Who is excited for our first Shark Tank guest to join the show (aggressively raises both hands)?! Tara Williams is the founder of Dreamland Baby, which makes beautiful weighted blankets to help you stay calm, fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Tara kicks off with some background on her professional experience; she started in medical device sales, which included a lot of travel and was really exciting for her pre kids! She also talks to me about how she now realizes being in a start up environment gave her the confidence to start her own thing, and insights into what may happen when/if she started something of her own!
We then dive into her path to Dreamland Baby, including the initial idea, the research and development behind it, and how to handle when it may not be the EXACT RIGHT time to start something. She gives some real honest talk about being an entrepreneur and how its not for everyone, and how she THRIVES in chaos which helps her in this entrepreneurial life. She also gets into the financials by telling me how long she went without pay and how they afforded to do so (all while her husband had just lost his job!). Finally, she tells me how the brand has grown and OF COURSE, all about her experience on Shark Tank — make sure to check out her episode here.
Tara was such a fun guest to have! I loved how open she was about building her business and brand. If you have kids or know someone with little ones you MUST check out their products!! Make sure to head to their site, instagram, Facebook and now you can join Tara on her own podcast, the Mom Manual!
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Tara Williams is the founder and CEO of Dreamland Baby. In 2018, Tara desperately tried to find a product to help her six-month-old son extend his one-hour sleep window. Her solution, a doctor-approved, evenly weighted wearable sleep sack. After a successful Kickstarter and an appearance on Shark Tank, Tara’s weighted sleep solutions are now helping babies (and their families) worldwide to get the sleep they need! You can find Dreamland Baby products at Nordstrom, Babylist, Amazon, dreamlandbabyco.com and more!
Dana: Are you dying at the thought of missing a single one of your babies. First, we have no idea how you’d give up the security that your nine to five job brings. My name is Dana Graham and I have no clue how to escape that vicious 40 Hour Workweek cycling, and all I did, as the wife of a traveling husband and mom of two tiny humans we made the terrifying and totally bizarre leap from health insurance broker to successful newborn and family photographer, all with the amazing craziness of a two year old and newborn and when I’m not the only one. I’m so glad you’re joining me as I chat with other moms who took the leap into entrepreneurship and created the ultimate festival, we’re doing it all from inside the house. Alright everybody, welcome back to another episode of amidst the chaos I am here with Tara Williams today and I am so thrilled to have her on the podcast, she is our first graduate of Shark Tank to ever record with us so I am so pumped and the product that she has is totally applicable to most of the people listening to this podcast I can almost guarantee so I am thrilled to have her. So Tara welcome.
Tara: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Dana: So Tara, give us a brief overview of what you do now and then we’ll back up and kind of go through how you got to the place you are today.
Tara: Absolutely. So I’m the founder and CEO of three legged baby. So I run the organization that keeps our weighted baby blankets, and toddler baby blankets moving to adults and kids and helping families get sleep, but I started this in the summer of 2018 So prior to that I had it more, I guess you could say traditional nine to five.
Dana: Perfect. So walk us through I know you have a bunch of kids, you have all the things going on. So talk to me about the few years leading up to having this idea and then implementing it and getting to where you are now so talk to me about what your life looked like before you even had the idea of these weighted baby blankets.
Tara: Hi, thank you so much for having me. Absolutely, so I had met with a couple startups in the medical device field, And I just love the startup environment and I had pretty specific, or like nice job I guess you could call it where we brought novel medical devices to market. So, it was something that nobody had ever used or tried before. And I would go to the top tertiary hospitals around the country, most of my roles I covered the west coast so you know think Stanford’s and UCLA is the world, and introduce these new products and it was just such a fun experience to be able to bring something to market that nobody had seen nobody had tried and with that I mean we were really changing and potentially saving lives, so it was very important work, but the idea of being with a startup, and just being able to make quick changes and be nimble and have access to our research and development team for our CEO really gave me a foundation to be able to understand how an organization runs and how to scale and gave me the confidence that I could start my own. You know what, if I had a product.
Dana: Awesome. So what did your family look like while you’re doing that because I can imagine that’s quite a bit of travel and daily, change of schedules and hustle and bustle like crazy. So what did it look like for an average day for you are an average week with travel and your family when all those things. So we, I would say we had a pretty unique scenario, I was traveling about, let’s say four to five days per week so like almost every single day. Yeah, and when my husband I got married, I mean I was already doing that so then when we went to have our first daughter, we decided to have a nanny who lived with us, so like an OP hair if anyone has heard of that. So we have actually always had somebody look at our house, my daughter is gonna be nine this summer so I don’t know what it’s like not to have another person that’s not my family live with us, but that did allow me the flexibility to have unconventional hours so, you know, when I say a nine to five, I’ve never actually really worked in I worked in an office setting, you know, but now I joke there was a meme or whatever you call those where it showed a guy who said, I quit my nine to five, so I could start my own company or something and it says Now I work 24 Seven. And that could not be more true I mean truly, truly I work all hours of the day all the time. So I went from working a lot to working like are really really loud, but it is my personality and I do love it and that’s where I thrive. So, let’s see my kids are really close in age, my oldest daughter is almost nine and then they’re all like about a year apart so right now they’re 876, and then our baby is three, so three years of hard for it for the last one. So it’s, it’s definitely been crazy I had super easy pregnancies, so it didn’t slow me down, working when I was pregnant I just didn’t really skip a beat. The only thing I miss about being pregnant is people would always say, Oh, you look so cute with your you know your pregnancy. And then after the baby’s born, it’s like no more compliments,
Dana: none, none for you.
