Jennifer Chua started her business on a gut feeling. When the Toronto-based co-owner of Hip Mommies was pregnant, she was randomly browsing the Web and came across a feeding mat that sticks to the table, eliminating the need for plates and bowls. She and her husband Joey lived in a 600-square-foot loft, and so anything they bought for their family needed to be sleek but functional, and this fit the bill.
The problem: It was in prototype phase and not available for purchase. But Chua had just been laid off from her job as digital art director at HGTV, and her husband ran a distribution business that lacked a clear focus. She knew she had to have the mat – and that she and her husband should be the ones to distribute the product in Canada. “We relaunched the distribution business as a company that distributes responsibly made, thoughtfully designed products by companies that do business ethically – all things that are important to me,” says Chua.
Gut feelings can only take a business idea so far. You also need to make sure that people will buy what you’re selling.
Gut feelings, though, can only take a business idea so far. You also need to make sure that people will buy what you’re selling. Chua and Joey asked friends and family what they thought of the product, spoke to a feeding therapist to make sure it was safe, had conversations with the company that made the mat to find out how it was produced, and met with boutiques and mom-and-pop shops that they hoped would sell the product.
It wasn’t until she met with the buyer of children’s feeding products for the large online and brick-and-mortar baby product retailer Snuggle Bugz that she felt she was on the right track. “She loved it so much, she brought people in from other departments to see it,” recalls Chua. The EZPZ mat was the first product the newly relaunched business distributed in Canada; four years later, Hip Mommies distributes six brands of baby, kid and pet products – all tested in Chua’s home first – and that number keeps growing.
Chua quickly realized that her idea could make for a good business. If you too want your big idea to go somewhere, then follow these four business-building steps.