When it comes to their kids, moms don’t mess around. They want the best for them—and will go to any lengths to get it.
In Nupoor Patel’s case, that meant doing it all herself.
When Nupoor had her firstborn, she was meticulously cautious about the products she used for her newborn child.
“She had heard horror stories about other products on the market,” says Julius Peter, her husband. It was imperative her family stuck with completely natural products. She used recipes passed down from her own mother, would purchase oils from the health food store, and started making her own baby lotion.
Soon, Nupoor’s mommy friends caught wind of her at-home inventions and wanted to get their hands on some, too. She was happy to help her friends out, but when she saw the reception, Nupoor realized there was something more there.
“Nupoor knew that as concerned as she was, or her sister was, or her friends were with that products they used for their children, there were thousands of other moms just as concerned, too,” adds Julius.
Nupoor—and her sister Vinnie, who used the very same formula—wanted to ease those mothers’ concerns. The sisters decided to turn their concoctions into a product.
In 2011, Baby Mantra was born.
Out of the gate, Nupoor was in luck: her husband, who worked in M&A on Wall Street, had some connections to manufacturers. With his help, the sisters found a manufacturer in Arizona, created the packaging, and put the very first Baby Mantra product up on Amazon.
And then they waited.
“For the first 3 months, nothing happened,” says Nupoor. “We started with one sale a month, then slowly worked up to about 30 units a day. It took us some time to get there, but when we got there, we knew it was time to expand.”
Nupoor and Vinnie wanted to add more products to the line, from shampoo to bubble bath mix.
But before she could even begin ideation for those products, Julius was out with friends one night when he learned an interesting fact: “Apparently, Walgreens was considering creating a store within a store that would compete with the natural food stores. This ‘store’ didn’t have any baby brands. 11 months after launch, I had a friend offering to submit us to be considered for this store within a store. And within a month, we had a PO for one store in Walgreens.”
Unfortunately, the “store within the store” concept never panned out for Walgreens, but Baby Mantra’s relationship with the drug store giant did. “The baby buyer at Walgreen’s found out about us and we got a meeting, and after that, we were in 500 stores,” says Julius.
With Walgreens in, Amazon running smoothly, and a new appearance on Diapers.com, Julius knew he had to go from helping his wife out on the side to joining full-time. “This was where the business became more complicated. I needed to jump in,” adds Julius.
With Julius being able to step into a full-time business development role, Baby Mantra was able to go for a brand-new brand to major shelf visibility at big-name stores, including Babies”R”Us, Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, Fred Meyer, King Soopers, and Costco.com.
With more partners came more products. “Increased demand helped fuel Nupoor and Vinnie’s dream to build out more products. To date, we now have 6 different products that are all certified natural and organic.”
Of course, the sisters’ dream didn’t come true overnight.
It’s incredibly important to the Baby Mantra team and brand that their products are certified by the Natural Products Association. To get there, though, can take 9 to 10 months.
“For us, it is really is quality over quantity. We could have dozens of products. But, instead, we want a handful that are truly the best on the market and the absolute safest for kids,” says Vinnie.
In fact, Baby Mantra won’t come out with something if it hasn’t been certified. As Julius put it, “We stand for something. We want to be someone that moms can trust.”
The hardest part of the business is, in fact, getting those products right. “It’s got to feel a certain way, smell a certain way, and be shelf-stable. It’s got to have the right packaging, to sit next to those big brands and stand out.”
What’s on deck for Baby Mantra? Well, speaking of those big brands they’re trying to stand out from:
”We’ve got to compete with the behemoths like Honest Co. and Babyganics. Our ads can get drowned out because our budget is smaller, but when moms find out about us, they come back. Our business is made up of repeat customers. We just have to get them that first time,” explains Julius.
To compete with the big guys, though, the company needed funding to fuel their marketing. “After working on Wall Street, we knew we didn’t want to take on venture capital too early. We wanted to maintain control, given how important the quality of our product is to us. When you take on VC funding prematurely, it’s easy for a company to lose its way,” says Julius.
Luckily, Julius found Fundera through a partner and was able to quickly get funds and start on their next round of marketing. “We speak with our account manager, Colleen, all the time. She calls me every month to check in. It’s nice to talk to someone who gets it. She understands the issues around companies like ours. And now we’ve got a partner as our needs grow.”
With funds in hand, Baby Mantra is now focusing on new partners, like the recently-acquired ShopRite, and new channels:
“Like groceries. If you’re going to buy milk and eggs, you should be able to buy Baby Mantra, too. We want to be wherever our moms are.”
Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a vice president at Fundera.
Meredith launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014. She has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and financial management.