Cynthia Saito founded Wrapadoo in her home in Corona del Mar, California.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
I manufacture and sell a luxuriously soft & cozy, duel-layered wrap for wet hair called Wrapadoo.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I am a mom of a young daughter. My daughter, Zoe brought me the greatest gift I have known in the form of a challenge. (you never know where your gifts will come from) Zoe has long, silky, straight hair and when I would wash her hair I was dumbfounded with the discovery that there was NOTHING on the market that addressed the needs of young girls and their wet hair. There she was with sopping wet, dripping hair and I had no way of wrapping it up! Traditional towels were sized for adults, not for kids. Even if I had a smaller sized towel, there was no way in which I could get my daughter to flip her head forward to wrap it up. Surely she would crack her head when she hits the floor with her tender preschool balancing skills. Imagine if I could get that big old towel on her head, she'd be standing there with a tall towering towel ready to take her down at any moment.
After talking to many, many moms at preschool, parks and on the streets it was evident that we all faced the same exact exasperation (judging from the unanimous sounds of frustrations and fists hitting the air). There was nothing! There had to be something?
From that moment, I decided to create something that would do the job and do it far beyond just doing the job. I wanted it to be practical and delicious while performing without flaw! And it had to be machine washable and dryable. I wanted and expected it to be the best it could be. It had to revolutionary. In the words of Seth Godin, it had to be a "Purple Cow" with a really "Big Moo"!
What were you doing before you invented Wrapadoo?
Prior to launching "Wrapadoo" I was and continue to be a mom of two little ones. My background prior to motherhood was in Professional Sports, Entertainment Management and then National Sales, Marketing and Branding in the Luxury Designer Jewelry and accessories markets.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
The very first person I hired was an artist (an amazing artist!),Laurie Anderson, this was far and beyond my smartest and greatest investment. She worked my ramblings into the branding icon I needed for the logo as well as designed and built my entire site.
From there I hired an accountant. I created a soft advisory board in which I was able to tap brilliant talent from a variety of arenas that proved over my head. A professional photographer was again a must-have for the vision and direction I wanted for this emerging empire. Lastly, as much as I would love to do it all, I hired a contractor to manufacturer every piece and product for us.
What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, ….
Cannot say enough about SCORE and the seminars and workshops offered within my community. I had access to a genius Ad guy named, Tom Patty (formally with Chiat-Day). Tom was a tremendous resource and advisor when it came to finding my target audience as well as how and what to do next. Step by step he helped lay the plan out. The inspiration drawn from those workshops drove me from one milestone to the next. I don't think there is a subject or challenge that couldn't be addressed and assessed through SCORE.
However, I also caution that not all advisors are as keen and current as Tom Patty. I did have an odd issue that set me back emotionally causing a stall for a few days. I thought it was me until I met another business owner who had an extremely parallel experience. Moral of the story, if something is said or implied that doesn't feel like it fits your story, let it go. Move past it and learn the lesson of "water off the back". (Pick-up that brick and move it!)
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Yes, it was all started from a folding table in my bedroom. Sewing machine and computer on top and away I went. The upside is overhead, convienience and flexibility. The downside is time management, organization and separation.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
As a woman and a mother with a business skewed directly towards a female audience I find it invaluable to remember exactly who has the power to move product to a demographic specifically driven by women. Women!
Therefore, while it may not be necessary to align with a specific women's organization, I do find it imperative to create and nurture relationships with women who are able to pioneer you through courses they have already conquered or are currently traversing. The support, encouragement and recommendations you can glean from a genuinely organic relationship fostered by your integrity and patience can be bountiful. No one owes us anything, however I do believe you need to earn what you seek. Do the work, walk the path and eventually the opportunities will overlap the efforts, and success will be yours for the taking. Be genuine and remember to give back and help the next gal coming along.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Keep inventory tight. Even though it costs more to have small runs (inventory, printing, materials, etc) cash is king and you need to hold on to it as long as you can to keep everything else flowing. Use what little you must to produce your product, market it well and sell! (You MUST market to sell, you can't have one without the other.) Once you start selling, turn that money back into inventory and get your cash flow started. Cash Flow is the only success you should focus on.
Also note that you can save a HUGE amount of money by doing some legal filings yourself. Both Legalzoom.com and USTM.com were tremendous resources when I filed my Patent and Trademark paperwork. I recommend both and can attest to their validity and follow-through.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
It's been a huge aspect to my marketing. It's the most cost-effective implementation you can do. However, it's work that needs to be nurtured like anything else and it's going to involve some personality. You'll need personal skills, writing skills, passion and tenacity to break through the throngs of businesses trying to get noticed. This is another area in which you need to leave your ego in another office and just keep charming and asking until you get the date or dance you 're aiming for. You'll need to research each target because they all have a different voice and message that needs to be pitched specifically for them as individuals. I write each and every pitch fresh for the specific person or target I'm looking to hit. It doesn't always work but, I have a fairly decent ratio of success.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Thinking about what I should be planning to work on next month, three months down the road as well as what needs to be accomplished by the end of the year. It's January and I'm already thinking about December.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
It's been a lot more fun than I expected. I never knew work could actually be something I don't want to stop thinking about. I'm thinking and tinkering in my head all the time and I love and enjoy it thoroughly.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Close your eyes and jump! Don't be shy. Ask and utilize each and every resource you have. Friends and family can be priceless and supportive in ways you won't see coming. Do your homework; do as much DIY as you can reasonably manage. Hire, delegate and trade the rest. Most importantly, put one foot in front of the other and make small accomplishments every day. Take a stand early on that you will succeed because failure is not an option. That attitude takes the quitting quotient out of the game and frees your creative energy to solve whatever issues stand in your way. Anything that gets in your way should simply be viewed as a brick that needs to be picked up and moved out of your way. The risk of leaving that brick brings the risk of tripping as you watch a wall grow ever looming and tall. If you do find yourself up against a wall, remember you can always climb over it. DON'T LET IT STOP YOU! Climb the wall and keep moving forward. One more thing……..Always think BIG!
Thanks for the motivation, Cynthia. I'm sure all the entrepreneurs at Gaebler.com will appreciate your advice!