How My 2 Year Old Inspired A Business Idea That Made It On Good Morning America

Amy Leinbach
$20K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
Big Bee, Little Bee
from Huntington Beach
started April 2016
$20,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
1.83M
alexa rank
8.38K
followers
market size
$85.8B
avg revenue (monthly)
$65K
starting costs
$18.9K
gross margin
34%
time to build
270 days
average product price
$10
growth channels
Word of mouth
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
Canva, Instagram, Semrush
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
24 Pros & Cons
tips
4 Tips
Discover what tools Amy reccommends to grow your business!
email
reviews
social media
Discover what books Amy reccommends to grow your business!
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Amy Leinbach, and I’m the founder of Big Bee, Little Bee. We make innovative goods at home and on the go. I’m the Big Bee and my 6-year-old daughter is the Little Bee.

Most of our catalog is made up of my innovations, like the ScrubBEE Easy-Grip Silicone Scrubber, Build-A-Straw Easy-Clean Travel Straw, and Clean Bee Reusable Quick-Dry Towels. We strongly believe in protecting our environment, so we focus on developing reusable goods that are easy to use and built to last. The ScrubBEE is our top seller. Since the original size ScrubBEE was designed for little kids, most of our customers are parents. But since the launch of the Big ScrubBEE, as well as the straws and towels, our customer base is widened.

At the end of 2020, our products were featured on Good Morning America. Following that, we were featured on The View. Through all the challenges of 2020 (of which we had many), we still managed to grow our business in a big way. We were picked up in all buybuyBaby locations across North America and quadrupled our number of independent retail partners.

how-my-2-year-old-inspired-a-business-idea-that-made-it-on-good-morning-america

how-my-2-year-old-inspired-a-business-idea-that-made-it-on-good-morning-america

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

The idea for the ScrubBEE came about when my daughter was about 2.5 years old and started to assert her independence.

She was completely dressing, and she wanted to wash too. While I certainly wanted to empower her, I did want her to get fully clean. She couldn’t do much with a washcloth, she couldn’t get a good grip on a floppy sponge, and the plastic loofahs were just too big to get in all her little parts. When I couldn’t find the right tool to help her, I decided to make one.

Measure your passion for the project against your fear of failure. In my opinion, your passion has to be much, much stronger than your fear.

Did I know the ScrubBEE was going to be a hit? Not. At the time it hit the market, it was pretty uncommon to see a scrubber made completely out of silicone. I knew it could potentially be a tough sell. But for better or worse, I have a habit of going forward anyway. Also, at the time, I knew very little about testing the market before production. I knew very little about anything related to product development and manufacturing in general, but I figured it out as I went along. It wasn’t the first product I’d ever created, but it was the first product that required an expensive production mold.

As with everything to do with this business, the money for the prototypes, the mold, the samples, the patent application, the inventory, and everything else, was coming directly out of my pocket. If the product had tanked, it would have been painful. But thankfully it didn’t. It took off almost immediately. People bought it, loved it, and recommended it to friends.

The enthusiasm customers had for the ScrubBEE shocked me. I believed it was an excellent product, but I felt sure launching it would be a very slow process. I thought it would take a lot of convincing to get parents to believe that a silicone scrubber could be as gentle as a washcloth and as effective as a loofah.

In just a few months, ScrubBEE outsold my previous product by a long shot. The previous one, the Snow Angel, was a cushioned baby bath towel that made it easy and safe to dry an infant on a hard surface. Parents who took the leap and bought one loved it. Many customers then gifted them to their friends having babies.

But it was extremely difficult to acquire new customers without a referral. When you looked at an image of the product, it wasn’t immediately clear what it was. You couldn’t quite see that the back panel was cushioned and why the “wings” were there. One had to take the time to watch a demo or study an illustration to understand it. In a world where you need to communicate a product’s value proposition within a 3-second scroll, the Snow Angel just couldn’t sell itself.

In contrast, ScrubBEE caught people’s attention immediately. The bright color and fun design were scroll-stoppers. Because they paused to look at it, I then got a few more seconds to communicate its value. I truly believe those extra seconds are responsible for helping the ScrubBEE take off as fast as it did.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the ScrubBEE.

My earliest ScrubBEE prototype was fancy: it was made of a cut-up cellulose sponge glued to an EOS lip balm container. I’m not good at drawing, so I tend to communicate what’s in my brain by cobbling together a shape and going from there. The ScrubBEE was so much about size and shape because it had to fit a young child’s hand, so I worked on that first.