Tara: Yeah, so I know everyone experiences pregnancy different differently and so it was really really hard for some people and that can affect working, of course, but for me it didn’t, so I just kind of retreat through and yeah I was like flying with all my kids and being super pregnant in the airport and looking back and like I don’t know how I did that but I guess I had a little bit different of a workplace than most people. Yeah, and
Dana: I feel like there’s something that should be said for that because there are some people that I, it seems like from your personality you’ve kind of always known that you, that’s just how you are you’re gogogo you want to work you’re very productive, you’re ready to get things done. Have you been like that your whole life or was that something that kind of developed with your personality because I, I and I asked this because I think it’s important to recognize that some things drive people differently. I mean, obviously, but I think that that knowing for yourself that hey, this was important to me to keep going and this is what keeps me feeling alive and feeling good, is, it’s important to recognize that and some people don’t feel that way, but I’m curious as to if that kind of came to you, maybe in college or at school or if you’ve always kind of been a go go go go getter.
Tara: No i Yes, from the time I was a kid so I’m actually the oldest of five. And I do think that has really shaped. Yes, I do believe I thrive in a chaotic environment where other people might shut down for me, like, at one point we were, we like bought a foreclosure and we’re renovating our house and was running the startup and I had four kids, you know, five and under and the more you put on my plate I think the better I perform in each area, so it’s it’s actually, this is my, I mean I tell my husband all the time I am like beyond living my dream I always wanted to have four kids and on my own business and I truly feel so blessed.
Dana: That’s awesome. This is your next startup as you need to figure out how to bottle fat, because I will be your first customer, and I bet all people listening will be right behind me in line and it’s inspiring I think even to listen to you talk and to talk to you here, sort and we’re sort of in person so you guys know we’re obviously virtual but I can see your face and so like for me it is inspiring to hear somebody say that because I don’t I am one of those people that shuts down more like I’m, I’m one of two. My husband is one of five he’s also he’s an Irish triplet just like your kids are and he thrives, thrives, the more you give him the better he does and for me, I’m not like that but to talk to people like that and to be for me to be married to someone like that helps me a lot. It really, it pushes me to my brain for sure when you’re, when you’re married to someone like that but to talk just talk to you and to hear you be so passionate about what you do and and how your life has been shaped by that personality trait is really inspiring. It makes me want to like, you know, get off this call and do all the things which I’m really excited about.
Tara: So, we’re gonna say I love that you say that because I think right now, it isn’t such a hot thing to be an entrepreneur, especially with the internet it’s so easy, but it’s it’s easy, or to start a business and get a side hustle and just there’s, there’s no capital investment right like it. But I think it’s really important to recognize like not everybody is an entrepreneur and do like my personality is shaped exactly to be an entrepreneur but I don’t think it is for everybody and, and there’s a lot of people, I think that, you know, beat themselves up because they’re like oh I have this idea and I wish I could bring it to market and do all the things. But, and I’ll give a story for that so in 2015 fashion blogging I guess you want to call it and it’s totally began to hit the scene and I remember at the time I was, I had just changed jobs and I used to only wear scrubs because I was in the operating room, and I had started to do a lot more outside of the operating room, work with surgeons, and so I was looking to get dressed up. And so at that time I started looking on the Internet, what and like looking at these blogs and I was like, Okay, I’m in this like how I’m going to dress me to find my way. And so I realized that I was buying a lot of these clothes, these fashion bloggers were showing and I’m five seven and, you know, they’re on blogger that I actually look quite like and I read an article about her and it said she had made $1 million on blog one vertical in 2015 I was like, Oh my gosh, I could do that like now. Right. And at the time, everybody was jumping on being a fashion blogger. Now we call them influencers right but at the time. And so I told my husband I was like, I’m gonna be a fashion blogger, he was like, you’re not really into fashion and I was like well, like I buy the clothes and I could wear them, and he’s like, you’re not into photography, and I was like, well, that’s somebody else’s pictures and he’s like, you’re not into like graphic design for the website like nothing about this is your perfect. Why would you do that, and I, and I just thought well I’m into the business side of it and that really moved me and energizes me and I would be interested in like finding the business contracts and all this thing, but they don’t have any like artistic side to me. And so when people talk about like, oh how do you become a successful fashion blogger or no influencer, it is truly like following that passion doing what you love. I didn’t love the core of that, but I did commit to doing it for a full year, I was like I’m gonna do it like I’m gonna go all in. I got a bunch of free stuff, but hardly ever made money, nearly got divorced from my husband not really but for an entire year because he didn’t want to take pictures, and it was just, I felt like I was swimming against the current, because it was not it was not easy for me know somebody else who’s a fashion blogger who like loves, he breathes and sleeps fashion like, that’s their world. So I compare that time when I attempted to be a failed fashion blogger and entrepreneur, where it’s like now I am in my slide coming with the current because this is my personality is who I am, this is like what I was destined to be where that I was not so anyways, that I just
Dana: I just think it’s such an important thing to recognize it is and I think it’s so interesting too that you say that and you were and I hope that you recognize, like Yeah, It was totally afield, but what it did was it gave you the opportunity to now be even more confident in what you do because you know that what it feels like to be wrong. Right and I think that there’s a lot to be said for taking even that full year you committed a full year. I mean that’s a lot of time but it’s now giving you the opportunity to be like okay I know this is right. I know this is right for me and my personality and for our family and I think that there’s a lot of a lot of self doubt and being entrepreneur, and to have some, you know, quote unquote failed things before. What you really have is success gives you that gives you a little bit of a confidence boost of like okay this is right for me. So I love that. Okay, so talk to me so you’re working in the medical device sort of sales innovation field there. And what happened next because medical device sales to weighted baby blankets, is quite a shift on the front end I know on the back end, it’s probably not so much but talk to me about how you came up with idea, and how you knew that this was the right path for you guys.
