Interview: Angela Smith, Yip Yap, Inc.

Yip Yap

Meet Mom Entrepreneur Angela Smith, Founder, Yip Yap, Inc.

“Manage your expectations. Put forth your best effort and work your plan, but when something doesn’t go as expected, don’t consider it a setback or failure. Everything is an experience to be learned from.

We have had many “setbacks” and “failures” but we would not be where we are today if not for those experiences. Starting a business is not an uphill climb, it is a landscape of ups and downs with each up getting you a bit further towards your goal.”

What does your business offer?
We designed Pipsqueak in form and function with our target audience, 3-8 yearolds, in mind. As a Bluetooth phone, parents can route calls to Pipsqueak just like they would to a Bluetooth headset. Kids can talk on their own device keeping mom and dad’s phones out of harm’s way. Using the Android or iPhone Yip Yap app on their smartphone, parents are able to assign contacts to Pipsqueak so that while Pipsqueak is connected via Bluetooth to a parent phone, kids can initiate calls to the approved contacts. Using the Yip Yap app, parents can also share videos, photos, and music with their child’s Pipsqueak. Pipsqueak also features copy-cat voice recording with voice modulation, sound boards, and games.

The newest and one of the most exciting features of Pipsqueak is the YouTube player. Parents can make a YouTube playlist directly from their smartphone then use the Yip Yap app to assign it to their child’s Pipsqueak. When connected to Wi-Fi, Pipsqueak will play the parent selected YouTube videos without any ads, commercials, or suggested video content, only the content the parent selected! And all of this is just the beginning for Pipsqueak. We see a future ripe with opportunity to entertain and educate kids with Pipsqueak! Our plans include more games, more sound boards, audio books, Yip Yap offered video content, Wi-Fi calling, licensed digital content, licensed accessories, and much more.

Pipsqueak is fully customizable with removable cover-plates, Yip Chips, and dangles – so Pipsqueak can change from princess to pony or pirate to superhero. The possibilities are endless!

Our target consumer is children aged 3 to 8 and our target buyer is mom or grandma. We took possession of our first 1300 units in January and are very slowly getting those into the market. We are offering them on our website and in a dozen wireless retail locations in CA, TX and FL.

We started with wireless retail locations because we have contacts there and because they have trained and commissioned sales reps who understand how to sell wireless products. We want to make sure our first customers have a positive experience and that we can interact with them to get feedback, suggestions, and troubleshoot any issues. We are at a point where we are ready to reach more potential customers and I landed on this site and in a search for how to generate PR!

What was your AHA moment?
Had the idea and just went for it

How has PR and Marketing helped your business?
We have done minimal marketing and PR thus far. We had a Facebook marketing campaign associated with our Indiegogo campaign in late 2015. We hired an agency for this campaign and collected 4500 qualified email addresses in a 2 week period. Unfortunately the collection of email addresses did not translate to sales at the launch of the campaign. In retrospect, I believe there were several reasons for the “failed” campaign including asking for pre-orders in the holiday shopping season and not securing meaningful press. I also think that our target buyer, mom, is not typically a crowdfunding buyer and may not understand the platform, adding complexity to the sale.

During CES 2016 we exhibited in the Eureka Park startup area and received quite a bit of press. We paid for an ad and editorial in CES Daily Magazine, but all other press was unsolicited. I did an on-air radio interview with Into Tomorrow, several filmed interviews ranging from 5 minutes to 30 seconds (30 second pitch), and we had several press outlets that filmed in our booth with their own reporter talking about Pipsqueak, including a BBC vlogger. While this was all exciting in the moment and we did get some published digital press, I did not capitalize on these opportunities by following up with them and building the relationships to leverage for future PR opportunities or networking. I am only now beginning to learn about and understand PR. No one at Yip Yap has experience in PR or has focused on it up to this point and we don’t have the financial resources to contract it out. I am taking the initiative to own PR for now and that has landed me on this site and I am excited to learn more and see what types of results we can get with some knowledge and guidance.

