Monday, April 18, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- An-Su and Kelly McGee of My Armadillo Pillow

Last month I reviewed My Armadillo Pillow, a pillow-protector for your iPhones and iPads.  Savannah just loves her My Armadillo Pillow, as she can play with her favorite apps, and we don't have to worry about her scratching the screen or breaking Daddy's iPad.  I simply slide the iPad in this cute pillow and lay Savannah in her pack and play or the floor, and she is ready to play.  

Now, I wanted to share my Spotlight on Mommy interview with the creators of My Armadillo Pillow, An-Su and Kelly.  If you missed my review last month of My Armadillo Pillow, click here to read it now.

Names: An-Su De Lellis and Kelly McGee
Company Name/Product/Service: My Armadillo Pillow
Company Location: London, Ontario
Company Website:
Twitter Handle: @armadillopillow
Age of Company: 5 mths since conception of idea, launched product 3mths ago
Favorite Inspirational Quotes 
An-Su:  If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right. Henry Ford
Kelly:  “Imagination is more important than knowledge”…Albert Einstein
Favorite Book 
An-Su:  Fifteen Animals - Sandra Boynton
Kelly:  The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.

An-Su:  I am originally from South Africa - moved to Canada 12 years ago. I own a graphic design company "The Design Loft" and am married to a very supportive husband. We have one little boy (2½ years old). We love to travel as a family. I can speak three languages and English is my second language. I could not decide what I wanted to study after high school, so I ended up being an Au-Pair  for a year in Germany. Those kids are now old enough to be Au-Pairs themselves! My hobbies seem to be supressed by chores. We enjoy our backyard in the summer time.  That is where we play and relax over a glass of wine.

Kelly:  I’m an enthusiastic , shopaholic who enjoys gardening, home renos and hanging out with family.  I have an amazing son who is about to turn 6yrs old.

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?

An-Su:  We did not decide one day that we wanted to start a business but rather needed a solution to our own problem with our kids using our technology. That is when we created the "My Armadillo Pillow".  We received orders from friends and friends of friends wanting to buy one for their kids or grandkids... or even themselves.

Kelly:  An-Su and I were both about to buy our son’s the newest iPod touch.  We were looking for a cool case to protect the device as soon as it came out of the packaging and were not having any luck.  After seeing an iPod built into a stuffed toy, we came up with the idea to create something that was more fun, convenient and that could be altered to be age appropriate.  We brainstormed, and after a few prototypes,  excitedly launched our products on November 20, 2010.
That is when we realized that we had a great idea.

An-Su:  Our product, my armadillo pillow, is a mini pillow with a protective pocket and a velcro closure that will keep your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad secure. The touch-through screen protector lets kids explore childfriendly applications, watch their favourite movies or enjoy their toe-tapping tunes... An adventure for them... peace of mind for you. Our iPod/iPhone pillow comes with a wristband keychain for holding and attaching while not in use. We also included a pocket that closes with velcro - this is for earphone storage or credit cards if you don't want to carry a whole purse with your phone. The iPad pillow is an amazing companion for little ones exploring the iPad applications. We have discovered that kids suffering from Autism gain a lot from using an iPad, our pillow makes it easier for them to hold and use. With our fabric options we can address various textile (sensory) preferences. We understand the advantages of kids and technology - we just want to ensure the transition is a pleasant one for both parent and child.

Kelly:  Alarm goes off at 7:00am and work my way out of bed past 2 sleeping dogs.  I run a home daycare, so parents start to arrive by 8am.  I wake my son.  We do breakfast, dress, teeth etc. and  start our day.  I have a full day of play, learning, crafts and of coarse, diapers.  I sometimes am able to do a bit of My Armadillo Pillow work during nap time. We all head outside to pick up kids from school and then before I know it, it’s 5:30pm and time for the kids to go home.  I spend most nights juggling housecleaning, helping with homework and working on armadillo stuff.

What is a typical work day like?

An-Su:  My son is up by 6:30AM.  That is when the negotiations start seeing that I usually end my work day at 1am in the morning. At 8:45 I take him to daycare (with Kelly - my business partner). We usually take this morning time to discuss the product and orders currently pending. By 10am I am back in my office from which I run my graphic design business as well as dealing with some of the my armadillo pillow marketing and promotional needs. At 5:30 I go and pick up my son. After dinner and he is in bed, I will either be working to meet a design deadline or continuing to research and explore business opportunities for my armadillo pillow.
What has been a struggle while starting up your company?
An-Su:  I would say our main struggle currently is finding a competitive way of shipping and delivering our product. These are, I am sure, growing pains every business goes through.

Kelly:  The biggest struggle for me has been lack of available products for us.  We had to have things shipped to a hotel in the US and then drove down to pick it up.  Researching to find the best products to create My Armadillo Pillow has been both exciting and frustrating at times.

What did you do in your past work life?
An-Su:  I am still doing graphic design - I don't know if I would ever give it up.

Kelly:  I have worked at a daycare center, been a nanny, bartender, photographer, and worked in accounting at a candy factory!!
What have been some of your major successes?

An-Su:  Of course first and foremost it would be having and loving my family. Being a mother is not an easy task.  So the feeling you have somedays that you are doing a great job is priceless and I feel like jumping on a podium and pounding my own chest when he does something wonderful!
Work: I started my own design company a year ago after working in the industry for over a decade. Taking that risk was a huge step for me, and that makes it a success regardless of anything else. When is it ever an ideal time to walk into your boss' office and announce that you are quitting your job without another job lined up?
My armadillo pillow: So many times I have had ideas that I thought were great... but I never pushed through with them  to take it to the next level.  This is the first time I actually took the next step, and with Kelly as a business partner, I know we can achieve great success. We took the step - we are already better than we were 6 months ago.

Kelly:  Personally, my biggest success is being a wonderful mom.  I am proud to be a single mother, homeowner and businesswomen….and I have done it all on my own.

What have been some of your major challenges?

An-Su:  Juggling all the responsibilities, keeping faith in ourselves and keeping the momentum going.

Kelly:  As far as My Armadillo Pillow is concerned, I don’t think we’ve had any MAJOR challenges.  A few small obstacle to overcome, like getting the cost of shipping down, finding the best suppliers,  oh and leaning to sew!  Lol.
On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?

An-Su:  I turn the radio up, listen to my favorite Journey song... and by the last chorus, I am up and ready to take on anything.

Kelly:  Love of life, my family, my passion.
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?

An-Su:  I don't think there is a secret. Let's be honest most days we all just survive, some with less skills needed than others. Just love the people you keep dear to your heart - and show and tell them they are special to you.

Kelly:  Luckily I’m used to balancing everything by myself so it comes naturally.  There’s no secret really, just organization and proper time allocation.
What is next for your business?

An-Su:  We are currently still hand-crafting our products. Our next natural step is to get them into mass production.

Kelly:  Hopefully getting our shipping concerns sorted out, and also redeveloping for the upcoming touch screens coming out in the spring.  We’ll be looking to get our products manufactured in the near future too.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?

An-Su:  It is easy and less challenging to say " I should have" and you are always right.
I prefer to say "I did and I can" and then continue with what I have learned from it.

Kelly:  My advice is start small, don’t invest your life savings right away.  If you believe in something, just go for it!! Don’t worry about what anyone else says but still be open to suggestions….and most importantly, keep your momentum.  Don’t give up on your dream.

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