How We Created A $60K/Month Innovative Car Seat Buckle Release Tool And Got Featured On Shark Tank

$60K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
2
Employees
product
UnbuckleMe
from Houston, TX, USA
started July 2016
$60,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
2
Employees
1.17M
alexa rank
12.4K
followers
486
followers
market size
$57.5B
avg revenue (monthly)
$60K
starting costs
$15K
gross margin
88%
time to build
9 months
average product price
$2500
growth channels
Email marketing
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
Wave, Amazon FBA, Canva
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
tips
2 Tips
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I am Becca Davison, and I am the co-inventor of UnbuckleMe, an innovative, patented tool that makes it easy to open kids’ car seat buckles. After college I lived in NYC for 8 years, working in the corporate world in Human Resources for two global investment banks. I moved back to Houston with my husband in 2014 and transitioned to management consulting. We started our family and currently have two daughters, ages 3 and 5 years old.

Our business was born from my need for childcare, as I needed my mom’s help with my daughter when I went back to work after maternity leave. I currently spend most of my time growing our business, UnbuckleMe, and continue to consult a few hours/week for energy clients in Houston.

how-we-created-a-60k-month-innovative-car-seat-buckle-release-tool-and-got-featured-on-shark-tank

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

When my first daughter was born in 2015, my mom offered to help me with childcare when I went back to work. As my daughter grew, my mom wanted to take her granddaughter out of the house during the day, to parks and the zoo. But she quickly realized that because of some arthritis in her thumb, she lacked the strength to push the red button on my daughter’s car seat. This meant that she couldn’t safely take her out in the car. We shopped for alternative car seats but soon learned that car seat buckles are federally regulated to require 9 lbs. of pressure to release. Great for safety, limiting for grandparents.

Identify your target audience as early as possible and put yourself in their shoes to figure out how to reach them. What are they doing/reading/watching where you can get your product or service in front of them?

My mom is an Occupational Therapist who spent her career adapting equipment for patients with disabilities. She decided to create a tool to solve her own problem, and UnbuckleMe was born. When I saw my mom’s invention, I knew it could help others, and she couldn’t be the only grandparent with arthritis who cared for a child. Turns out, 1/3 of women over 50 yrs. suffer from thumb arthritis! (the CMC joint is one of the most over-used in the body, and years of repetitive stress makes arthritis and joint pain very common). We researched the market and decided to bring our invention to life!

how-we-created-a-60k-month-innovative-car-seat-buckle-release-tool-and-got-featured-on-shark-tank

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

My mom and I spent nearly a year refining our prototypes and perfecting our design! We found a manufacturer in Iowa who helped us build our CAD files, create 3D printed versions to test, and ultimately create our injection molded tooling. We did a lot of market research by sending 3D printed samples to 50-100 families and asking them for feedback, which was very helpful to make sure we were creating the best product possible! My mom was also the perfect product tester because she was our primary target customer.

how-we-created-a-60k-month-innovative-car-seat-buckle-release-tool-and-got-featured-on-shark-tank

how-we-created-a-60k-month-innovative-car-seat-buckle-release-tool-and-got-featured-on-shark-tank

how-we-created-a-60k-month-innovative-car-seat-buckle-release-tool-and-got-featured-on-shark-tank

Describe the process of launching the business.

UnbuckleMe launched on Kickstarter in early 2017 and we started selling on the market in the fall of 2017 on our website, Amazon.com, and dozens of small retailers across the country. We learned that so many families need UnbuckleMe and more than just grandparents. Families with kids 4+ love to give them the independence to unbuckle themselves and speed up the school drop-off line!

Every milestone reached leads to the next one! I used to think, if we could only [insert milestone], then we’ll be set! And when we reached that one, there was another goal waiting right behind that one that we were ready to pursue.

And new moms with a fresh manicure can save their nails with UnbuckleMe. It was fun reading the early customer reviews and learning more about who was buying our product, which helped us refine our marketing efforts.

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

It takes hard work and hustle to continue to find creative ways to reach target customers! We continually rely on Facebook ads, email marketing, events/trade shows (pre-COVID), reaching out to social media influencers, reaching out to newspapers, parenting blogs, etc. It’s a constant test and learns the process!

Of course, the best thing we’ve done was auditioning for Shark Tank, and we ultimately aired on the show in May 2020. We received offers from all 5 Sharks! The publicity from that opportunity gave us a huge advantage to pursue several other big retail and marketing opportunities that we have planned for 2021.

Amazon remains one of our biggest channels (70% of our sales). We are currently working to build up our website to add more products to try to increase order value and build our brand presence through our own eCommerce channel.

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

We are so grateful to be where we are today! We are almost ready to announce some big opportunities coming in the Spring of 2021—both media (TV) and distribution (new retailers). We credit Shark Tank for these opportunities! We are focused on our website and building email marketing.

We are profitable but have re-invested proceeds back into inventory, so cashflow is always a challenge. We’re expecting 2021 to be a breakthrough year for us and start generating healthy cashflow for my mom and me.

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

Every milestone reached leads to the next one! I used to think, if we could only [insert milestone], then we’ll be set! And when we reached that one, there was another goal waiting right behind that one that we were ready to pursue. It’s a fun ride, but never ends, there are always new ideas to try and new opportunities to focus on!

Constant trial and error and test and learn. I’ve learned to build networks and connections with other entrepreneurs, and that has been very helpful to learn what worked for others and to avoid mistakes. I’ve also made some great industry connections that helped us grow!

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Our website is built on Shopify (although we were on WooCommerce/WordPress for the first 3 years of our business). We used to do our own fulfillment and shipping, but as we grew, we found a fulfillment partner in Houston that is incredibly essential to our business logistics.

We are currently running our own social media and ads, and we have just hired someone (a fellow Shark Tank alum) to help us ramp up our email marketing efforts.

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

I love the podcast How I Built This. And it was a HUGE accomplishment for us to be featured at the end of one episode (with Tobias Lutke, the founder of Shopify) as the How You Built That feature.

I also relied on the book The Mom Inventors Handbook at the beginning of our journey, which was recommended to me by another successful mom business owner, Lindsey Laurain at ezpz.

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

Be willing to learn, don’t give up, focus on measurable value. Identify your target audience as early as possible and put yourself in their shoes to figure out how to reach them. What are they doing/reading/watching where you can get your product or service in front of them?

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

No, we’re not yet at the point of hiring generally, other than specific one-off referrals that we consider based on our needs. We are still a small-run company and rely on excellent partners to help us scale.

Where can we go to learn more?

-  
Becca Davison,   Founder of UnbuckleMe
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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