Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is Karen Braveheart, and I’m the CEO/Founder of Prodigi Kids. Prodigi Kids exists to create more loving moments of emotional connection between parents and their children. I left behind a lucrative career as an attorney in NYC, moved out to San Diego, while 5 months pregnant with my 1st child, and realized my true calling as a designer and entrepreneur when a single stressful moment with my then 18 months old changed the entire trajectory of my life.
After years of R&D and raising a successful seed round of $400,000, I launched our 1st product line, the Adi plate, in Q4 of 2019 to rave reviews. The Adi plate has a cute penguin design for little ones with highly engineered suction and 100% childproof release technology that REALLY works to stay stuck to a table surface and high chair...so kids can’t hurl their plates and grownups don’t lose their sanity! It’s made in the USA!!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
So, how did the idea for the Adi plate come about? When my daughter Sophia was 18 months old, I took her out to eat and placed small pieces of food on a placemat that supposedly “stuck” to the table. In a split second, she grabbed it, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw food hurled into the air.
Raising capital as a consumer product startup pre-revenue is not easy. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Talk to multiple potential investors at once.
Up, up, it soared, so far and so high that it reached the man at the very next table. Spaghetti landed on his head, and his nice, white dress shirt was covered in meatballs, peas, and red sauce. Uggh!
Sophia laughed, and I cried. It was a moment where time stood still and something stirred deep within me. I became determined to invent a product that straight up worked.
This single stressful event forever changed my life because I discovered my unique gift as a designer. When united with my fierce passion for business, Prodigi Kids was born.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
It took me over 10 years since I had this idea and a lot of stops and starts due to life circumstances or lack of funding at the time from an idea to a finished retail product. I never gave up and I never gave in. I just continued to do what I found was magical to me, and I never experienced work that didn’t feel like work before this. At the time though, I didn’t know I stumbled upon my soul purpose and found me why. It evolved over time as I grew within myself by taking this entrepreneurial journey.
My 1st prototype was designed by the MAE156 class at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering, one of the top 10 engineering schools in the country. In this senior-level class, a company, typically, a Fortune 500 company, pays a minimal amount to have students design a prototype of an idea and then present it to the public in a showcase. The Chair of the Department had children and I was able to convince him that my idea was just as good as any Fortune 500 company and he took me on as a sponsor. I was determined to find the right suction fit so I had the students source every suction used in the commercial and residential from around the world, and we tried them all to find out what worked and what didn’t. This was critical to making the best suction plate on the market today.
At the end of the semester, it culminated in a Showcase to the public. It’s a competition to see which team designed the best prototype. We competed with Proctor and Gamble, IBM, the Navy, and other Fortune 500 companies and while we didn’t end up winning the competition, we won the best award possible- winning on the market. There were more people gathered around our exhibit table than all of the other tables combined opening their wallets and handing me $20 bills to buy my suction plate, and the prototype we had wasn’t nearly as nice as the finished Adi plate product we sell today. That was a huge win as I knew in my soul that I was really onto something.
Note: These students are named on my design patent as co-inventors with me
Fast forward until today, getting through the design process, iterations, consumer focus group testing on hundreds of parents and kids, engineering, injection mold making, the commercialization process, patents, safety testing, and production engineering has been one of the most challenging aspects to this entire journey. I’ve learned so much along the way, especially that it took much longer and more capital than originally planned. That’s the nature of the beast so to speak and we now have a top-quality product that is made in SoCal that I’m incredibly proud of and is getting rave reviews!
Describe the process of launching the business.
I launched the Adi plate in Q4 of 2019. Prodigi Kids, Inc. was launched in 2016 when I started raising a seed round of capital. After putting in my own retirement fund and going “all in”, I approached family and friends who made small investments. After that, I ended up winning for “Best Shark Tank” at a pitch competition in San Diego and won an investment from an investor. The seed round I raised came in on a rolling basis and each step of the way, I encountered investors who taught me something that helped me with the next.
There are a few life lessons I can share with others raising a seed round. Keep going. Raising capital as a consumer product startup pre-revenue is not easy. I encountered people that were not mission-aligned and found life always spared me from working with someone that wasn’t a fit, although, at the time, it was devastating.
Here are a few examples, I met with a women investor a few times who told me in an email that she was going to invest money to pay for some of the manufacturing/engineering costs. I have this in writing from her in an email too. However, when it came time for her to actually write the check, she went MIA on me- no return emails, unreturned calls, and texts- a complete 180. I would rather have someone face me and tell me that they changed their mind or just their truth than to handle it in this cowardly way.
However, what I later found out was that I was to meet the most amazing woman investor who came in right after her. A person who is highly successful in the finance field has integrity and is a genuine person who is mission-aligned. I learned that it’s critical to keep going and the right people who are meant for you will always show up. The key is to keep going no matter what.
