Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at Dreamland Baby and how you got started?
I am a mom of four who was looking for a sleep solution for my youngest baby. At nearly six months old, our son Luke was still waking up every hour and a half. Like so many other new parents we were desperate for sleep. One night we placed him under a heavy throw blanket while sitting on our couch. I noticed a calm immediately came over his face. A lightbulb went off in my head: he needs a weighted blanket!
I searched online and was disappointed to find that weighted blankets were not available for infants: calibrated for their weight and in a sleepsack form. Not to be deterred, my mother-in-law sewed a prototype and the first night wearing it, Luke slept 12 hours! We couldn’t believe how immediately his sleep was improved.
Word quickly spread and I was flooded with requests amongst our family and friends and the idea to bring Dreamland Baby to families everywhere was officially born. A year and a half later, we now offer a full range of sizes from a newborn swaddle all the way to 18 months.
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
Getting the first product in stock took a full year. Creating wearable weighted blankets designed for infants is almost a new category, so there was a lot of work to bring this idea to life. I had to perfect the design, file for a patent, find a manufacturer, consult with medical professionals, run all the safety and compliance tests, design the packaging, create a website, etc.
Today Dreamland Baby products are sold primarily through our Shopify website mainly because everytime we get in a batch of inventory it is already pre-sold. We have started selling in local speciality stores and the response has been super positive. 2020 we will continue to focus on B2C and specialty retail stores.
How did you get your first sale?
We initially ran a Kickstarter to get sales off the ground. I didn’t realize how it worked and just threw up the product without a lot of research behind it. I was really happy to raise almost $25,000, which we used to place our first manufacturing order.
By the time we launched the website, we already had a bit of momentum from the Kickstarter campaign and social media. Parents were excited to buy Dreamland Baby and be able to get their hands on it immediately (not wait 3 months like during the Kickstarter).
I will never forget the moment we were live and I heard the first “cha-ching” sound from my Shopify App. :-)
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
My biggest challenge was getting burned by a marketing agency during my Kickstarter. At that point, I was using every penny I had and this almost put me out of business before I started. I had signed on with a huge upfront fee of $6,500 for them to represent me and my brand 30 days prior and 30 days through my Kickstarter.
After a few weeks into it, I realized they had misrepresented their services and I asked for a refund (or partial refund). They kept telling me they would compensate me in other services but after stringing me along for a couple months I never received anything. It was a huge learning experience for me and I refuse to pay big front fees without an agency proving thier worth first.
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
From all the research I did, every article pointed toward Shopify as being the “winner”. The reputation for the easiest to use platform, best pricing and best customer service made it the obvious choice.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
Super easy! I had initially budgeted $10,000 for “website creation” but once I got into using Shopify I realized it is essentially plug and play. I have no background in coding, HTML, etc. and I was able to create the entire website myself. Every time I showed it to a marketing or PR agency, they would say your website is so beautiful, who created it? Everyone was shocked to find out it was me!
I would change one thing, however. I elected to use a third party theme and wish I had gone with one of the Shopify options. The Shopify experts are so knowledgeable and accessible 24/7 to answer questions about pretty much anything. However some things on my particular theme they have to send me to the third party because it's not a Shopify theme. Unfortunately, the third party isn't invested the way Shopify is and they usually just tell me I need to hire a coding expert for any minor adjustment. I know if it was a Shopify theme, the Shopify experts could answer for me.
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business and why?
SMSBump: This app is insane. It is so good I almost don’t want to share! My ROI is over 11,000% There is literally nothing like it. SMS Bump has several easy-to-use templates, pop-ups and fly-outs to choose from to collect customers’ contact info. Then you can run different promotions or campaigns via text message. I believe this is the future of digital marketing and SMS Bump makes it super easy.
Fomo: This app is a must-have, especially for new companies. When we first started, we didn’t have a huge customer base. My product is designed for infants so parents are usually looking for a recommendation from a friend. Fomo shows how many customers are currently on the website and also displays who purchased products in real time. If a new parent is on the fence about purchasing but sees other parents buying the product, it is the small reassurance they need to click checkout.