Tara: Yeah, it definitely isn’t, you know the product I have would be considered a consumer goods product, and that’s a space I’ve never necessarily been in, but I do believe everything we do like the fields, blogger attempt does prepare you for what you’re going to do next and so it was actually really helpful because in my previous roles I did a lot of work with clinical trials, and like FDA approvals and on the regulatory side of things and the safety components and so when I thought of this product. I did bring it to market through the lens of like, this is something’s gonna be implanted in a person’s body, which, obviously, it’s just something to eat on top. I took it with that degree of safety, which is way up. I took our safety profile to like 1/1000 of where we needed to go with it, but to me it was important and that was the space where I came from where I was like if you don’t have a clinical trial like you don’t launch and so there was a clinical trial that was done and that’s how I felt really confident to launch the product with safety and efficacy meaning like it works. So there was like some, you know overlap or pulled through from that. But yeah, it’s totally different because before I was working one on one with surgeons and C suites at hospitals of these well funded, huge, tertiary, medical, clinical hospitals that are looking into things like research, and now it’s going to meeting, reaching out to the end consumer, which is mom or dad, and helping educate them so it’s all essentially the same it’s just different audience, different product, but at the end, there are more similarities than there are differences I would say,
Dana: Well yeah, too. And the other thing is I mean, other than somebody getting a device put in their body to save their life. There is nobody more concerned about the safety and backing of whatever product it is, then I’m. I mean, honestly, like it’s not that far of a Trump from a surgeon to who needs the proof to a mom because these girls are fears for sure. So that’s, that’s so great that that happened so okay so you went to market and you said, Alright, I need to make sure that this is the actual product but where did the concept for this come from, and I know I’ve obviously right, I obviously sort of know the backstory but I want to know like, from your point of view, like how you knew this could work. And, and, and why.
Tara: Well it was, it was such an interesting time going back to transitioning from, I guess life before me my baby and like after baby but we so my son was born on March 29 in 2000. The day before he was born, my husband was laid off from his job 15 years like he had been there since an internship at college, so it was my forever job and we had, you know the four kids, five and under. We had just bought this house that we’re in now, that was, we were remodeling, so it was just this really really chaotic time, and I was working with a startup, that wasn’t going in the right direction. I had known going into maternity leave that there was a possibility that the company was going to fold if we didn’t get our next round of funding and they weren’t sure we were going to be able to secure it in time, like we essentially ran out of money. And so, you know, I went into maternity leave, but I suddenly like hey everybody start interviewing and I’m like, I’m having a baby. Yeah, like, do any moment. So, like, well I’ll take my maternity leave and just, fingers crossed and if not I’ll figure it out when I come back and so we were actually thinking, we probably weren’t going to get the funding but there was a chance so it’s not like it was, I was complete like my husband was completely blindsided. I guess really in hindsight, He wasn’t because they were doing a bunch of layoffs, it happened like a year earlier than he thought. So we weren’t totally blindsided but you’re always are at the moment when they’re like okay company shut down. So, day before my son is born, you know, we find out the news, he’s no longer employed oh my gosh, then I’m on the train like for like two months, and we get the news like company shut down, like we’re phasing it down by the time you and your maternity leave like we’ll be done. And so now we’re both unemployed and we’re like, oh my god, what are we gonna do, this is crazy. So the first thing you’re like we got off the nanny go, so we’d always had a limit nanny. So we let her go and then my husband I both were like okay let’s like tag team this and figure it out with the kids and I think it was, you know, my son was just relentlessly crying, my first three babies were super easy. All easy pregnancies, but they were easy newborns eat like of course they’re a year apart like they were just easy. So, although is a fourth time mom I was not sleeping, mom. Night after night and I don’t have family that lives out here all my family’s in Boston, so I really had always remote rely on our nannies to be like, extra out for two weeks or whatever but then I have ever seen. So she had, that I didn’t have that need to rely on and I was like drowning so I would be up all night with the baby and then I’d be up. Six, seven in the morning driving the other three kids to school, and then they’d come home and I just remember like crying. It really was and it was like such a sad time for me. I mean, the stress of being unemployed and, you know, my husband’s unemployed and it was just it was financially very very stressful, and when I say I like thrive in chaos, Not not kind of not. No, not. Yeah that’s productive chaos that’s firing is very different. It was just it I was just really, really sad. I don’t know that I would say I had postpartum depression but I was depressed for sure.