Considering that our brand is Big Bee, Little Bee, I thought it could be fun to go with a bee theme. It turned out that a beehive made a beautifully shaped handle and a hexagon pattern lent itself to an excellent bristle base. The lines in the beehive provide texture for a firm grip, and the spacing between the hexagons allows the bristles to move freely.

I screen-captured images of honeycombs and beehives before sharing everything with a 3D designer. By the time I connected with her, I knew the dimensions and the primary features I needed the product to have.

The basic piece came together quickly and easily because it’s a fairly simple design. The complexity was in the details—and the bristles were the most important and most difficult ones. It took months to dial in the bristles. The taper, the length, the clustering, the softness. So while the handle was always the differentiating feature I was going for, I knew the bristles had to be perfect. They had to feel nice against a little one’s skin, but they had to be tough enough to clean a preschooler’s fingernails. And of course, the bristles couldn’t break off in the production mold. We got there, but it took a lot of samples to do so.

The only painful part of the early ScrubBEE days was that the first factory I engaged in didn't work out. They offered one price and MOQ out of the gate and raised both with each production run. Not only did the cost continue to go up, but the quality continued to go down. Not a great scenario. I chose to stop working with that factory and found another. Aside from the logistical nightmare, it was also difficult because it meant the mold had to be remade. Doing that was very expensive, and for a self-funded business like mine, the cost was tough to cover.

About two months ago, my 6-year-old came up with her invention. Now I’m guiding her through the product development process and doing that is helping me see how much I’ve learned. In just two months, we’ve already finalized the 3D design and are in the process of creating the sample mold. She’s participating in all of it and it’s an incredible experience to be able to share. Her product will likely launch in Spring 2022 so stay tuned!

how-my-2-year-old-inspired-a-business-idea-that-made-it-on-good-morning-america

how-my-2-year-old-inspired-a-business-idea-that-made-it-on-good-morning-america

Describe the process of launching the business.

When Big Bee, Little Bee was born, it was a very different business than the one you see today. It was a business based entirely on the Snow Angel towel, which I ended up retiring in 2020. When it came time to reorder inventory, I decided not to do it.

Over the past couple of years, my creations have become more targeted to those interested in reusable products. I didn’t want to split my focus (and my money) by targeting two markets. While it hurt my heart to retire it, it was the right move for the business.

Attracting customers has been my biggest challenge to date. It’s a code I’m trying to crack every single day.

how-my-2-year-old-inspired-a-business-idea-that-made-it-on-good-morning-america

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

Attracting customers has been my biggest challenge to date. It’s a code I’m trying to crack every single day. That said, I’ve been extremely conservative with ad spending. Extremely. I’m only now beginning to increase my spending. But here’s what I won’t do: I won’t focus all my efforts and all my money on one platform or channel. I don’t trust any platform enough to do that.

I know many people who do almost 100% of their business on Amazon and put a good amount of effort and money behind that strategy. But considering that a seller doesn’t own the customer data, I won’t do that. And I won’t put all my energy into a marketplace that severely limits sellers’ interaction with their customers.

Regarding Facebook, I know many businesses who’ve had their ad accounts disabled for no reason and had to start from scratch. If that’s what they relied upon for most of their sales, that can be a nightmare.

If I could go back in time, I would have invested in SEO. Considering that I can’t go back, I’m focusing on it now. I’m working on it with my website, and I’ll begin working on it through Pinterest soon. Pinterest is much more of a search engine than a social media platform, which is a fact I never understood until now. So if you look at my ad spend for the second half of 2021, this is what you’ll likely see: some spent on Amazon ads, some spent on Facebook ads, and some spent on Pinterest ads. Then we’ll see how it goes and adjust from there!

Where will I focus my energy in this area for the next several months? Growing and nurturing my email list. Securing new retail partners, both independent and major. Creating and testing new ad creatives. Identifying strategic partnerships and collaborations. Building SEO through content creation.

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

We’re just starting to be profitable now. We “should” have been profitable last year, but like so many others, we experienced inventory challenges throughout the year. And without sufficient inventory to meet demand, it’s not so easy to reach your sales targets! We didn’t have enough supply to sell on Amazon for most of last year, and that hit us hard. We chose to direct our available inventory to our retail partners, and our margins are lower with wholesale sales. But I run this business in alignment with my values, and I value lifting others. It was very important to me to give our retail partners something to sell during these difficult times.

