Looking for a creative outlet and to fill a whole in the market, Amber Kroeker started Pip & Grow, which makes portable sleep spaces for infants. They also work in their communities to end child abuse and spread wellness fo children everywhere. They spoke to Nav to give us more insight to the beginnings and day-to-day of their company.
When did you start your company?
Our company launched in October of 2016 in Portland, Oregon.
Why did you start the company?
I started the company because I saw a gap in the market for small, portable sleep spaces that were safe. Most “portable” sleep spaces (like bassinets and pack-n-plays) weren’t actually very portable. Meaning, they weighed between 20 & 30 pounds, were bulky and hard to navigate from room to room with one hand (and let’s be honest, most of the time with a new baby you only have one hand available to do stuff!). As a result, parents were choosing other sleep spaces for their baby, like a swing, bouncy chair or infant carseat. The issue is that these are NOT safe sleep spaces (baby should be lying flat when sleeping) and babies were dying as a result. My background is in pediatric trauma and injury prevention so I know first hand how heartbreaking these scenarios are. And I saw them play out again and again. I tried to find something in the marketplace that would replace those unsafe sleep spaces but there was nothing.
How did you get the money to start the company?
I was very fortunate. I shot into the dark and applied for an innovation grant and won. That gave us 25K startup funds for prototype development. I was also very fortunate to start this process in an academic environment so we had lots of support from graduate level classes. The rest of the funds came from the three business partners.
Running the Business
How many employees do you have?
Well, technically zero! But we have three partners.
Are you a Certified Woman-Owned Business?
Does your business have any certifications?
Just Certified WOB. We are considering a B-corp certification.
What makes your business unique/different?
Well, baby boxes are so new to the baby industry, so there isn’t anything quite like our product in the market.
What do you love most about your business/having your own business?
I think I love the opportunity to have a creative outlet. I am a macro level thinker and it is pretty rewarding to be able to ideate on that level.
How do you manage cash flow in the company?
It is such a balance. I wish we had a line of credit to make things easier!! Sometimes I feel like we rob Peter to pay Paul. Our manufacturers have different net payment terms so sometimes we leverage those.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the company?
I think the biggest challenge in running a company is planning next steps and trying to find advisors you trust. Also- capital. Money is ALWAYS an issue.
What’s the biggest challenge your business is currently facing? Funding. We are at a critical point of growth right now. The opportunities are enormous and we are planning our next steps.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the company?
Seeing how our customers react to our product. It is pretty amazing to create a product that people love and it feeds my soul when parents email saying a huge THANK YOU.
What’s the biggest mistake you made when you were starting the company?
Not planning big enough. Not putting in enough effort from the get go.
What personality traits or skills do you feel women/men have that make them good business owners?
Bravery. Hands down. Even if you have the most grand slams of products/services it takes bravery to get out there.
What are some of your best business savvy traits?
My gut!! I have a strong intuition and I am still learning how to listen to that.
Do you have any professional skills that made launching your business easier?
My background is in public health, in particular child injury prevention. I have an extensive background in infant safe sleep and research/evaluation into causes of infant death due to unsafe sleep. This certainly helped inform the creation of our product. I brought on Kate and Lauren who both possess a skill set that I don’t, and I thing that was equally important.
What’s the smartest thing you did when you were first starting out?
Bring on two amazing business partners. Pip would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for Kate and Lauren.
What advice would you give to other folks who want to start their own business?
Not to steal Nike’s thunder but JUST DO IT. The girls and I like to encourage each other by sending reminders that we are DOING THE THING. So many people have great ideas and they just sit on them. It certainly takes a tremendous amount of bravery and a little cash to do the thing, but it’s likely you will never regret it.
What’s next for your business?
Growth!!! We want every baby in America to have a Smitten baby box.