Dana: Definitely situational, I mean, you had a lot happening, I mean, from every angle,
Tara: every angle, literally everyone. And I do think if my son was sleeping, it would have been alleviated a lot but like I’m the type of person that I need eight to nine hours of sleep and if I don’t get yeah my fault which I’m like what a curse in life, why can I be the person that needs five hours, but so I was not you know obviously I was not getting it, he was waking up literally every hour for six months, and so we had bought everything we were trying to think and I was irritated, beyond that because when we had moved, we got, we let go of all our baby stuff we had donated or given it away and so I just thought, Okay, I, this is my fourth time, with a baby I know I’m not gonna have any more, I’m going to, like, keep it really minimal on what I just the basics. And so then all of a sudden I was running out you know on Amazon. I mean I ordered it just buy everything because I was like what will help me, you know, I was definitely desperate. And so one night I had a place, we have a heavy throw like on my couch and I just laid it on top of him not thinking of anything. And whereas I watching TV, and I noticed like immediately just this call was over his face. And it was, it was truly like in the cartoons were the light bulbs like a light bulb moment, and I thought oh my gosh he needs a weighted blanket, and I have experience with weighted blanket I actually have, I have a stepdaughter and she has Asperger’s, and so she had been able to get off all her sleep medication just by using a weighted blanket. My dad is not like any, like, a maybe a little bit anxious but nothing diagnose and he had a lot of troubles, like falling asleep and he was able to, I don’t think he was taking anything but it was like night and day for him. So, and remember it’s his job at it so it’s not at the time wavelengths weren’t super popular coming on the team. So I was like looking for a blanket. And I remember I was so excited I literally raced to my computer, I jumped on Google and I was like waiting for baby, and some came up but they were loose, like they were all like it and I was like, oh, and so I’m like oh hey Amazon so I got on Amazon, same thing and I was like, How is there not a we did like get built for maybe like in a safe, you know form of a sleepsack because the, the danger with the way the blanket is not necessarily the way because it’s pretty late, it’s that it could potentially migrate on the face and then, you know, my baby wouldn’t be able to move it, same dangerous as a loose blanket, without waiting it right for American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend that. So, clearly in my mind it’s like your product we have right now, like it was just so obvious, but this is what it would look like it would be a way to sleep under the swallow version. And so I, at the time he was six months so he wasn’t being swaddled anymore, so I call my mother in law and I was like hey AMS idea. Do you think you can make it because she can sell really well, and she’s like well extend over what you want so I like sketched it out and I found out the components and I, and I sent it to her the next like I was literally a mad scientist like, like all this research, and so she created it. And then I got it about two weeks later, and I put it on him and I’ll never forget, I was at the gym at like eight o’clock at night because at this point. Who cares if you’re at the gym at midnight, you’re not sleeping anyways. So, which I would never normally do but so I was at the gym really late, she was like, Oh, I’ll drop by tomorrow and I was like okay tonight, like, like I was like just like was not sleeping for six I was literally like. So I went over I picked it up. I brought it home. That night I got on him probably like 830 He slept for 12 hours,
Dana: and how many weeks old.
Tara: He was six months at this time, probably six months
Dana: okay okay reasonable
Tara: that he could sleep like I wasn’t feeding him in the night anymore, totally just waking up crying. And so I was like no way because I still was up pretty much all night like going in and looking at him like, is he still sleeping, what’s going on. And then my husband and I remember him being like, oh it is probably. And so I’m like, well maybe and so that day, he was virtually not napping either I mean he was taking like these little 30 minute cabinets. So that day we put on him for nap and he slept like two and a half, three hours for is now. What is so minute nine, same thing, put it back on him like full 12 hours through the night. And so, it was just this absolute transformative miracle solution that, like, we, we still to this day we almost can’t believe that it was like, you know, and then work like that for me, not even a week, half week of me getting sleep. Like I was myself. Yeah. And you’re like, you’re gonna be a good mom, and a good friend and a good wife. And so, as transformative as it was for him. It was equally as transformative for me and my everybody in my family, and then it spilled over to because now that it was like he was crying because he was overtired, all the time and now he was getting good sleep he like morphed into this happy little boy. So it was just, it was such, I mean, we talked about like putting devices in people to save lives like this. At the time, felt like it saved my life. I mean, really, I know it sounds dramatic but like if you’re in it.