What’s your greatest success to date?
Our greatest success to date is having Pipsqueaks in the hands of kids who love it and parents who love it too! We have customers who have been following us for many years as we worked through the development of Pipsqueak. There have been ups and downs and several times when I thought this venture was over. Changes in available technology have allowed us to do much more with Pipsqueak than I ever imagined when I first had the idea, and the end result is a product that fills a need for parents and delights kids. To hear that directly from Pipsqueak users and parents, after working through times we thought the device would never come to be, is very rewarding.

What’s been challenging and how did you overcome it?
By nature I am not an entrepreneur. I am risk averse. My husband’s nickname for me over the years has been “dream slayer.” He is the dreamer, entrepreneur, and risk taker.

Part of our story is that Pipsqueak was my idea, so I couldn’t “slay it.” Had the idea been his, he figures we wouldn’t be where we are today. Living in the uncertainty of a startup has been my biggest challenge.

We have faced many failures, many moments we thought were “the moment” before success that were not. Stages of drowning under the workload we were managing along side his full time job, and our other business that I operated (3 vacation homes), and 4 kids. Empty bank accounts. Underwhelming crowd funding results – twice!

For me, who is naturally risk averse and is most comfortable when in control, inventing a product and founding a startup has been an incredible challenge!

I am not sure I can say I have overcome this challenge, but rather I have learned to live more comfortably in it. I have come to understand the importance of living in this moment, of not dwelling on what our life would be like if we had done ________ instead of _______; or if only _________ then ________; or when we achieve __________. I have goals and dreams, but I have learned to enjoy the journey rather than only focus on the final destination.

What steps are you taking to achieve your goals?
We have developers working full time to build out our road map of software features and functions which we are releasing to our current customers. In the last month we have released both the iPhone and Android parent apps that allow parents to connect with the Yip Yap Yuniverse in order to add content and contacts to Pipsqueak, the YouTube player, and our first game.

We have a built a brand that is memorable and fun in order to differentiate ourselves from future competition. We are in early conversations with several strategic investment partners. We have exhibited at CTIA 2015, CES 2015 and CES 2016.

All of these things have been done to prepare us for launch. We are now seeking our series A funding so that we can move “full steam ahead” with development, marketing, manufacturing and distribution.

What are your best tips on managing family and business?
We have four children aged 10 to 3. I have been a “work at home” mom since our oldest was 2 years old and I was expecting our second. We owned a vacation home business that I ran for seven years. We sold that business in 2014 so that we could focus our financial and time resources on Yip Yap. It is part of the culture of our home that both mom and dad work from home. My husband has an office that is detached from our home.

My office is in our sun room, next to the kitchen and living room, and also serves as our school room where I homeschool our two school-aged children. There are certainly challenges, but our children know that mom has to spend time working and sometimes they just have to be patient and wait. I can’t tend immediately to their every request, and I am okay with that because they have a front row seat to life in action.

They see demonstrated hard work, dedication, persistence, frustration, patience, time management, and more. What does it look like practically – we spend our mornings on school work that requires me to be sitting with them, while the two younger children are playing or at preschool. If I have work to attend to first thing in the morning I do it before school or while they are independently working.

Between school and extra curricular activities, I spend time at my computer working. After the kids go to bed, my husband and I start what we have termed “second shift.” That is the 9 p.m. to whenever shift, (length of time depending on what needs to get done), sometimes until 11 p.m. but often much later. Summers are more flexible because we are not homeschooling. We have grandparent help for when we travel. They have stayed with the kids or traveled along with us and the kids, depending on where we are going, the length of the trip, and the time of year.

Operating a startup requires a substantial amount of work, but we have learned to balance that well as a family. Our kids are home during the day so we spend a lot of time together. We eat lunch and dinner together as a family. We watch very little T.V., but instead read together or play games in the evening.

We live on acreage, so the kids have space to run, play and explore. It is an alternative to the traditional parents go to work and kids go to school lifestyle, but it allows us to work hard, play hard, and stay connected as a family.

What are your favorite tools and resources?
My husband! He has a spirit of love, encouragement, and optimism. When I am frustrated or feeling like we have hit a brick wall, he helps me to see the way over, under, or around that wall. He planted the entrepreneurial spirit in me and I need him to feed it regularly!

If you could wave a magic wand right now, what would you wish for?
Series A funding!

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your business?

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