Interview: Mindee Hardin Harp, Inventor of Boogie Wipes
How did Mindee Hardin Harp, Inventor of Boogie Wipes & Co-Founder Little Busy Bodies, Inc. grow the company to $18 million in sales in under 5 years and then get acquired by a manufacturing partner of Procter & Gamble? In 2012, she began Juicebox Idea Consulting to help entrepreneurs define their idea and potential viability in the market.
- How Mindee, a marketing & branding expert, worked her way from one big box retailer to the next and get tips on how she did it
- How-to stay grounded when garnering so much publicity
- How-to estimate how much money you will need to invest or raise
- What big box retailers require from you, the seller
- The Pro’s & Con’s of Manufacturing – United States compared to Oversea’s
- How she started her consulting business and why she found it challenging to ask for money from clients and how she overcame it
- The first 3 things you should do when considering to go into business and the free tools you can use before hiring a consultant
READ the Transcript
Rachel: Hi, I’m Rachel Olsen, founder of Best Mom Products, where mompreneurs share their adventures in business. Today I’m talking with Mindee Doney, inventor of Boogie Wipes and co-founder of Little Busy Bodies. Her company was started in 2007, acquired in 2011, and reached $18 million in sales in over 50,000 retail locations, and in 8 countries. It was a shock to Mindee when the acquisition of her company by a manufacturing partner Procter & Gamble actually left her unemployed and without income. This taught her some major lessons in business and life that she’ll share with us today. In her most recent endeavor she’s the founder of Juice Box Idea Consulting where she helps entrepreneurs with new inventions or ideas to find their target market and reach consumers with the most potential to buy. We’ll talk more about that later in the interview, but welcome Mindee thanks for joining us today.
Mindee: Hi Rachel, my pleasure. I’m very happy to be here and talk to your viewers and share my story with you.
Rachel: Great thank you. Everyone has a background in something that has helped get them to where they are, and you have a very strong background in marketing. You worked for McDonalds, Procter & Gamble, had your own marketing agency, which sounds like led you into actually building a relationship with the co-founder of Boogie Wipes. Can you share a little bit about how this helped you when you created Boogie Wipes?
Mindee: Absolutely, and thank you. It’s great question. I think a lot of people hear my story and they feel like oh that’s great such quick success and it’s always important to mention that I had about 10 years of branding and marketing experience with some major companies. There’s a really fine line between intuition and a good idea and people skills and communication and then true business savvy and acumen, and how to come prepared to a meeting with an agenda and a presentation, and understand spreadsheets and dialogue and vocabulary. The truth of it is, is that a lot of times in business people that have the money are typically older, a little more seasoned, very traditional, and they’re going to have a much more appreciation for who you are and what you’re doing if you have some experience and some education and some savvy on your side. I started researching manufacturers and found one who was fantastic and took a big risk on me and listened to my little idea. Ultimately it came down to where I was like I don’t have, I think it was going to be about fifteen or eighteen thousand dollars for our first round of product and I had maybe half of that and couldn’t you know. I was like what am I going to do and plus it can be somewhat lonely when you’re on your own and we all have mom friends or friends that we think would have a good skill set that would match up with ours and Julie was one of those people for me. So, she had a great sales background and being a little bit older than I was she also had a little more experience with some of those types of finance and business side of things and I knew that I loved marketing and branding and I wanted to do that. So, we put a company together and we started- Julie managed a lot of the process of like how do we incorporate, how do we divide shares, and all that kind of stuff. Once we came together took on an investor the company needed a branding marketing you know – a CMO type person and it needed a CEO type person and we were going to have to pay somebody to do those jobs. So, it felt a little more reasonable for her and I to actually take salaries and come in on that capacity, but, in the beginning it was after the kids went to bed, before they woke up in the morning, in between the other work that we were doing, and slowly it just kind of it started to spiral and we’re on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. We got a good hit there. We got a big meeting with Rite Aid.
Rachel: When you were at Boogie Wipes what was the one thing that you did, obviously getting Rite Aid to be interested in you and eventually carry your product is huge. What were the other results of some of the other shows that you were on?
