I Launched A Baby Brand From Home And Made $157K In The First Year

Published: May 1st, 2022
Johanne Holman
Founder, Dumforter
from Camberley, UK
started December 2019
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hey everyone, my name is Johanne, and my starter story is about my baby brand Dumforter, where I invented, manufactured, and launched the world’s first and only 3-in-1 baby dummy, teether and comforter, a product that was innocently invented by my ‘babies’ more than 12 years ago.

Starting the business was amazing fun, getting to go to China participating in the ‘you must drink the same as us’ business meetings, whilst traveling the Country-wide in search of several different suppliers that could help manufacture my newly designed and created product dumforter, to get this made there was so much I had to learn and understand from a Legal and Safety perspective, as well as a Financial perspective and so much more, but the journey whilst I did hit a major unexpected bump in the road along the way, has been nothing short of amazing. a roller coaster ride for sure, but my most thrilling one yet, Let me tell you why.

Having my own business has ‘mostly’ been a dream come true for me. Unfortunately, I was a single Mum twice over, which resulted in me losing a great deal of precious time with my beautiful children in their younger years, especially as I didn’t get to be with them every other weekend due to the shared contact, so part of the dream of me having my own business was to be able to spend a lot more time at home with my beautiful children, and can honestly say whilst it’s been long hours, the flexibility and freedom given have been amazing.

Within 12 months of launching, I am so proud to say I had turned over $157k. I had single-handedly managed to get my product selling in 8 countries around the World, into the more than 60 independent retailers across the UK, the visitor shops of 3 of the UK’s top zoos, and had even been noticed and had genuine interest shown by two major industry players in the baby business world. It’s honestly been the most exciting journey ever.

But my biggest success that I am still to this day so genuinely grateful for is to have managed to get noticed and posted out by a major celebrity/influencer which gave me my very first mind-blowing $39k month and an incredible additional 11k followers overnight. It was one of the most emotional but exciting 24 hours of my and my children’s lives.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I’m just an everyday Mum, but a super ambitious one. I have a crazily creative mind, which has been the little treasure in helping me create my businesses, but the part that has always held me back from being my greatest self is most definitely my self-doubt, my need to sense-check everything I do with others seeking their approval/opinions, and being the most indecisive decision maker ever. I turn 50 in a few weeks, and I am honestly so excited for this next chapter.

My entire career had always been in sales, marketing, and commercial roles within the hospitality industry, but after 25+ years with some of the world’s most amazing hotels (see the beautiful Gleneagles Resort images below as an example), when I was asked by my latest employer to give more hours to the business, taking back my only day off, when I was already feeling that I was compromising my family time, I knew it was time to bite the bullet and do whatever it takes to bring my Children’s innocent little invention into reality.

Sometimes we just need a gentle, or in this case, not so much of a gentle nudge, to just do it. Life is for living, there are so many exciting opportunities and possibilities, but it’s up to us whether we’re just going to think about them or go for it!

Dumforter was innocently invented by my son 12 years ago, he was 8 at the time when he frustratingly remarked “why does she (his little sister who was 2 at the time) always have to have that and that (a dummy AND a comforter), why can’t she have one?” and it was on that evening that he and I sat down and created the business name dumforter (combining his little Sister’s two favorite things), and started to think about what a dumforter could look like.


Knowing how much comfort a little one gets from a dummy and a comforter, I knew I wanted to create something of ultimate luxury and comfort.

I was of course acutely aware that the dummy market was saturated, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to go for it and to head into a more niche part of the market by creating something very high end, something unique, something of quality and character, something that the little one could easily recognize and associate with, and something that would encourage them to self-soothe quicker, providing real comfort and security, something that would truly become part of the family.

It was also majorly important too, to invest as much time as I could in the Parents of the babies too, to ultimately create a supportive, loving, fun, and engaging community for all the Mums at home too which very quickly became, as named themselves ‘mumforters’ and the #dumforterfamily

A little snapshot of dumforter today.


With around 385,000 born to the world each day, and knowing that so many households support the use of a dummy, and personally seeing how much comfort little ones get from them, I just knew that I wanted to put all my love, energy, and effort into creating something magical for little ones, whilst creating something that made the lives of the parents easier too, and honestly seeing some of the reviews on-line saying how life-changing this product has been for the babies but also the parents - helping everyone sleep better, was just amazing.

