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Busy Moms Unite!

I love talking to other Moms about how we “do it all.” Everyone has a little trick or tip for how to make dinner a little faster, organize our schedules a little more realistically, where to find a great baby shower gift, or how to squeeze some “Me Time” into our hectic days.

In March, I was fortunate to be the subject of a Mom-Preneur blog feature. The blogger also happens to be a photographer, so she did a beautiful layout of photos of my son and me. Too bad my hubby was traveling, or he would have been in on the shoot!

Annemarie asked some good questions about business and life, balance, challenges and rewards. Maybe you will get a new idea about balancing your own life (hint: I don’t believe balance exists!) or perhaps you have been thinking about starting a business, and you will benefit from my insights. Let’s keep sharing our information among ourselves so we can all benefit. :)

Here’s the link to the article from Marie Holmes Photography. Happy Easter!

Where Did Bottle Snugglers Come From?

Because our product is still relatively new to the market, I am often asked how Bottle Snugglers came to be. I also am constantly explaining how they work.

Recently, a friend suggested that I add some videos to the website which would explain both of these answers. It was a great idea, but harder than I thought it would be to execute. First of all, to see yourself on video is odd, and it takes a lot of tries to get one short video that’s acceptable. (Truth be told, I would still be re-doing them if I had the time.) Secondly, it’s not that easy to put into concise words the motivation it took to close a business, change industries, learn a new business from the ground up (including production), and keep it afloat for three years as I wait to be “discovered”.

But after some soul searching and editing, the project is complete. I wanted to be sure to communicate exactly what Bottle Snugglers are for, how they can help Mom AND baby, and why they are important enough to me to make big changes in my life to bring them to market. Another video shows how to use them. (So easy!) And we are also starting to add video testimonials to the site, the first of which went up last week. Very exciting for me and, I hope, enlightening and helpful for you. Here goes nothin’!

Mom Finds Found Us!

We’re always giddy when we get a great review from Moms.

I wanted to share this review from from July 22, 2010 (today), which always has great ideas for useful products. Happy shopping! I will post the link here, along with the copy.

By Mom Jeanine

We’ve all been there. You just sat down to feed your little one and then the phone rings. You’d reach over and grab it, but then you’d have to let baby’s bottle drop or try to prop it up with a pillow all before the fourth ring. Finally, there’s a solution. Bottle snugglers.

These adorable, cozy stuffed animals rest softly on your little one’s chest, while the stretchy elastic ring on top holds baby’s bottle in place. It’s designed to hold the bottle at the same angle a person would so feeding is still comfortable for your little one. And because the probability of leakage is high, these plush proppers are machine-washable and can go in the dryer.

Have twins or triplets? Use Bottle Snugglers to ensure everyone is fed on time without trying to hold three bottle simultaneously by yourself.

Bottle snugglers are available in several animal styles including the cuddly cow, a charming teddy bear and a precious puppy.

Stress Gave Birth to a New Business

The copy below was originally printed in the Jacksonville Business Journal on July 16, 2010.

By Dolly Penland

They say necessity is the mother of invention. In Jennifer Marko’s case, it spawned an Internet search. Marko was the owner of a public relations firm when she had a baby in 2006. She took only two weeks’ maternity leave.

“I had an image of myself working at my desk as usual and the baby quietly sleeping in the bassinet behind me,” said Marko, president of Marko Holdings, DBA Bottle Snugglers. However, “Max, my son, would not stay in the bassinet at all. So, I only had one hand to work with. And when he had to eat, I had a bottle in one hand and a baby in the other. Feeding time would last 20 minutes. So up to four times a day I was unproductive. I would find myself so stressed.”

Thinking she couldn’t be the only one with this problem, Marko searched online for a product to help. She found three. “Only one worked and it was a Bottle Tender,” Marko said. “It was like magic. I could hold the baby and it would hold the bottle, and I could still finish the report I was doing or send an e-mail. That lightened my stress level immensely.”

Marko later tried to place another order, but she kept getting a “sold out” message. “I finally called the owners and said, ‘What’s happening? I love the product and want to buy another.’ They said they both had other jobs and were busy. It was a mom and dad who created and patented the product, but never optimized it and never advertised. [My husband and I] made an offer to buy it,” for $100,000.