Dana: And you know, you know, university, percent if you are if you are in that space where you’re like, I am trapped. I can’t sleep. And I think, sleep deprivation just amplifies everything to an extreme that you can’t understand unless you’ve truly been sleep deprived. And, oh my gosh, anything that could happen to solve that problem for you is going to make all aspects of your life so much easier. So that’s awesome okay so you finally get this prototype when he’s six months old so in that time had you been job searching. Did you get a new job or were you like what was happening with your job situation just so we know like, Okay, how much time was in which we want to put into this from that lens,
Tara: it was really interesting because so my maternity leave, she was born end of March. So, March, April, it was really good. So I, like, very beginning of July I was like are only three months, maternity is I’m going to start looking for jobs. And it was the first time that I hadn’t gone right from job to job where I had like a week rate between or something like that. So I thought, I’m gonna save a little bit of time and just like take us like slowly do it at a time with my kids, and really just take this, my company shut down, but I’m a very type of person where like, give me lemons I’ll make lemonade. So, what’s the silver lining here I have extra time with my kids, there’s no pressure of a job. And so I was like I’m gonna take my time. And the ironic thing was, There were a couple like almost dream jobs that came up like one was basically what I was doing before, but working from home was like very minimal travel which would have been amazing with with the kids and stuff. And I remember just like having this feeling like there’s something better, and I was talking to him, and he was like, this is such a dream job like, you’re gonna be making I think it was like more than I was making before with like almost no travel and at the time I mean we were paying for COBRA for six people, super expensive. So at a minimum, he was like just take it like to get health insurance, and I was like there’s something better. Like, I know and he was like, How could this be better and I felt the same like I am giving up such a great opportunity. So then I came up with Dreamland Baby and I wouldn’t really tell everybody I would never have quit my job and started this, like it’s not like that night I would have been like, Alright work I’m quitting because it does take I mean I didn’t draw a paycheck for two years. So it takes a long time to get to a spot where you can pay yourself, but I felt me for from an ethics standpoint that if I had taken a job, it would have just been a means to an end and that wouldn’t have been fair to the company that I had gone with where to take a job like whatever I do, I’m going to do my, all at 100%, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to give that because I had the thing on my own that I wanted to do, but again I would never have quit my job if I had thought of it, but just starting a new one didn’t ethically feel right for me. So I did what we decided to come to the trade off was that we wouldn’t get a nanny, and, like, essentially that, I mean, the hormones have dropped right so that was my job, so I did not have childcare for two years so I really did the, what I would consider like stay at home mom, and then the side hustle, if you will, was to my baby. But, as with anything in life I mostly do things to the extreme. So, I was like waking up at 5am and working until they went to school at night. And, you know, then my son would sleep for three hours during the day so I would work during that time, then my husband got home at five and said work from like five to nine. So I’m just extreme and everything I do so I was still working like nine hour days, though I was still at home full time with the kids.
Dana: Okay, so you start to say this works right this works with your son and your sphere like okay this was a miracle like I can turn this into a business. So what were your first steps and being like, we need to get there was it was it research was it the clinical trial like what did you do first and how did that progress into then getting launched and all the things.
Tara: Well the very first thing was, because I was home at the time and you know I had the four kids I was talking to a lot of parents and just like pickups and, you know dance class and things like that, and I was always like, exhausted and super broke me like glasses on no makeup just like hiding in my car, and so I felt like I was like, emerging into the world I was like, putting on real clothes and makeup I became a real person, if you will. And so I was just constantly talking to people, and everyone is like you like what’s going on, like, did you get a facial or something you know like like you’re alive. What’s up, and, and then I had told them like, oh, I, I created this product and now my son’s sleeping and everyone was like, wait, wait what like you created something and I was like oh my mother in law soda and they were like this like an invention. And right away, people started saying, It was like one of three things they were like, Oh, how does that not that house already exists. It’s such an obvious product, or two, that would have been so amazing for my son or my daughter, we stacked blankets on them like we did all these, you know, just different unsafely things, I wish we had that or I have a friend who, you know, friend sister, cousin me, will your mother in law, a big one for them because I know this is what they need and then the third everybody was like, You should go on Shark Tank, which is what ended up happening, but it was just it was so overwhelming, a positive feedback that everyone across the board was like this is such a great idea, it’s like, everybody needs this. And so, with, and that was like, immediate, I mean like, I had the night where he slept and like within a week, people were asking for the product. And it was like, even I had somebody who was like a friend of a friend like hey I got your number from Nicole She said your mother in law is making these when she, like, like that. So that’s when I realized like, this is my invention like this is my product, I need to bring this to market because not only, I mean it was so transformative for our family, but we could help 1000s You know, at first I was like $20,000, now I’m like, hundreds of 1000s, which is mind blowing. So right away, it was just, it was like very very obvious and going back to like the blogger, I have had other invention ideas, and stuff like, oh I could develop an app, but not enough developer right and, but I need, you know, 25 million from a VC or at other events like has seen on TV stuff but again it’s like not in my wheelhouse because I don’t know how to do that. And now, I am not a consumer product designer developer, but like the is in my wheelhouse right because I’m a mom and this is what I like, live, eat and breathe, especially with war kids.
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I feel like you being your mom gives you that qualification we’re talking about like you know all the things that go into it and yeah it wasn’t your technically your wheelhouse in terms of what you’ve done for a career I mean you weren’t a sleep consultant right but, but I feel like after having four kids, it gives you the legitimacy to be like hey look, I know this works and and I feel like it must have been so validating hearing all of those other moms come and say like hey we need this this is a great idea. Let’s do it.
But what was your timeline is still pretty long from there out I mean it, it’s looking back in 10 years from now, it’s not going to be long at all, it’s going to be so it’ll seem like it went by so fast and even now I’m sure it felt like it went by pretty quickly, but it really, I’m sure in the moment it felt quite long, like you had to get through making it and then the prototype and getting the testing done and getting approvals and all those things and then actually getting a business launch, so what was your first move of like okay here is how I’m going to launch this and make this successful did you start small, or were you like going for a big launch like what was your strategy there.