Creating the concept was easy, I had so much fun with the designs, and what started just as a simple dummy comforter combination, overtime throughout the concept creation period, quickly became so much more with the introduction of the characterization ultimately bringing Baby Dummies and Comforters to life, and subsequently the world’s only 3--in-1 dummy, teether, and comforter, offering baby all 3 of their comforting needs in one.


Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Creating a brand new baby product wasn’t easy, I had never invented a product before, never worked with China, never had my own business, every single part of the journey was new and not without its challenges, and for somebody who isn’t a risk-taker, more a girl of comfort, it was a hugely ambitious & daunting step to take.

Working with China has been super fun, but also immensely challenging, take a peek at my very first prototype below, I am sure you can imagine my reaction when the factory first presented it to me. the dummy was almost as big as the baby’s face (slight exaggeration but not by much lol), it was honestly soooo big, and the comforter was like a brick, nothing was comforting about it at all.

It took years of research and development, multiple prototype creations, a change of supply chain, and the loss of a factory to get it through the rigorous global safety testing standards for dummies, but by September 2019 just under 2 years since leaving my Corporate employment, we had applied for (and have subsequently been granted) a GB Patent and are currently applying for the US and European patent too.

The comforter (aka brick lol)

The very first prototype (I think it would have scared the baby more than comforted it, to be honest!)

The product I promise has become so much cuter, this as an example is our lovely Pepper Panda.


I launched with my first ‘in the wild’ collection on 14th December 2019, my second ‘in the woods’ range (see below) in December 2020, and dumforTED around the same time too, a TED that was going to come to the rescue when that difficult and sometimes traumatic time comes for the little one to give up their dummies. in true comforter style, he’s no ordinary teddy!!



Describe the process of launching the business.

Launching my product was fun and fairly straightforward, to be honest, I had spent so much time pre-launch researching the market opportunity, studying the competition, writing and refining my business plan, getting clear on my strategy, and even engaging with my potential customers for the entire time I was creating the product, that they were totally involved and engaged in the business and concept way before I had even had a product to sell.

I was comforted of course, by the fact that I knew this was a product most parents needed and wanted for their babies, and this was most definitely something different from anything else on the marketplace. Dumforter was going to soothe the baby, help them through their teething and comfort them to sleep, what more could a parent need?

My strategy for the launch was always to engage and involve the parents on the journey, and do lots of giveaways and competitions to help the brand and product get noticed. I was keen to share my journey and story from the start, so they could get to know my little #dumforterfamily and of course, become one of them.

It was a beautiful community, so beautiful that many very close and special friendships were made and remain to this day for Mums that were otherwise isolated at home during the lockdowns with a newborn baby and nobody to interact with, they named themselves the MUMFORTERS, the Mums of the dumforter babies, and that’s where the journey and unbelievable loyalty to my brand began.

I had a very steady but noticeable growth that just kept growing month by month by month - $1k became $2k, became $4k, and so on.

My launching website is pretty much the website you see today , it’s genuinely only had a few tweaks and changes where we’ve had to add the second range and new product dumforTED for example, but otherwise it really is pretty much as it was at the time of the launch, and thanks to a friend who is a web developer, I am able to do all the content updates myself, amongst many other things, which really has been incredibly time and cost efficient and helpful.


I did try crowd-funding to help raise awareness and funds for the business, but I failed miserably at that, I guess I didn’t know enough about the best way to approach it, but luckily thanks to my then husband’s support we were able to use our earnings and savings to help us get started.

If I was to share my biggest lesson learned from the process of starting, I guess there are two.

1. Ensure that you have a solid, reliable, and committed supply chain

We lost our initial supply chain during the first lockdown, so had to rebuild it without being able to visit any of the factories, which was a major challenge, and resulted in their manufacturing and dispatching a faulty batch of 1777 units.

2. Choose your business partner wisely

Ensure you share the same personal values, the same vision for the business, you have clear agreement and definition around your roles and responsibilities within the business, otherwise it sadly does and will inevitably end in conflict.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I truly have been blessed with finding the most amazing loyal supporters of me, my family and my business, so I guess the time that I invested in them very early on (pre-launch engagement, competitions, giveaways, story sharing, ambassador programmes etc) really has paid off, because I genuinely don’t know of many businesses that you can leave for almost a year (due to my personal circumstances) to return to find all your beautiful customers still there, waiting to engage, reconnect and purchase, they’re amazing.

I have an entire shelf of beautiful cards, pictures, postcards, and gifts that the Mums have sent to me over time (see a display stand on the left of the picture below) I am honestly so so grateful. They have not only believed in me but massively invested in my product, purchasing anything from 1 to 10 dummies and some even more and TED, resulting in a spend of more than $250 in some cases.