As far as operations are concerned, I’m officially doing too much of the work myself. I’ve outgrown that phase and am just taking the steps necessary to start outsourcing some of the work. I have to coach myself into doing this because I like to have as much control of the process as possible—too much of the control I’d say. I’ve learned so much by bootstrapping the operation to date, but it’s just not scalable. And I’m proud to say that we now need to scale up.

how-my-2-year-old-inspired-a-business-idea-that-made-it-on-good-morning-america
First time we saw one of our products in-store at buybuy BABY

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

Focus on what’s going well and do more of that! Are you struggling with direct-to-consumer sales but your retail partnerships are strong? Grow your wholesale business.

Remember that this is a one-player game. You’re playing against yourself, not others. Was your friend’s revenue higher than your last quarter? Pay attention to what they’re doing, ask for ideas, but don’t fixate on their success. Your mission is to do better this quarter than you did during the last. Focus on your quarter-over-quarter growth, year-over-year growth. Your mindset will be better, and your growth is sure to follow.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I wish I knew about the following tools out of the gate, but like so many things, I learned about them as I went along. I think Shopify is unbeatable as an e-commerce platform. It’s extremely easy to use, and countless apps integrate with it flawlessly. There are limitations as it pertains to design, but I continue to work on that.

I happen to use ShippingEasy as my shipping platform, but I wouldn’t say I disliked the one built into Shopify. If someone was just starting their Shopify store, I would recommend starting there. Then, as your volume increases, I’d recommend moving to another service like ShippingEasy or ShipStation. Both are good.

I highly recommend getting a product review app integrated as soon as someone opens a shop. I didn’t do it in the beginning, and it’s something I regret. Social proof is so important these days, and those product reviews are so valuable. I’ve been using an app called Loox for a couple of months now and I’m happy with it. There are other good ones, but I like that Loox prompts the user to add images to their reviews.

If someone were trying to increase their average cart value (and why wouldn’t they!), I’d recommend trying an app like Frequently Bought Together. It looks a lot like what Amazon presents to their customers, and is great for the upsell. For example, on my product pages, the customer is presented with items that are frequently bought with the one they’re looking at. You can set it to offer discounts if they buy the recommended items, and the data has shown me that it works.

One of the things I wasn’t paying much attention to until recently is my email list. What a mistake that was! I have way too much to say about the importance of list building and regular communication with your customers to cover it here, so I’ll just say this: grow your list, give it the attention it deserves, build in automation, and be strategic with all of it. It’ll take work, but you’ll see an enormous return on investment if you do. Klaviyo makes the technical element extremely easy.

how-my-2-year-old-inspired-a-business-idea-that-made-it-on-good-morning-america
Fulfilling orders out of my garage

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

As far as podcasts go, I recommend listening to The Email Marketing Show to get more strategic with your email list. Sustainable Packaging and Package Design Unboxd are excellent if you’re looking to take your packaging to the next level in a responsible way. The Product Boss is great for learning about the journeys of other product-based business owners. How I Built This is also phenomenal.

But the most important resources you’ll have are your peers. I’ve connected with a brilliant group of product developers and we rely upon each other all the time. We offer each other support, recommendations, connections, and so on. We help each other problem-solve and grow. Find a group and nurture the relationships. It’ll be fantastic for your business and fantastic for you personally. Entrepreneurship can be lonely!

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

Measure your passion for the project against your fear of failure. In my opinion, your passion has to be much, much stronger than your fear. Because you will make mistakes as you’re starting. You will “waste” money. You will get criticized. So your belief in what you’re doing, your “why,” has to be strong enough to carry you through the lows.

Listen to what your audience is saying. Listen to what your customers are saying. If they want orange and you want teal, at the end of the day, which is more important? Which is more helpful? Yes, commit to what you’re doing, but don’t get married to a specific outcome. If you want to sell, listen.

Remember, people buy from people. Even though we’re living in an e-commerce world, it still holds. Don’t pretend you’re a big business if you’re small. People want to know the story behind the business (this platform is perfect evidence!), they want to know who you are and what you’re about. Get comfortable sharing it with them.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I’m not looking for help right now even though I said I’m beginning to outsource. I have partners and contractors in place for that work. But if you believe there might be an opportunity for us to work together, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Where can we go to learn more?

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

-  
Amy Leinbach, Founder of Big Bee, Little Bee
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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