With Elizabeth Granados, Creator and CEO of Little Nomad
The Successful Kickstarter Story
Elizabeth Granados returns to the Steve Pomeranz Show to follow up with us about her exciting journey to entrepreneurial success of her company Little Nomad. She first joined us in June 2016 after a successful round of fundraising using Facebook to generate awareness of her product and capture emails of interested consumers and Kickstarter to solicit seed money, as well as email to promote pre-sales. The whole process enabled her to take her product from concept to production and to accelerate brand and sales momentum. Today we talk with Elizabeth about how she skillfully utilized these online resources, what has happened since launching her product, her appearance on Shark Tank, and how the business is evolving.
Elizabeth describes how she first took her idea—illustrated foam play mats for babies and toddlers—and created a photoshop image to share on Facebook groups that she belonged to which targeted moms of small children. The photo enjoyed some free grass roots advertising as it was also reposted on other group pages. This boosted Elizabeth’s confidence that there was a legitimate interest in her idea, and she acted adroitly to add a link to the photo that directed people interested in learning more to a landing page where they could sign up for email notifications. In the meantime, she was working on creating a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to encourage pre-sales and invite investment capital. When that was ready, she announced the Kickstarter campaign and the ability to pre-order the product to her list of Facebook emails.
Successful Kickstarter Campaigns
The campaign raised over $100,000 in the first month, more than enough to manufacture the first batch of Little Nomad play mats. That first round of mats fulfilled all the pre-sales, leaving her with a healthy inventory with which to continue to grow the business, and money left over to invest in the business. She credits the Kickstarter campaign with enabling her to side step using her own capital to get the business rolling. Apropos the manufacturing process, Elizabeth admits that she wished she had gone about it slightly differently. Manufacturing requires a “final sample prototype” on which the fabrication of the product is based. With the business growing quickly before a single play mat had been made, she felt a time crunch when it came to creating this sample prototype. Ultimately, however, the prototype was created and the play mats were shipped and arrived on time. Elizabeth enthusiastically adds that sales have more than doubled since the Facebook/email/Kickstarter campaign.
Little Nomad On Shark Tank
Steve asks about Elizabeth’s recent appearance on Shark Tank, ABC’s popular show that pairs early-stage entrepreneurs with high-profile business people. She talks about how, as a huge fan of the show, she’d long wanted to appear as a guest. The application process was daunting, she explains, but she finally made the cut. As Elizabeth tells it, she spent a long time preparing for her appearance on Shark Tank, reading the Shark books, memorizing her pitch, and learning as much as she could about her own business. Not only did she demo her play mat, she brought along her 18-month-old daughter to clamber around on it. While her baby did have a minor crying jag, it didn’t interrupt her pitch too badly. Steve shares that his impression was that the panel of judges was favorable overall and that the incident with the baby came across as funny rather than a distraction.
One of the goals of the Shark Tank appearance was to raise more funds by offering equity stakes in the company. Steve wonders how Elizabeth crunched those numbers to determine how much money she wanted to raise and how much equity she was willing to give up. She admits that this was challenging, especially with a very young business—one that had not yet produced a single play mat—but she felt she had a good handle on sales and demand, as well as a strong conviction that she wanted to retain control over her company.
Elizabeth talks about the most important takeaways she gleaned from her experience on the show. Re-watching it, she believes she received excellent advice from the panel that she thinks she can put into practice. Robert’s suggestion that she double down on what is currently working for Little Nomads resonated with Elizabeth, in part because it’s very clear to her that online sales are the strongest driver of the business, and she knows there is a lot more she could be doing on her eCommerce platform. Steve asks whether Elizabeth has any interest selling her product through traditional retail channels, which seem to have been maligned in recent years. Based on her own experience with “registering” at a store for baby gifts, she believes there is a case to be made for developing retail partnerships, though she concedes that it is not as much of a priority as growing online sales. Steve agrees that the retail play, though it makes sense considering the registry angle, would be more time and capital intensive than selling online. Online sales are simpler and more scalable and very attractive for a young business with limited capital. Another piece of advice from Robert, to solicit and act on customer feedback, also struck a chord with Elizabeth. The future certainly looks bright for this entrepreneur.