Spending a huge amount of time online on Instagram was life-changing for me, and the best platform I could have ever possibly found - it’s free, it’s far-reaching and you never know who is watching you or is going to find you.

I had my heart set on a particular major influencer finding me, even to the extent that I printed a picture of her and her baby off for my vision board, with a print out of my dummy with her baby, and believe it or believe it not, she did find me, started to follow and the exact image that I had created did eventually happen, and it changed so much for me overnight!


Baby Rex became a #dumforterbaby and the sales and awareness for dumforter took off overnight. Stacey Solmon very kindly chose to create a video of my product and this moment in my start-up journey was life-changing.


The impact of the influencer - see July the moment when she posted. This graph is showing the number of units sold in the stated time.


Investing time in the people buying the product was what I believe to be the secret to my success, the product was good, creative, different, and absolutely did what it was designed to do, but the gorgeous parents that are investing in the product are who I chose to spend all my time, energy, focus, and love with.

Lockdown was hard for us all, but being a Mum at home with a new baby without being able to leave the house, is a whole different level of challenge, so I chose every single Wednesday night, without fail, to engage, entertain and just chat with them, and Wednesday's quickly became for us all, our favorite night of the week, it was fun, relaxed, and non-salesy and true friendships, relationships and loyalty was built.

Whilst there will always be elements on running your own business that you won’t know what to do or how to do it, there are always ways to learn

Taking this approach has helped me to build an incredibly loyal direct purchasing client base, which was great for profit margin.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Sadly due to the business being used as a weapon in the middle of a messy divorce, and due to my health and well-being at that time, the business didn’t trade throughout most of 2021 and I really wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to continue with it. This is because:

  1. I genuinely didn’t know if I would be able to hold onto my gorgeous business, I’d come to accept that to find happiness, peace, well-being, and freedom for me and my children, I had to be prepared to give up and walk away from everything, which as much as it hurt, is exactly what I did; and
  2. I didn’t know how I’d feel if I did win it back, as so much had happened during that time, and my heart, my soul, my trust, and my visions had all been broken.

BUT my story, I am so pleased to say, has a beautiful ‘ending’. I did win my business back, I am 100% shareholder and 100% Director, my amazing community of Mums and Dads were literally there waiting for me to return, some even came to my house with their gorgeous dumforter babies to help me prepare stock (every single dumforter has been loving assembled by hand in our family home), in order that I could get restarted again - HOW BEAUTIFUL!!

So of course I had to continue with my business, and the beautiful thing is. none of my Mums really know this as yet, it has only been whilst writing this story to share with you, reviewing how far I have come and the journey I’ve taken, that has reignited my desire and passion to pick up where I left off, and follow my heart and pursue my dreams. I have never felt so sure about anything as I do this. I literally can’t wait to share the news with my beautiful customers.

Giving it up would have been way harder than any day I’ve ever worked in the business, I love what I do.

The Mums in December 2021 who came to help. I am honestly so grateful!

So where I am today, today is monumentous. Dumforter can be relaunched, I have 2 ranges currently and a TED to help baby when it’s time to give up the dummy. But now, I can revisit my vision board and start creating and delivering everything that I envisaged to do. It’s going to be a very exciting new chapter, daunting, but exciting. New ranges, new products, and a business offering Mums the opportunity to work whilst being at home with their babies.

It’s time to start working on the business, not in it, invest in the people I need to help me take it forward to the next level, part of my vision was always to have a business that could serve and help Mums, giving them the opportunity to work from home and be with their beautiful babies.

So it’s time to go right back to square one and start over again, but this time with unwavering focus determination, and strength, there’s no one to hide behind anymore, and nothing to stop me, only myself.

Yes it feels scary, yes it feels daunting, yes there is risk, but having played it safe my entire life and ended up in the unsafest of places, it’s time to take a different approach and see where that journey takes me, and I’m so glad to be sharing it with you.

Even if you’re not ready to give up your employment / current paid job, there are always little things that you can get started in the background. If you were taking a little step every single day, you’ll be surprised how far you’ll have come in pretty much no time at all.

I know I’ve shared a lot of personal stuff here, but I do want you to know that starting your own business is daunting, but you can do it. The odds were so massively against me - but in reality, my business success in that first year of trading was due to one thing - me being myself, an ingredient that every single one of us has the privilege of being and that’s where the magic lies.