Tara: Well, in hindsight, like, I didn’t know anything. So, so, not, not knowing what you don’t know, and going into it with this naive like all I can do this, it can’t be that hard, is, is a very special yes because now if I was brought another business I’m like, I know the grind and the hustle and how long it takes before you can pay yourself and turn a profit and so if you don’t have the financial means which at the time we didn’t. It was a real struggle. So, I had told my husband about the product and he saw it and he was like yeah this this is a great idea but, you know, what percent of businesses fail. It’s like, I eat 97 I mean most small businesses don’t succeed, and I did come from a fairly lucrative career so, and where I was meaningfully contributing to our household, and so to kind of go from that and have job. Our job opportunities in that way and to decline them to follow what he was kind of considering a crazy dream. It was hard and at the time when he got laid off, he just the role he had we knew he probably wouldn’t be employed again for we thought like six months to a year. And so it was like, this is not the time to brace right like this is for young kids like we just moved into this house at the top of our budget, you know we have this mortgage, I mean at one point he was like, Listen, we have, like, nine months, and at the end of those nine months, we need to sell our house if this doesn’t go. And so there was a ton of pressure on me and it really was, like, you know, and it was kind of like a blog where he’s like, you know, I’ll give it a year like, do we agree that we will give it a year and if you can’t turn this into something and a year that you go find a job again. And so, I think, you know, particularly for me my personality like when you’re early anybody like when your back is against the wall, you find a way to make it happen, where it’s just, it’s really interesting because at any other time in our life, meaning like he wasn’t me he’s literally been unemployed for one year of the entire time we’ve been together right, and so at any other time. I could have said hey I have this great idea like I’m gonna quit my job and we would have been fine, but the fact that he wasn’t like we were bringing in zero. Like just beyond and so he he actually early on he used to call the company wasteland baby. I know like like instead of Dreamland, it’s like a waste of time like a wasteland, and so it really was tough because I think a lot of entrepreneurs you talked to, like their husbands are behind them and they’re like, You can do this and I support you and he did not support it, he was like, grinding, his teeth at every moment he had and like trying to be supportive. And I remember talking to my mom and my sister who were my biggest cheerleaders. My sister is, you know, a couple years younger than me, she’s my best friend and they just were like you got it, like, doesn’t matter that he does this for you like we know you’re going to be a success and, you know, they, they really really turned me on. And so he came around, I will say, when I got the opportunity to contract. That’s when he was like, okay, like there’s something legitimate here, And then from there after we were on Shark Tank, and then we aired and like the floodgates kind of open and then I was able to take a salary, like shortly thereafter, then now, now he is like my biggest, for sure, sure. Yeah, yeah, but there’s definitely like early on, like he was a hater, I would say, so that was definitely that was really really tough so it was kind of having that mental toughness of saying, you know, this isn’t the right time but there’s no point you’re not, there’s never a right time, like there’s pretty much never a time where you’re like, I can just quit work and keep my nanny or my daycare and, you know, just work on this full time. So the the timeline of so August 2018 I thought of it. And then, you know, literally within a week people were like, This is gonna change your life and everyone’s life around us that you need to pursue this. The first thing I did was look to get a utility patent on it because I just thought it was such an obvious product that I was like, There’s no way like somebody has a patent on this, it just, it can’t be. And I just figured there was someone like in Germany that like had, you know, and there was no way. But yeah, I was really shocked that we were able to file, we did a provisional utility patent. So with that, then I felt like, okay, we can take the next step. And so then the next thing I didn’t really know where to start, like I was like who like how do we start, what do we do, and so I just literally got on Google like day after day, it was like researching like how to start a business like what do you need who to call, what to get set up and I am a finance major and this guy went to Bentley University was like kind of a business school, I don’t have an MBA, but so I had like a basic outline of, okay, this, these are the key components like you have finance operations, sales you know these are like the basic 101 And so I contacted score. It’s a Small Business Association of America, and I got linked up with a couple people who they’re volunteers so it’s all free because most of the time like I had no money for anything, I got linked up with them and one of them helped me like create a business plan and then then I wanted to find somebody to do juvenile importing, which is super specific and that that was like really one thing that I was like, I cannot do this on my own. And that was just talking about all like the CPSC testing and importing and regulatory and just getting the product from abroad to here, like how do you do that, it was not feasible to make these in the US, I did get a batch in the US made they were $150, each piece, which is double what we yeah what we can tell for so it’s just they’re super labor intensive, because each of the sleep sacks have over 50 pockets, and you have to hand put the beads in each pocket and then hand stitched shot so it can’t be automated on. So it’s very like, yeah, and that you know is a little bit reflective of the price of how much they just cost to make. So that was really important I found someone from score that helped me with that and he was, I always told him I was like You’re like my fairy godfather. So although he was retired his daughter was still in it and so he hadn’t like real time contacts he could help me with and he was like talk to this person, like here’s can be like your agent and so he helped me with all of that, but we still don’t have any money to launch it and I didn’t have any money to buy my first run, and at the factory like the minimum order is 1000 pieces. And so like I there was no way I could get that. And so I did, I decided to do a Kickstarter, and that’s what like really set us set us off. And so the Kickstarter I launched that in May of, 2019, and then everything delivered a couple months later, so the website was up and running in September of 2019. And we I thought the inventory had ordered with asked me like four or five months, and we sold out in the first month, and then from there, it was just like we were profitable our second month, and I mean we had demand for it before we even had it in and we were doing pre order and it was just, like, at the time it was just word of mouth, I mean, one moment would work for a teacher at like, you know, in a mother’s group or a Facebook group or with friends or a text thread and, you know, then we’d have four more purchases, and then those four people would tell more people and it was just like a waterfall. So, it felt like this snowball that was just like, gaining as it was going down the hill and getting bigger and bigger. And then we started doing some of the traditional like influencer advertising, you know Facebook ads and things like that.
