing from happy customers because it really motivates and excites us.
So how did Lollaland start? What made you do it?
We started the business because we saw a void in the marketplace for easy-to-use sippy cups. When my daughter was nine months old, I noticed she could drink from a straw at a restaurant, but when I purchased several toddler straw cups, my daughter could not eke a sip out of any of them because of their spill-proof valves. That’s when the idea for the Lollacup was born.
Absolutely. I’ve always said a business should identify a problem and aim to solve it! Let’s talk Shark Tank – what are your top three lessons you learned from the experience?
- Move quickly and jump at all good opportunities. I don’t think Mark and I would have gotten onto Shark Tank and partnered with Mark and Robert had we taken even five more minutes to think about applying and going to the open casting call. Also, during the entire process, from casting to due diligence, we responded quickly whenever we were asked for more information, and we think it gave us a leg up on the competition.
- Each business has its own unique path to success. Through the Shark Tank experience, we’ve been able to network with and learn from so many successful entrepreneurs. We often reach out to other ventures for advice, and what we’ve realized is that every product/business is so unique that there’s no one “right” way of doing things.
- Nothing comes easy. Many people assume that getting on Shark Tank and partnering with a Shark means your business is instantly catapulted into a great success story, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, Shark Tank was great PR and yes, Mark and Robert’s investment and guidance have helped us grow, but it has not turned us into instant millionaires. Entrepreneurship, like anything else, requires hard work (and some really thick skin).
Hard work and thick skin are exactly what you need to be an entrepreneur. How did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
Mark has always had the desire to be an entrepreneur, but I never did. After I had children and was inspired by their needs, I took the plunge into entrepreneurship. It wasn’t until we received our first customer service email, thanking us for creating a cup that solved the family’s problems, that I knew this is what I wanted to do forever.
I love that, Hanna – like a spark becoming a flame! Tell me about what success means to you.
Success is a combination of hearing from happy customers, seeing Lollaland become a household name for parents, and providing solutions for families, while being able to “provide” for our own family. Our measures for success involve the following: growing our product line, staying relevant within our industry, being profitable, and issuing distributions to ourselves and our investors, enjoying what we do, and finding a good work-life balance.
Did you find there’s a price for your success? What was yours?
Absolutely. Mark and I left more “stable” jobs with steady incomes to start this company, and for us, starting this venture meant sacrificing work benefits, vacations, as well as having to explain to our children why we have to work on weekends and holidays. Also, we’ve depleted our savings and taken on a lot of debt to start this company, and that is always risky.
Business is high risk but the freedom is worth it ! Can you tell me about a time you’ve failed and what you learned from the experience?
After our first product, the Lollacup, gained some traction and we had built solid distribution channels, we launched our next product, assuming we could “plug and play.” We made the mistake of assuming, too early, that we had built enough brand cachet, that we could put another product out into the market and have it succeed. Unfortunately, it did not gain traction quickly. We learned that launching a new product is like launching another business, so now we are more careful about how we roll out new products.
Speaking of rolling out new products, what was the biggest sales hurdle you had to overcome and how did you do it?
Getting our product onto the shelves at all 100+ BuyBuyBaby locations was, by far, our biggest sales hurdle. It took years of networking, persistence, in-store trainings, and marketing efforts to reach this goal, but we finally did it!
Exciting – feels amazing when all that hardwork pays off right? Last question – what does the future look like for you?
We have two goals we are currently working toward:
- Issuing a distribution to all partners of our company
- Assembling a strong team to grow the brand and company.