Mindee: I think that in the beginning a lot of it was used to gain the retail attention because getting into retail is major- I mean, a lot of the clients that I work with at Juice Box right now they think Okay I’m ready let’s go to retail and I’m like Okay here’s the list of ten questions have you ever heard the term EDI, what’s your distribution logistics look like, you know, do you have a UPC code. So, a lot of those really simple kinds of things but above and beyond that, you have to recognize that when you get into retail there is a tremendous amount of cost associated with marketing, the programs that they have in place, every little tiny inch of shelf space that they have is very valuable to them, and they’re not going to just give it away because oh that’s seems like a great idea and you’re a nice person and none of it works that way.
So, it’s difficult, it’s cut throat, and you have to prove yourself. A lot of those shows early on we used to show the retailer “look we’ve got this traction. We’re doing the work”. What is shows is a tremendous intention, momentum, potential, and those are some of the big things that they’re looking for in a marketing and promotion scale. The work that- That was kind of my piece of what I did was to garner that attention to get consumers interested. I did some fun things on the website where I would actually say where did you see Boogie Wipes or where would you like to buy Boogie Wipes and it’s all really to support that major retail distribution because once you get in that’s only the door is open then you’ve got to turn around and get people through their door. I remember when one of our very first accounts was Fred Meyer in the Portland area and we literally drove around to Fred Meyers and bought the package off the shelf. We’re like our sales have got to be good and strong and people don’t know about it yet.
Then Julie and I gave our- Gosh we spend probably five, six weekends where we actually took out an ad in the local newspaper and said “hey we’re two moms we invented this product we’re at Fred Meyer, come and meet us” and we stood in Fred Meyer and siphoned off Boogie Wipes to any and everyone who would look or listen or try or so I mean a lot of those things in the early stages that you get advertising exposure you really have to funnel all of them. I think, Rachel, one of the most difficult things for moms is that a lot of times we go into business because maybe we’re we got some things going on at home with being a mom being a wife; especially if you’ve gone to college. I always laugh at the idea of that it’s like Okay I went to college I’ve got this great career I’m ready to go and then boom baby. Oh my gosh. You kind of lose who you are and you kind of this sensation of like what am I?
So, then when you start a business and you start to get media attention and friends are excited and there’s articles being written and it’s easy to get a big head and kind of be like “oh that’s great” and you really got to- That was one thing that Julie and I were very good at is pulling it all in and saying “Okay this is all great but at the end of the day we’re not making any money.” So, it’s not gonna go anywhere so really stopping and saying “Okay we’ve got to push this into a retail channel. How do we use this to grow the business, better the business, make this less about us and more about this product that we’ve got to sell?”
Rachel: How did you do that? How did you go from very short period of time and business to 50,000 retail locations? I mean, that’s huge growth for just four to five years, and you said you were working on a part time for the first few years. You said Fred Myers was one of your first accounts which is interesting. So, you got sales to them and what did you do turn around and say “hey we’re in Fred Myers” and go to the next place.
Mindee: You got it sister. Yup. We did a lot of that work. So, like a basic retail presentation I’ve been helping a lot of my clients right now that are even if they’re just trying to get in maybe a Bye-Bye Baby [SP] or a Baby’s R Us or H-E-B is actually a fantastic chain in Texas that takes a lot of risks of chances on some kind of fun products. So, anyways there’s kind of a system of how to grow especially in the mom invented baby category and we did exactly that. So, we would say look we started online and we sell this many units and this is our growth and now we started to do trade shows and we sell this many units and this is our growth and now we’re in this account and-
Mindee: So, we would talk a little bit as, you know, there’s etiquette to follow within the retail system about how to present that information but showing that growth is tremendous. I’ll never forget, I tell this story a lot but our Target meeting because I actually went in with a thick I had said where do you want to buy Boogie Wipes and I went in and showed Target like here is a list of 15,000 moms in the last month that have been to our website and said “I want to buy Boogie Wipes at Target” and they were like I said they have a lot of systems a lot of I’s to dot and T’s to cross before they’ll let your product in but when they see that you’re trying, that momentum is there, the product is strong, you’ve got the financial backing to support it. The cash flow to manage the inventory cycle is a really difficult one. I think in terms of how did we get that growth it’s making the sale and then delivering on the promises. That was the biggest part of it.