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Steve Pomeranz: I’m happy to bring back my next guest. She is Elizabeth Granados. She is the Creator and CEO of Little Nomad, beautifully illustrated printed play mats. She was a guest on our show June of 2016 as she had just finished a very successful Kickstarter campaign and she was launching her business and it was showing some very promising results. Well, fast forward now to 2017, and she has been recently on an episode of Shark Tank. I’ve asked her back here to talk about that experience. Welcome back to the show, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Granados: Hi, Steve. Thank you so much.
Steve Pomeranz: Just to quickly review, we talked about last time in the last interview how you got started by contacting certain mommy groups online. Just give us a quick rundown of how you initially began.
Elizabeth Granados: I had this idea for a product, a stylish foam baby play mat, and, working with the designer, came up with a final concept. Then we created a photoshopped image. I basically started just sharing that with Facebook mom groups that I was in, and people were adding me to new groups, so trying to gauge whether or not it was a product that resonated with moms. It absolutely did, so in sharing that photo, I directed people who were interested in learning more to a landing page where they could sign up their email address and, in the background, I was preparing a Kickstarter campaign to launch the product and, ultimately, used those email addresses to announce the availability of the product and pre-sell over $100,000 worth of play mats.
Steve Pomeranz: The Kickstarter campaign lasted how long?
Elizabeth Granados: It was a 30-day campaign.
Steve Pomeranz: What did you raise?
Elizabeth Granados: $104,000.
Steve Pomeranz: What were your plans with that money? What was the next step?
Elizabeth Granados: The next step was to manufacture the product. I hadn’t even created the mold to create a final prototype, which is something actually that I regret. Looking back, I wish I had invested in creating the prototype prior to the Kickstarter so that I wouldn’t have felt so time crunched. Ultimately, when you’re manufacturing something, you start with a final sample prototype. I used the funds to create that, manufacture a large quantity of inventory, import it, and to, ultimately, fulfill those initial orders and use the remaining funds to set up the business and get it rolling.
Steve Pomeranz: Was that enough money for you?
Elizabeth Granados: Yep, it definitely got me off on the right foot. I didn’t have to infuse any more of my own capital once I was rolling with the Kickstarter funds. I continued to pre-sell online, so I was continuing to take orders even after the Kickstarter ended, which helped.
Steve Pomeranz: You delivered your first product last November. Is that correct?
Elizabeth Granados: That is correct.
Steve Pomeranz: Where are you now? How much have you sold and what’s the growth, the trajectory of the business?
Elizabeth Granados: The growth has been great. As I mentioned, I continue to pre-sell, which I didn’t put a lot of effort into between the Kickstarter and November, but once I started selling in real time, I have more than doubled the Kickstarter. Month over month, I’m seeing amazing increases. I’ve done almost now $250,000 or $260,000 in sales.
Steve Pomeranz: Congratulations. You ended up on Shark Tank. How did that happen?
Elizabeth Granados: Well, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, of course, as an entrepreneur. I’m a huge fan of the show so, after finishing my Kick Starter campaign, I headed over to ABC.com. There was an application process. There were a ton of applications to fill out and audition videos that you have to create, but it was tons of hard work and definitely some luck as well. That’s how I wound up on there.
Steve Pomeranz: Before the taping, once you knew you were going to be on as the days progressed towards the taping, what were you thinking? How were you feeling?
Elizabeth Granados: Well, I was trying to just get as prepared as possible, so I tried to do everything that I could to prepare. I read all the Shark’s books and I just studied my notes. I learned as much as I could about my business so that I would be ready to answer any question.
Steve Pomeranz: How about the presentation on the show? Obviously, you brought the mats and so on. Did you …you also had a special guest come with you, your 18-month-old baby girl. What was that like? Having to give your pitch while the baby was there?
Elizabeth Granados: Well, I knew that it was a huge risk to bring my baby in with me, but how could I leave her behind? She was the reason that I did it, and she’s my motivation every day, and she’s just a huge part of the product. She’s perfectly in the demographic for users so, I brought her out there. She was crying a little bit. I had to adjust and make sure that I had my pitch fully memorized, so that I would be able to react if she was unhappy, which kind of happened, but it ended up being great.
Steve Pomeranz: The show aired February 3rd. I watched it and the baby was crying at one point, and you did something unexpected, what was that?