In 2008, Marko transitioned out of PR while planning the new company, renamed Bottle Snugglers. Entirely self-financed, the business officially opened in January 2009. “In January of 2009, you couldn’t get a loan,” she said. “We just believed in it and knew there was a niche in the market, so we put our own dollars behind it.”

Although Marko said it is worth it, she was initially surprised to learn about the different costs associated with operating a goods-based business versus the service-based business she had successfully run. They included costs associated with design and engineering, safety certifications, industry trade shows and insurance.

“We spent $25,000 in the first year in legal fees alone,” she said.

Bottle Snugglers are sold on the company’s website and in baby boutiques.

“A lot of people come in looking for them and a lot of people register for them,” said Kacey Roache, owner of the baby boutique lulu. “They are just a cute, practical gift.”

People bought 1,000 Bottle Snugglers in 2009 and more than 650 so far this year. Marko is now trying to get them into big-box retail stores.

“The previous owners sold several thousand over five or six years,” Marko said. “We sold 50 percent more in 2009 than they sold in their best year ever because we changed it to make it more marketable.”

To help get her business going, Marko sought advice from another business owner in the industry who not only shared his insights into the retail industry, but also introduced her to a local importer. “I owned a business, my husband owns a business, but the retail industry and particularly baby retail is very different from PR,” Marko said. “There are so many things you can’t know until you come across a problem.”

She also joined one of the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center’s business advisory councils. The councils are made up of small groups of women business owners with similar annual gross revenue who share their experiences, advice and best practices.

“Each of the women is really the sum of her own experiences, and all that comes to the table for the benefit of the other members,” said Linda Nottingham, a council facilitator. “We deal with any challenges or problems or issues that one business owner is facing and it can be anything. It can be as simple as what kind of gift to buy a client to something as complicated as dealing with employees.”

Marko said she enjoys learning from others and is happy to share her experience as well.

“It’s OK to ask for help,” she said. “I think it shows strength, not weakness, when you ask for help. Everything is not common sense. I have never had anyone turn me down when I asked for advice or a meeting to pick their brain, and in return I have never turned anyone down. If I learned a lesson, I will pass that on to you and we’ll both move forward.”

Read more: Stress gave birth to a new business – Jacksonville Business Journal

Pregnancy Corner – Great Info for Moms-to-be

When you’re pregnant or thinking about taking the leap, you start voraciously researching anything baby- or pregnancy-related. Magazines, newspaper articles, anything online…everyone has something to add to the discussion.

I have a few go-to sites when looking for information on baby care, and a new site was launched this year that looks pretty exciting. It is, and there you’ll find info on all stages of pregnancy, as well as products that you may find helpful. And, they’ve got an advisory board of impressive professionals to draw from.

I love to pass on these kinds of finds! Hope you find all the information that you are looking for. If you need more info, check out our Resources link for several other great sites.  Happy Early Mother’s Day to all!

Parents Tested and Approved!

In March 2010, Bottle Snugglers was honored to receive the PTPA Media Award!

That stands for Parent Tested-Parent Approved, and this concept is very important to us. It’s one thing to buy an ad and brag about your product, but it’s a whole different shebang to have anonymous Moms use your product in their homes and then vote for you! You can visit the PTPA site by clicking on the link below. Incidentally, you will find MANY other great reviews and awards on that page, too.

We are very proud to have this distinction, and we look forward to another great year!

You Can Lead a Toddler to the Toilet…

Oh potty training – how I loathed thee. The persuading, begging, demanding, hoping, bribing and crying (by me, mostly) were more than I bargained for. And the length of time that it took to be fully finished with the process was definitely a shocker.

Truth be told, if my son’s preschool hadn’t imposed a deadline by which all of his classmates had to be officially using the potty, we may STILL be in diapers! We went into the process knowing that Max has done mostly everything a little late: walking, talking, eating on his own, etc. So we started the arduous process of potty training around his 3rd birthday, and it was a good 8 weeks of struggle.