Dana: So what do you attribute the most to having that much success that relatively quickly like was it has to me like from an outsider looking in, you solve the problem for a sleep deprived, mom. And for me, there is no better target market than sleep deprived, parent, I mean really, but I feel like, you also have to be under the perfect circumstances the perfect time the perfect delivery like there, there are a lot of other elements that have to collide so other than the product being something that solves a problem that people are so desperate to solve. What’s something that you did that you think really influenced how well it took off.
Tara: I think you know everything in life is a combination of hard work and luck, so I definitely worked extremely hard. I will say I’m probably one of the hardest workers I know, and, and I don’t say that in a way that both right takes work, but there’s also an element of luck, like, I, you know what if I didn’t think about going on score and I didn’t match up with the counselor who had the, you know in porting connections and factory connections like how would I have started and then, you know I think one of the things that didn’t really help me, I mean obviously shark tank that put us on a trajectory that wouldn’t be on without like 7 million people tuned in tonight we were on so all of a sudden, but even prior to Shark Tank, I connected with them in March of 2018. And they said, you know they love the story, like I just applied online and they reached out and they said can get our call I said sure. So, they love the story of us right at the end of the day it’s a true pitch but this wasn’t a TV show so there’s got to be some kind of elements, like these, you know, for kids 500 Like it was just this crazy story
Dana: true I mean, really, like if you look at it from a bird’s eye view like that is really what happened.
Tara: Yeah it’s like I, I was joking, so somebody on my team is like a really excellent copywriter and I was like Ellie, when this is all done, like when we sell this, you’re gonna write a book, because you can’t even make like half this stuff that have happened, but so it was really talking to the producer of Shark Tank. And then I had, I knew somebody who was on the show, and so I knew they filmed in June and September. And so I assumed we would have missed the June filming because they cast like a few months in advance. So in March of 2019. I was like, We need to get one out September filming and so I had this deadline because I, you know, after the safety and the clinical and all that was done, we still were refining the look, the aesthetic of the product was like going on and on and on and I could have continued to refine that for another email and never watch, and so I just picked a date and I was like, on April 15 We’re launching and we are, you know, as close and as good as it’s going to be you know the safety has to be there obviously that was there, but the look of it the website the logo like it can all be automated, so wherever we are on this date, we will go live. And I think if I could give people one piece of advice, it would be hold yourself to a deadline and don’t move it, because if we didn’t launch then like I said, Who knows if we didn’t launch now so that I was forced to launch and was it perfect. No, I mean we have made incremental improvements, and every batch we order we tweak something very minor but like we make them better and better and better, and it’s always, I love Reed Hoffman says, If you are not embarrassed of your first model and I’m probably wanting this, then you launch too late to that first one I like, we didn’t have the packaging we have no we didn’t like it was so basic, but, you know and so yeah I was, I mean I’ll never say embarrass but it wasn’t our finest and we launched in a good enough time so that was my number one thing so people like set a date and go with them.
Dana: And so you wanted to launch the whole point of like setting that date and making that launch happen then was so that you, so that when Shark Tank came back around, you were like ready to go and okay so talk to me about how that works, then so you had applied and then they reached out March of 2019 to chat with you, right. So then what were the next steps from there.
Tara: Well the next steps they were like without the product we love the concept we love your story, we love you like what are the sales and it was that moment that it was like her, like music box and I’m like, well we’re pre launch. So they were like, Alright just. And so at that moment I was like, it’s over. But, so I just kept following up with them and that’s when I was like oh we’re gonna do this Kickstarter and they were like, okay, just, you know like they weren’t interested you could tell they’re just like, whatever, you know, and so I thought if we could do it, they said. I said well what kind of sales, do you need to see and then I told him what the Kickstarter and they were like post Kickstarter cells are fine if you raise something reasonable. And so our goal was $12,500 We ended up raising like 25,000 When ads we really did a lot more than our goal. So it was, if we could kind of raise that money and show some capital or just that people believed in the product and want to buy it because as much as the TV show is, is a real opportunity in the sharks like just aren’t interested in going in for products that are pre launch, so it had to show something. And so, because we were able to go on and like, so that’s, that’s what I’m saying, like if we had done the Kickstarter in August, gamble it would have been limited, so we needed to launch the Kickstarter ASAP and the quickest I could launch it was March, and then we closed, you know that 30 days later and we had good sales and then shortcake was like okay, you know, we’ll let’s have you go into casting
Dana: Wow, and so that so at this point, you, you had product in hand, right, and no okay, we hadn’t, we hadn’t ordered it yet because I needed the money from the Kickstarter right or right so when the kicks is set right so I was just sorry I was just thinking the timeline of when the Kickstarter came the Kickstarter money came through, then you went ahead and made the order so then from the time you made that order with Cerner money How long until you’ve got product and then product got in, in consumers hands. It got to everyone like the very end of August Wow, okay. So then right before you started filming, so at that point. So at that point were you, what were you doing like for me my first thing would be like, oh my gosh we need to scramble for like reviews or like what was that that just seems like a scramble period before Shark Tank, what was your.
Tara: Well, we had only been live for a couple weeks when I filmed, but then it didn’t air until May of 2020. So by the time we aired we were more of a legitimate business I guess but when, when we were filming, like with the sharks where I was like in the tank with pitch, they didn’t beat me up on anything really. Because like we just launched you know so they were betting on me as an entrepreneur.