Rachel: What point did you say did you think wow we really crossed over, we’re not profitable, or we go into what store? What were your markers for success?
Mindee: I think in the early days- That’s a great question because one thing I will say I wish I had done more is in the beginning stopped and said where are we trying to go so that we could ultimately maybe take a deep breath every once in a while and look back and recognize how far we’ve come because there were definitely moments where when you start you just think, more I have to do more I have to get here, I have to go there. A lot of times it’s refreshing to talk to some of my clients and have them kind of go through the exercise of stopping and thinking gosh I am I’m making a couple thousand a month, I’m working at a schedule that I like, I still am actively engaged with my family, my business is actually successful. Why do I feel like I want to go out and raise 200,000 in capitol from somebody to grow it to this place where I’ve got to go out and get a warehouse and office space and hire people. For some people if that’s the goal then get there but never hesitate to stop and look at where you’re at and decide what’s really missing from the scenario here. So, I think right after we got Rite Aid I remember walking, Julie and I were walking, through the airport and that was our first major big account and I remember being like “woohoo oh my gosh people everywhere are going to be able to get, you know, I can finally say “available nationwide at”. I was from a marketer and the inventor stand point and all the work that had gone in up to that point and I was just thrilled and elated and I remember Julie had her head down and she was crunching numbers oh my gosh we need some money, we need some money, we have the inventory to do that.
So, I think that was a turning point for both of us as well. Because after that we really had to have some serious conversations about bringing in money, how much was the company worth, what would it be like to form a board of advisers to have some of the control that her and I had together to be able to kind of move outside of that a little bit, and recognize that it takes money to make money and very typically as the company evolved a lot of our dreams, and visions, and goals, and where we thought we might end up or go didn’t come fruition.
Rachel: If you want to go big with a consumer product good how much money does it take? Like how much money do you need from investors if you don’t have it and how many more times are you going to have to go back? How do you project what you’re gonna need?
Mindee: Great question. I think that ultimately a lot of it comes down to cost to produce so cost to manufacture what you can sale for all of those things are a really big factor in how much money you’re going to actually need to sustain your growth.
A lot of it will come down to experience. In the early days, I know Julie and I often kind of looked back and think had we of had somebody with some more experience a CFO or somebody who that would been there done that and been able to look at our projections and our financials and kind of we were in a very reactive mode so there was a lot of Okay this account once let’s get the inventory here and so that requires more money to grow. I think if you can ultimately kind of scale back and sustain some kind of growth that if you decide look we want to maintain, Julie and I could have said we’re never going to take in we don’t want to give up any of the company. We want to stay 50/50 and we’ll take in friends and family money. We’ll only take in debt, we’ll factor, we’ll borrow, we’ll pay it all back we don’t want to give up equity.
So, that would have been one route we could have chosen and instead we decided to take on that investor and we split it up 30/30/30 and he came in but ultimately even after he put the money into the company we went back to that well just like you said which made it all the more glorious when we were actually acquired that we could pay him back. We spent as much as we made so the company was still not profitable when we were acquired. Ultimately the acquisition came in the form of equity, the brand, what we could do, the efficiencies that [inaudible 00:13:15] could create in their own company and synergies to see the brand grow and you know you just said we did eighteen million in sales and still profitable until right until the end. So, you can see how much money it takes to get there. As I work on new projects I can already see ways that I’ve stopped and said I’m not doing that again. I appreciate that account they’re a great retailer but lost a ton of money doing that at Boogie Wipes and we’re gonna go this direction.
Rachel: Interesting so you don’t have to say the retailers name but what kind of thing would that entail?