Sure, we tried the “fool proof” methods that our friends swore by, like promising a small treat when he did used the potty; sitting him on the potty 30 minutes after a meal and camping out there until he accidentally went; even sitting for an hour or more on the bathroom floor reading stories and singing songs hoping that he would relax and let it flow. Of course, the minute we took him off the potty, he went into his room and “went” in his diaper. Ugh.

What finally worked for us was doing nothing. He just decided that he wanted to use the potty like Daddy, and so he started. Seriously. I’m sure we gave him a good foundation by all of the above strategies (plus a cute potty seat, sticker sets and a DVD of Elmo Goes to the Potty), but ultimately he was in charge. It’s the old adage of “You can lead a toddler to the toilet, but you can’t make him go.” We took all the advice we were offered, and he just took his time.

And speaking of the 2 months of agony that we endured, I discovered a website/book by a woman named Lora Jensen called “3 Day Potty Training.” It has gotten coverage in many legit parenting magazines and other forums, apparently. Here’s the link: I have not personally used this method, but surely it couldn’t hurt to try it. Three days sounds heavenly compared to 2 months.

Whatever your method of potty training, I wish you speedy returns. (and minimal tears!)

Working Mother Magazine Features Bottle Snugglers

What a great feeling it was to flip through the pages of Working Mother Magazine and seeing a little feature of our Precious Puppy Bottle Snuggler! It’s on Page 52, if you have a copy.

As a working Mom myself, I know personally that sometimes you need an extra hand to get it all done. In fact, that’s how I found the product in the first place. (It was under a different name then.) I had a business and an infant who would not stay in his bassinet AT ALL! I worked with one hand all day long (while holding him in one arm) until feeding time, when I had no hands left (one holding baby, one holding the bottle). That situation is so typical, and it’s what Bottle Snugglers are all about.

Once I found this little helping hand, I could hold and feed Max while still typing, filing, dialing or otherwise running a business. I am so pleased to offer this type of relief to Moms everywhere. Also, we are being evaluated by several major retailers, so keep an eye out the next time you’re in a “big box” store.

Happy feeding!

Happy Birthday to Us!

On January 21, 2010, Bottle Snugglers celebrated our the year birthday of our web launch. It has been an exciting and tiring year complete with a learning curve and many lessons learned.

We launched the website in January 2009, and our list of clients includes many well-known personalities as well as lots of “regular Moms” like me, who are so thankful for a little helping hand during the busy days of caring for an infant. Our customers have told us that they want the Bunny style back, and we intend to deliver! Another customer tip was to make the bottle bands into a strip of elastic with adjustable fasteners, rather than a stretchy closed circle, so that if a bottle is very small or very fat, the band will easily adjust.  We intend to deliver this one, too!

Our next production round is not scheduled yet, but these two suggestions will definitely be incorporated when the time comes. (As a small business, we have to wait until we sell out of current merchandise before we produce more.)

In the early Fall of 2009, we began offering Bottle Snugglers to baby boutiques, and we have had a very warm welcome, even in the midst of a struggling economy.  We are being evaluated by some big named retail stores, as well, and distributors from several other countries have also approached us. It is our dream to make this product available to Moms everywhere, and it looks like we’re close to making that dream a reality!

We look forward to 2010 and all of the promise that it brings, both for Bottle Snugglers and for our country as a whole. We have big plans for the year, and we are so thankful for the opportunity to own a small business in the United States. Thanks to all of our wonderful clients and friends for your continued support. We promise to make you proud this year.

iParenting Media Award Win!

Wow – what  an eventful first year it’s been for us at Bottle Snugglers. (Or should I say “for me”, since I am really the whole company?)

We have begun distribution to stores across the country, we continue to draw a loyal and appreciative client base, we have received rave reviews from so many mom-tested sites and now we have won our first award!  The iParenting Media Awards are a Disney Interactive Media Group Property.

Product samples are placed with expert reviewers who are professionals in the childcare and parenting industries, in licensed childcare facilities (as appropriate), and lastly with family testers. Once all the scores and feedback are compiled, then the submissions are reviewed by a senior Executive Review Committee.

We are so proud to have this designation! You can see the award listing here 

Here’s to a new year of BIG accomplishments as more people find and use Bottle Snugglers!

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