Pre-Order Now: This app has saved me since we keep running out of inventory. It’s quick and easy to adjust and send automated emails to customers when they purchase an item that is on pre-order. It also gives customers a warning if they purchase an item that is NOT on pre-order and one that is. Their customer service is great and you can adjust the fonts / color scheme to match your branding.
What theme did you choose for your site and why?
I chose Startup by Pixel Union. I had a clear vision of what I wanted my website to look like and when I scrolled through the options, aesthetically Startup mirrored most closely what was already in my mind. It was inexpensive, so it was a no-brainer to purchase. Now understanding the importance of customer service, if I could go back, I would have chosen a Shopify theme (and they are all free!)
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow Dreamland Baby?
Influencer marketing is our biggest driver of leads. I think most companies need some type of recommendation, but it is especially important for Dreamland Baby and our weighted sleep sacks. Parents, first time parents in particular, want to know someone they trust is using the product and getting a benefit from it. Hearing an influencer talk about how our weighted blankets helped their baby relax, fall asleep faster or stay asleep longer feels like you’re sitting in your living room and getting a recommendation from a girlfriend.
We don’t monetarily compensate any influencers because I believe that could alter their testimony of our products. We ask for completely honest, transparent reviews. We send out a weekly email with information relevant to parents, usually surrounding sleep and occasional promotions. We also do paid media retargeting through Instagram and Facebook.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
Our customer service team started using an app called ReAmaze. It is awesome because it pulls in all the avenues customers reach out: Instagram, Facebook, email, and has a built in chat feature. I am on social almost 24/7 so customers usually get a pretty quick answer. I also think they enjoy speaking directly to the founder!
Are there any metrics you can share in terms of order volume, monthly sales, increased revenue, growth %, etc.?
Dreamland Baby is growing super fast. We have been restricted thus far by not having enough inventory but have corrected those now in 2020. We are on track to cross the $1M mark this year. It has been a really exciting ride so far!
To what do you attribute those positive metrics?
First is having a good product that works and people want to buy. A lot of our referrals are word-of-mouth. It is one mom telling another mom, “My baby slept through the night! You NEED a Dreamland Baby!”
Beyond that, being smart about marketing, hiring the right people and getting the right systems in place. Although I am the only full time employee, almost every week I am bringing on a new contractor. In the beginning, I was afraid to hire anyone because I knew I could do it myself and wanted to avoid the high expense. I quickly realized when you bring on solid people who are well versed in a particular area, they help your business explode in a way you could never accomplish alone.
What are you working towards now?
I want to grow Dreamland Baby to a place that I can give back in a significant way. Weighted blankets can help so many groups of infants and toddlers with a range of conditions. A lot of these families are facing insurmountable medical expenses. To have a program set up that we could donate Dreamland Baby and provide comfort for these babies - and by extension, their families - would be a dream come true.
Are there any blogs or other resources that have been helpful for you?
When I first started I used SCORE. It is the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, with more than 10,000 volunteers. I got advice on everything from my business plan to importing to marketing and more.
The resource I use the most today is the Master Mind I am part of. It is a group of other business owners who are also moms and have a product in the baby space. We have a Whatsapp chat where we discuss marketing strategies, growth programs, which shows we are exhibiting at, etc. Having a group of friends to support you through the tough days and cheer you on when you reach a milestone has been huge for me.
I also love listening to practical business podcasts that offer tangible advice. One of my favorites is She’s Got Moxie, hosted by Joy Chudacoff.
Based on your own success, what advice would you share with others who might be just starting out with Shopify (or with eCommerce in general)?
My advice would be to surround yourself with other people who have walked the path you are going. Honestly, I would not be where I am without a few key mentors. These are people I didn’t know before I started and now consider some of my dearest friends. Find a tribe of other business owners that are in the same space as you. There is power in growing alongside another business owner. Knowledge is power and when you can all share what works, it’s like you have a whole team of people even though you are each running individual businesses.
One of my favorite quotes is by Walt Disney: “The difference in winning and losing is most often not quitting.” You will have high highs and low lows, but just keep going.
I would also recommend using a Shopify theme and leaning on their customer service. The support is absolutely incredible. I also adore their Canadian accents, so talking to the team is a plus!
Where can we learn more?
So many people helped me when I first started, I would be more than happy to pay it forward!
~Tara Williams, Founder of Dreamland Baby~