Mindee: A lot of retailers have some really high fees to be involved at their level. They also have some really high inventory requirements for replenishment meaning that you’ve got to stock and carry and be ready to fill their shelves at the drop of the hat which requires you to put out a lot of money initially to be able to have that inventory in your system. Then the other piece of it is the flip side not just the retailer but with the manufacturer. Being able to start in a place one of the biggest things that I work with my clients on right now is getting their cost down because they think Okay well it’ll cost me $5 to make it and I think it can sell it for $10. Well, Okay, the retailer is going to buy it for $10 and then you’re going to have to sell it for $15 or $20 because everybody’s got to make money in the equation. So, if you’re not going direct to a consumer and you really want to be at a mass retail level you’ve got to recognize that. The reality of it is that there’s a possibility that your product that you can make for $5, $15 is to high to sell it for. People maybe don’t want to buy it for that much. So, you really have to do some work on getting cost down, making sure that your suggested retail price some people don’t realize they don’t get to set that price. I remember Boogie Wipes ending up in some place for like $1.99 and Julie and I are like “good Lord we buy it from our manufacturer for more than that.” What’s going on? You have to recognize that you can’t control all of those elements and all of those pieces of the puzzle. So, you really have to watch really tightly down to the penny everything that you can.
Rachel: I want to get your thoughts on manufacturing. Overseas compared to the United States, what you all decide to do at Boogie Wipes and how did you make those decisions?
Mindee: If you’re in a consumer product category you think I’ve got to be made in the USA; and that is an incredibly admirable awesome goal. The reality is that if the USA can’t get their cost down to a place that you can compete at everything we’ve just talked about with those margins and that retail level, you know, when you look at a USA manufacturer and they’re going to charge you $5 and some place overseas is going do about the same quality and they’re going to charge you $2 it’s really easy to look at that and say I don’t know what to do here. So, I have one client specifically that I have so much admiration for her because she has a superior awesome product made in the USA but she is like I can’t make any money. I want to sell and I can’t and I’m still struggling and so I’m like Okay let’s take this one step at a time. She sourced overseas, she found that she could do it for less, but her heart was set in the US which is fantastic so I think she’s going to go the route of producing a higher end elite line made in the USA, gonna stay with her current manufacturer here, and hopefully her goal which I think if you bring it full circle, because we’re now back to the US, if you bring it full circle you can think you know you’re no good made in the USA if you go out of business in two years because you can’t make any money.
Rachel: Boogie Wipes experience and you ended up unemployed and without income. So, can you just wrap up the Boogie Wipes story with kind of explaining; how does that happen?
Mindee: In a nutshell it’s inexperience on my part. So, I should have taken some more precautions as the company grew to reassure that your vision and your brand and your baby as it grows so many people have to get involved in it, like I was talking about, to make it. The company was sold. Julie stayed on as CEO and she moved her family to Cincinnati which that was never a role that I wanted and I commend her for that because the stress and the minutia of running a company in that capacity I was very happy and still am very happy in my branding and my marketing hat and when you become your own business owner you have to recognize that you’ve got to learn to do a lot of different kind of skills and I think had I have taken the time at some crossroads to say no I’m going to dig in and learn how to do that and pay more attention and go to that meeting but I was like oh look I think I’ll create a new ad campaign or not your average this or whatever it was and that was what I wanted to be doing. So, Julie moved her family to Cincinnati and I ultimately stayed here in Oregon and started my consulting business, and I still maintain some sort of ownership in the company. As the brand performs over time hopefully there might still be some kind of a run off that I can use to fund some other projects or put my kids money back into their college accounts.
Rachel: So, when you left and all was said and done and she moved and you left the company you still have some equity. So, hopefully the company will do really well and continue to grow.
Mindee: Yeah. I think the lesson is more in that not that it may not still be there some day and it may not still be the fairy tale happy endings. The business and the financial game it’s gonna ebb and flow and roller coaster up and down and you’re not always in the driver seat and so you really just need to learn to kind of hang on and enjoy the ride. So, the ride took me some place that I never expected to be but it still might take me across a great finish line some day and that would be a wonderful thing.
Rachel: I want to hear more about what you’re doing today and how you took that experience and how you decided to go into consulting after all of this.
Mindee: I Maintained a lot of networks and connections and friends and known a lot of new companies that we just helped out of the kindness of our hearts, in the early stages and had really enjoyed it. So, it was difficult to go back to some of them and say “I can be more accessible now I can actually do these things for you and here’s how much it will cost you.”