Then, there was the investor who, after several months of meetings, was on the phone with my corporate attorney and me and told us that he was coming in with a $100k investment and to send the term sheets over. Once he got the terms sheets, I patiently waited for the check and called him a few days later and asked him if he had any questions. That’s when he got cold feet and did a complete 180 and backed out.
I was shocked and thought to myself that I wasted months developing a business relationship with someone who never indicated to me that he was unsure. He never ended up making the investment, and I learned a valuable lesson. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Talk to multiple potential investors at once. I trusted his word but the deal isn’t a deal until you get the check cleared.
Shortly after this, I kept going and met my biggest investor today. A gentleman who is true to his word and an amazing individual who is very mission-aligned with Prodigi Kids. Someone who believed in me and my vision and is with me for the long term. He’s been a key asset to Prodigi Kids in many ways and I’m grateful that life brought us together to build my vision into the world.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our business plan was to launch online and we created a great digital ad campaign. However, we soon learned that the CPM cost launching in early November was way high due to the season and the increase in competition to get in front of our target demographic. So, we decided to wait until January 2020 to relaunch and sought out funding for our marketing budget. Unfortunately, that funding didn’t materialize and we hit the ground running to pursue other sales channels.
We launched our 1st product line in Q4 of 2019 to rave reviews. We were selling at 4 markets and pop-ups throughout Southern California and in February of 2020, started a wholesale initiative and went door to door and got into 7 of the trendy baby boutiques. We also received interest from 2 national retailers.
However, this all came crashing down on March 12, 2020, when due to COVID-19, all of our sales channels closed down and our cash flow plummeted. Currently, we pivoted and adapted and are opening new online sales channels and hired some talented interns to increase our engagement on social, start the Prodigi Kids FB group, and get our social impact content out. We hustle hard and know that we’ll get through this period and grow into the big business that Prodigi Kids is meant to be.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are excited about the possibilities and are working on the launch of 2 amazing new products which we’ll debut at the Hollywood Artisans market this month. We love meeting our customers in person and hearing how incredibly happy they are with their Adi plates and how using their Adi plate has brought more peace and love into their homes.
We have a lot of initiatives that we’re currently working on, and they will remain under lock and key until they materialize this summer. You can follow our FB page for more behind the scenes reveal of what’s going on!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to apply the motto I live my life by. And, that’s to always be braver than I am scared and never miss an opportunity. In fact, following my divorce several years ago, I said to myself, why am I going to go from my former husband’s name to my late father’s name. I wanted a last name that represented my essence and who I am in my soul. So, I legally changed my name to Braveheart. And, believe me, I’ve earned this name and continue to earn this name many times over.
Shortly after my divorce, I was teaching as Associate Faculty FT business classes, law classes, and real estate classes, raising 3 kids, and was pushing the needle forward on my dream of having Prodigi Kids be a business. It was a workaholic and it was so hard. I didn’t sleep for like 6 years and I made a life-changing decision. That decision was to make myself happy because I thought to myself, I only get one shot at this life.
So, as a single mother of 3 kids, I needed to find a way to financially support us and I decided that if wanted to pursue my dream of Prodigi Kids becoming a billion-dollar company one day, I needed to quit the teaching jobs that I wasn’t happy with and go all into my dream FT. This was one of the scariest and best decisions I’ve ever made. Fast forward a few years, and I’ve never been happier in my entire life and God has supported me financially and otherwise throughout this journey. I work long hours and every day feels like a vacation day to me. Prodigi Kids is a small business today, and I got a big dream inside my heart
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
When I was growing up, it wasn’t acceptable to make mistakes. I didn’t understand why and I played a lot of sports as a kid and made mistakes. I used to listen to professional athletes on TV and was mesmerized listening to those who lost. They talked about how yea- they made mistakes and they just rolled with it. They didn’t criticize themselves and they just saw it as another part of their journey. They also talked about what they learned and how they could do better. I listened intently and they became my first teachers.
Then, I started reading books on people who had created billion-dollar companies doing what they loved and fulfilled a purpose deep inside. I didn’t have any role models in my life so I turned to these books for inspiration because this was my true heart’s desire. The only takeaway I received from these books is that these entrepreneurs took risks and the risks paid off. They lived outside their comfort zone and started their day doing the top 3 things that scared them the most. They experienced great personal growth which materialized into the growth of their companies, so I started my day doing the top 3 things which scare me the most. To this day, I still do that. I just love to get to the other side to see what’s there waiting for me.
The biggest lesson I learned was to follow my own heart and to always trust it. If I could impart one single most important life strategy to those of you reading this now, it’s that the path to true happiness starts with following the whispers in your heart. It knows best what makes you happy. So follow that.
Where can we go to learn more?
Check out our website and buy the best baby product on the market today. You can follow us on IG and FB too.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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