Elizabeth Granados: Well, I swooped in, picked her up and then, ultimately, I asked Mr. Wonderful—we called him Uncle Wonderful—just babysat for a moment while we continued with the pitch.
Steve Pomeranz: That was risky but he did okay and there was some good [crosstalk 00:02:24].
Elizabeth Granados: He did.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, that was excellent. That was funny.
Elizabeth Granados: It was cute.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. You were looking to raise a certain amount of money, and you were willing to offer a certain percentage of your company for that. How did you determine the amount of the shares you were willing to give up and the amount that you needed?
Elizabeth Granados: Well, that was difficult, but I basically just looked at what I thought the value of my business … I had such a short track record and I knew that was a huge risk going into the Tank with such a young business, and it proved to definitely be a disadvantage for me. But knowing what the sales were, knowing what the demand was, and knowing that I wanted to maintain ultimately control over my business, that’s how I made my decision.
Steve Pomeranz: You had good reception, I thought, from the panelist. Mark Cuban was shaking his head up and down when you were telling him about Kick Starter and initial sales, and they very much liked the path that you were on. Were there any surprises and anything in particular that you learned from the experience?
Elizabeth Granados: Definitely. First I have to say, I respect the Sharks so much because they are able to really see entrepreneurs for who they really are so quickly, and watching the show back, even just seeing what they had to say about me in that moment, they were really spot on and they had some excellent advice. Now, I’m just staying focused on taking that advice and looking at how I could pivot in my strategy to improve my business based on what they said.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, tell us a little bit about that. What did they say? What did you learn?
Elizabeth Granados: Well, I would say, for an example, Robert’s advice to double down in what’s working for me. There’s so much to learn about selling online, and I’m on the Shopify platform right now, and Shopify sends an email every day with e-commerce tips on how to improve your sales and to get your cart abandonment back and how to reach customers who are thinking about buying, but they’ve changed their mind and using email sequences. There’s so much that I still need to really implement in that respect, so I took that advice very much to heart to double down on what I know is working, and that’s my online sales.
Steve Pomeranz: There was a lot of discussion about online versus bricks and mortar versus kind of traditional retail. There seems to be some criticism from quarters about pursuing a strategy of traditional retail. What did you think about that?
Elizabeth Granados: You know, I do think there’s an easy argument both ways. As someone who just had a baby, I registered, and everything was purchased through one store, that one store’s registry. Knowing that for this specific product, I do still feel that it is a great strategy but, that being said, with the online sales being great, continuing to focus on those and making the most of that. So, as a small business still, that’s what I’m focusing on rather than going straight to retail now.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. Well, I mean the online method has scalability. Right?
Elizabeth Granados: Right.
Steve Pomeranz: So, when you’re working—even with registries, which I think is a great idea—it takes an awful lot of work to get into a particular registry, an awful lot of work to follow up and also capital in order to service it and all of that. Whereas online, it’s really just a click and purchase, and it’s all credit card, so it’s a lot easier and you can grow a lot faster. Am I hearing that that’s the direction that you’re headed in now?
Elizabeth Granados: Yeah, absolutely. Another piece of advice that Robert gave is you don’t know that much because at the time I hadn’t shipped a single play mat, and now, it’s several months later and I have shipped and I’ve gotten some great customer feedback and I feel as though I’ve learned from that. I’m going to continue to improve the product based on feedback, and I think phase two or three or four or maybe never going to retail, as Uncle Wonderful suggested, just staying away from it altogether, but definitely focusing on those things rather than jumping in retail immediately.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, Elizabeth Granados, I wish you the best of luck.
Elizabeth Granados: Thanks.
Steve Pomeranz: Tell us a little bit about the product and how people can find out about it?
Elizabeth Granados: Sure it’s available on our website, Little-Nomad.com and you can also check us out on Facebook, Facebook.com/littlenomadplaymat. It’s a beautiful, beautiful foam play mat. If you can imagine that. It looks like an heirloom rug and it’s for style-minded moms everywhere.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, once you get going maybe you can go on Shark Tank Two: The Follow-Up or something like that and then maybe raise some real money. Best of luck to you, Elizabeth, and thank you so much for spending your time with us.
Elizabeth Granados: Sure. Thank you, Steve.