It’s time to place my biggest order yet, it’s time to recruit a team, it’s time to take all that worked and do more of it, and let go of the things that didn’t. It’s time!

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Things that I have learned that I hope may be helpful to you on your journey:

I’ve made a few poor decisions.

  1. ignoring my intuition, my insides were kicking me so hard when the opportunity came to ‘share’ my dream - mine and my then Husband’s vision and values were so misaligned, I and the business were just being pulled in directions we didn’t want to go.

  2. Trying to do everything myself to keep costs down (scarcity mindset) restricted my business’s growth and scalability. Logistics (the sending of every item) was always done from home, which has now been outsourced. Direct Sale which was my key focus as I loved the relationships I had created with the Mums has to become more retail/wholesale, and social media whilst so valuable and integral to my success does need to be taken care of. It’s time to switch from being the employee to the employer.

This journey has been one of the hardest and most painful at times, but also the most exciting journey of my life. On days when I was sitting at home crying, in fact sobbing because I felt I’d walked away and lost everything, I can see today it was all just part of my journey and story and things do always turn out alright in the end.

I’ve learned to trust myself more, believe in myself more, and know that I do not need to have somebody beside me to deliver my dream, I have everything inside me that I need.

There are some things I am great at, but as many that I’m not. There are some things I love doing, but many I don’t, yet, I have been pushing myself through each of those things thinking I HAVE to do it. Well I’ve sadly learned the hard way - I don’t. Employ the people who love doing the bits you don’t allow you to focus on the bits that you do, imagine how high the business will fly with all that perfectly matched talent and energy in it.

I don’t regret a single thing, but I now know the things that need to change to take us confidently and comfortably into this next chapter.

  • Losing our factory in lock-down sucked, but it happened, these things happen
  • Divorcing and separating from an abusive relationship was tough, but was all part of my story and journey, and was the inspiration for my second business ‘She Sparkles’
  • Trusting, having faith, that what is meant to be will be, I let everything go to see what stuck and beautiful dumforter of course came back
  • As I sit here writing this, I have no idea where I am going to live, when my next pay check is going to come in, how I am going to make this happen, but I will, I know I will, because I can finally say my heart, body, mind and soul are all fully committed and back in it.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Tools used to support my business are WordPress and Divibuilder for the website creation, WooCommerce for the payment platform. Xero to support all the accounting activity, and only recently have I now outsourced my distribution to a warehouse in Wales, releasing me of the need to do my daily packaging and visits to the Post Office. It’s something I held on to for way too long and has been life-changing, all for a cost of 75p cost per unit for their pick and pack service.

For email communications with the customers, I used an add-on spinning wheel to the website to capture data and attract people to sign up to the website. If they agree, we would be able to add them to our mailing list of more than 11,000 customers and offer them an offer in the hope to encourage a sale. I started with Mailchimp but more recently moved to MailerLite as similar facility

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading, and pretty much do it every single day, and for any day I’m not reading, I’ll likely tune in and listen to one of my favorite podcasters.

Books that have inspired my journey are:

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Thinking up a business idea, in my opinion, was one of the easiest parts of the journey. Finding the courage to take action and get started was much harder, but when you’re doing something you truly love and believe in, it’s just super fun.

Whilst there will always be elements on running your own business that you won’t know what to do or how to do it, there are always ways to learn, it really shouldn’t hold you back, it’s all part and parcel of the exciting entrepreneurial journey, and when you’re ready, you can go and recruit.

If you are sitting there today considering starting your own business, I can imagine your beautiful mind easily presenting so many reasons why you shouldn’t start your own business, but I’d love you to challenge that today to just focus on all the reasons why you really should. It’s a little like having a baby, there isn’t really a right time, but should the beautiful creations come unexpectedly we love them, give them all that they need, we make it work, and I truly believe you can do the same with your business.

Even if you’re not ready to give up your employment / current paid job, there are always little things that you can get started in the background. If you were taking a little step every single day, you’ll be surprised how far you’ll have come in pretty much no time at all.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

First and foremost, I’ll be looking to recruit a social media and admin support - ideally, a Mum based from home, somebody that can work a few flexible hours around their little ones, being able to communicate and relate to the needs of the parents. If this is something you’d be interested to learn more about, please please please let me know by emailing [email protected] and I’ll do my best to get back in touch with you asap.

Where can we go to learn more?

For more about my story, and my businesses, please visit:

For dumforter:

For She Sparkles

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Johanne Holman, Founder of Dumforter
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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