To do that and have them say Okay was really, I’m not going to lie; it was great for my ego. It was great for me to feel like Okay I could actually maintain this lifestyle with my family and do this work and enjoy it and find this balance and try to keep some of this together, so, it was great. As time has gone on I’ve been able to find more and more confidence if that.
Rachel: Why do you think it is that it’s difficult to charge money for your innate talent? What about it- I know it’s hard for me as well and most women consultants that I talk to why do you think that is?
Mindee: We innately have just started to feel like I’m just going to give. I’m just going to give and to stop and say Okay you know I actually do, especially when it comes to things like marketing branding ideas creative people, it’s really hard because you feel like- I was helping a gal come up with a new name for her product not to long ago and I was over whelmed at the fact that I could just say well what about this have you thought about that and she was like oh yeah, yeah that’s great. Because I think what we forget is that what maybe has been programmed in us and innately a god given gift is not something everybody has and it takes a village it takes all of us doing our part to make it all happen. So, to recognize that just your ideas and your creativity and the way you can think about something is a value you feel like that’s just who I am I couldn’t possibly charge money for that. That’s just who I am. Whereas none of us hesitate to pay a book keeper because we are on a one way street of giving a lot to everyone in our life our spouses, our husbands, our friends, our family, our kids, and so when somebody comes to us for something we just feel like we give and it’s hard to find that balance and draw that line.
Rachel: That’s a really good point. I’ve never heard it put that way and it just definitely resonated and I think it probably will with a lot of people. So, I want to talk to you a little bit, and you don’t have to give away all the good free advice. I know you charge, as we just talked about how much you charge….
Mindee: What just talked about, right.
Rachel: All that and now I’m going to ask you for some free tips; but I am going to ask you what are the first three things when somebody comes to you, and they tell you what their idea is what are some tips that you provide to them of the bat, or what are the first three things that person should do?
Mindee: First you got to make sure that they’ve asked somebody besides grandma if they would buy it use it visit at the store that they want to open. I think it’s very easy to have a lot of voices in your head of people that love you tell you “oh honey that’s great you should absolutely do that, I support that, you go for it”. Remember that a lot of people are going to have advice for you on all different subjects in your business and your life and ultimately you are the only that has to deal with the consequences of those choices so take that advice in, do some research, unbiased research, talk to a consultant, or if anything there’s also a lot of ways I remember Julie and I actually early on at Boogie Wipes when we first had the idea and we were trying to develop the product line a little more we just invited a whole bunch of moms to a local play group and we’re like “look we’ll buy you lunch if you’ll just come in and talk to use for a couple of hours.” And we just had a list of questions and a recorder out and what do you think and we were just talking about that giving. Well there’s a lot of people that are happy to give you their advice and their opinion, and honestly and openly and there’s a lot of social networks that will allow you to do some of that work and then I think that one of the other things I would caution a lot of people regarding is to know and understand we talked earlier about your consumer. I am such an advocate for finding your niche consumer; and it’s not just about we’ve all heard that oh their average household income and how many kids do they have and how old are they ugh. You know what Okay fine the reality of it is what else do they buy, how much time do they spend on the computer, who are their friends, why do they buy stuff, do they buy stuff because they want to have the coolest latest gadget in the world. Or do they buy stuff because they really want it to work, how busy are they, what is it really going to take to get them to change their habit? Right? How much would it take for you to buy a different kind of paper towel than you usually buy and that you know works and that you love? Are you a price sensitive consumer? What- Do you buy on emotion? Do you buy on price?
There’s so many little minutia’s. We live in a day and age when there is so much information coming at all of use every day all day long and you and your product whatever it is are going to be dismissed so quickly if you are not finding the exact emotional trigger to get a consumer to say “oh I want to learn more”. Your initial goal doesn’t have to be to get them to buy your product it just asks them to go “that’s a cool product” or, “that’s a cool store” or “that’s a cool website” and if I have that need I’m going to go back to that. So, a creative fun name things that are memorable.