Dana: Yeah, and they so and they didn’t have any problem with, you know, with, with anything else with your business because I feel like you had you had done the work on the backend to be like okay this is safe product this is, this is all the things that they’re going to need because you took the time to make all of that happen. So, for anybody that’s listening that doesn’t know she has a really cool like you can obviously go and watch her episode but you can also go to her website, she has a cool like FAQ page on being on Shark Tank because I truly get asked about this, like, literally in every interview all the time, but all I really want to know because a lot of the stuff you can kind of see like, tell me what it was like in the days after I know on your website, you talked about like in a moment after and seeing your husband It like makes me legit want to cry for you I’m like oh my god it’s amazing but, like, talk to me that about the days after, like, what was it just what happened in that next week.
Tara: It was it was really crazy because it was like we had spent all summer preparing you prepare for it for eight weeks, and unlike other established businesses, we didn’t have our since we hadn’t sold anything yet. We didn’t have a business license and we didn’t have like a bank account and so I was really doing a lot of the foundational stuff, and again like Shark Tank was such a catalyst for us because it just accelerated, all of those things where, you know, maybe you wouldn’t get everything lined up, but they had a checklist of like 100 items that you had to have in place before you like the day you launch. And so I mean we changed from an LLC to a C Corp, because I wasn’t it you can’t raise money. Well you could but not really as an LLC, and so like I wanted that in place so I did all these foundational things and that summer I spent just like building the website and researching like how to launch a product you know and so I was busy all summer doing that, and preparing for shark tank I felt like was a full time job, Because we didn’t have all pieces set up, and then I went there and it was just like whirlwind of a 48 hours truly truly a dream, like, we I made a deal with Lori, it was like one. I mean, we signed my wedding and like the birth of my kids like the most exciting so it was like a top 10 event of my life, and got on the plane and flew home and then it was weird because it was just this like, almost like after you have a baby like there’s such an anticipation to give birth, and then you can go home and you’re like, now what, like, do I have the baby I came home with a deal, so that was huge. But then there’s due diligence and so it’s nothing changed. It was just like okay, like On we go. And then it was still like waiting because even though we made a deal like the episode was interesting, they don’t air all of the all of the episodes are still a chance we care so I still, it was like, if it doesn’t air. This was a fun experience which doesn’t really mean anything, but use an investment from her right. Yeah, well yeah, if you don’t, it doesn’t necessarily tied to being to airing or not. So, it was just a lot of like waiting and COVID hit and so there was more waiting with that, with like what they were doing other things in their portfolio and so it was just a lot of waiting and it was like heads down okay like I’m going to assume the deal isn’t going to go through and I’m going to assume we’re not going to err, and I just need to like kind of take my business, my day.
Dana: Yeah, it’s funny, you’re talking about getting back that’s what I was that’s, that’s where I was going because I drove about when we got married and you know you do your whole planning for your wedding and it’s like this big day it’s the whole thing and then you get back from your honeymoon or after your wedding, and you’re like, Okay, what now it’s like this post wedding depression is what I called it I literally went there, I was like well what do I do with all my free time, like, you know it’s a pre commit to actually have free time, but, but, but still I feel like you had to have been kind of in that space, but I love that you just like kept trucking forward and moved on with it. So, obviously, the episode aired for anybody that doesn’t know it was May 15 of 2020 and then, did you just I mean, was it literally like, Were you watching sales happen on the website as it was. So tell me about that. Tell me about that night and the day after
Tara: Yes, it was, again, like the filming was such a crazy experience and then the night of Aaron was crazy because we had done in sales that night I think what we had done like the whole month prior or two months prior, and I literally, it was like, it felt like all of the efforts. All of the last two years. In that moment, it was just like you’ve made it.
Tara: And like the you know the the sales is just like changing like they’re just like going on the screen what you know it, like it just kept refreshing because it just kept coming in. And so I remember I totally took that night off and I just enjoyed it with my family, and like watched the sales and, and I knew like things are going to be different from here on out.
Dana: Amazing. Okay, well thank you so much, Tara, Tell us where everybody can find you your product on Instagram on your website where they can find the Shark Tank episode give us all the, all the places.
Tara: Yeah, absolutely. So we’re really active on Instagram and it’s dreamline Baby CO. We are trying to start Tik Tok so give us a follow there to do live baby. Oh, and then our website is Dreamlandbabyco.com And we have a live chat so if you have any questions or sizing or anything at all. We’re there to help answer.
Dana: Awesome, well thank you so much, Tara and I’m so excited to get this out to everybody. And for those of you listening, go check her out and give her, give her a call because this is super exciting, especially if you were expecting any sort of baby, whether it be your first, second, third or fourth you can have three that are great sleepers and a fourth that’s not so check it out and Tara, thank you so much again. Awesome, thank you, Dana, it really appreciate it. I am so honored you spent any minutes of your day listening to me babble about living this entrepreneurial life amidst the chaos in any mom’s normal day to day. If you love what you’ve learned more snippets of knowledge about this mob boss life, head over to our website at amidstthechaospodcast.com For show notes and links to anything mentioned in today’s episode. If you’re really feeling inspired to me and my family if you took the time to read. Thanks for joining me, Amidst the chaos.
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