Rachel: Let me ask you about that because you say that and it sounds like oh you just have to figure out what their emotional need is. Like it’s so easy. I’m doing these interviews. I love it. I’m learning so much. I ultimately would like to make this a business somehow. I’m not quite sure yet but I’m trying to figure out, like, who are the women watching these videos. Like somebody likes me on Facebook, should I contact them right away and say “hey why did you like this? What do you like about Best Mom Products? Is it the one to one trying to such a..Start small and start to figure out what trends you see as people respond to you in this because you’re talking about huge consumer markets. How do you figure that out? Is that what you help with Mindee? (laughter)
Mindee: The what’s in it for me factor is big and I mean that for everybody because we all would like to imply or insinuate that we’re out to support this charity and we’re out to like this group, because it feels good but ultimately we all have some sense of how does that better my life, my purpose, my mission, how does that make my life easier and so I think that one of the biggest things like for you and your video segments and in general is, is it realistic that a mom in business, a busy mom in business, is going to sit down and watch an hour of your interviews.
Mindee: But when you know that and you can say “Okay I’m going to cut these little snippets out and I’m going to share this little tidbit of this nugget from this specific interview, and then this mom’s going to come in and go I’m going carve out time to make that a part of my life. So, I know that it can seem overwhelming and is this where I want to go, and what I want to do, and am I on the right track, and are people going to pay for it someday, baby steps.
Rachel: What type of research or tools should somebody out there look for prior to spending money on a consultant? What would be a few things that they could do on their own, before coming to somebody like you?
Mindee: The US Patent and Trademark office is a free site uspto.gov that a lot of people can do a lot of research on on their own. Definitely going out to like for instance on Juice Box Consulting or I have a group called the Opinionators which is you don’t have to hire me but it’s a group that you can join and go on and say hey I’m a random person do you guys like this idea, would you buy this product, how much would you pay for it things like that. So, you don’t always need a consultant and somebody in the lead to do that kind of work. Go ahead.
Rachel: I was just going to ask, so is that group a Facebook group? How would somebody find the Opinionators?
Mindee: Either they can come to Juice Box Idea Consulting and I can connect them or yeah they can just look for it. It’s a private group but I’m more than happy to let anybody in that just wants to ask some questions and look around and then I think go to the store and see what’s selling, look at ads online, and look into your own life, what am I doing, how am I spending my money, would I buy that because ultimately 99% of what moms create is something that other moms can buy, should be buying, would be buying. They come from needs and desires within their own lives to make things easier and better. Never underestimate, let me just take this hat off. I always talk about wearing different hats. We have our mom hat. We have our business hat, our consumer hat, our retailer hat, you know. So, if you can kind of put on that consumer hat and just think to yourself “Okay I’m walking through the store and I randomly see this widget that does ABC and it cost XYZ. What would make me stop and buy it?”
A lot of those things you can process on your own and then of course you got to go back to the numbers. We can’t forget take a look at your numbers. How much are you willing to put into your business and what are you expecting to get out of it? Communicate with your friends and family openly and honestly especially husbands, spouses, kids mommy is going to be doing a little more of this right now this is what I’m going to need from you, this is what I can give to you in return, this is the commitment of time I’m willing to make to test an idea to see where it goes and give yourself some benchmarks and stop and look at those and notice Okay I reached this one but not this one. Why? What does my next step need to be in order to get me to where I want to go or is it possible that I’m at a cross roads that I need to change directions entirely? I need to come up with a whole new plan. I need to scrap this. I need to start this or maybe I just need to take a break for a while maybe I’m pushing to hard. If you are on the right path doors will open.
Rachel: Well, it sounds like you’ve had quite and adventure over the past five or six years.
Mindee: That’s the perfect word to describe it.
Rachel: I want to thank you for being here with us and for those of you that are watching, listening, or reading this you can find more interviews like this at www.bestmomproducts.com please sign-up for our newsletter so we can make you aware of future interviews and tips from experts. Mindee was kind of a mix of both an expert and an entrepreneur and thank you for being here.
Mindee: My pleasure good luck to you and everyone watching. Be well.