Monday, May 2, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Michelle Cloney of Le Bibble

Back in March I introduced you to Le bibble, the baby bottle bib, in my virtual baby shower guide.  Today, I wanted to share my Spotlight on Mommy interview with the creator of Le bibble, Michelle Cloney.  If you missed my post about her great product, please click here now to read it.

And, now my interview with Michelle.  Enjoy!

Name:  Michelle Cloney
Company Name/Product/Service: funfunctional®/ Le bibble® baby bottle bib
Company Location: Reston, Virginia
Company Website:         
Facebook URL:
Twitter Handle: @ lebibble
Age of Company:  April 2010 company founded – December 2010 Product Launch – 3 months
Favorite Inspirational Quotes:
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” Goethe
“Your dreams are never silly, depend on them to guide you.” Fortune Cookie
Favorite Book: “Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen. I’m a romantic at heart. Bring on Mr. Darcy!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.

I am a 36 year-old single mom of Lucie, 17-months. I have lived in many different cities doing may different things before permanently setting down roots in my hometown of Reston, Virginia – and I LOVE it! My hobbies/interests include music, taking drives, singing, dancing, watching movies, decorating, style/design and anything that’s creative and fun. Oh, and shopping! I also enjoy spending time with family and friends.
Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about? 
My daughter had very messy bottle feedings, either as a result of a leaky bottle or her own chin dribbles. I was always changing her. There wasn’t anything I could find to prevent this from happening, so I invented a baby bottle bib called Le bibble® (bottle + bib) to sop up leaks from both baby and bottle - in eco-style. Le bibble® is a patent-pending circular cloth collar that attaches to the bottle rather than the baby to capture the leaks before they fall onto baby’s tender skin.  With Le bibble®, you can bottle feed single-handedly. Just slide Le bibble® over the bottle and swipe the dribbles (or for the super messy eater hold it against baby’s chin during feeding). It’s so easy! 
The top layer is made up of 100% designer cotton fabric in ten bright, fun patterns and the bottom layer is an organic birdseye cotton underlay for wiping dribbles. No more forgetting burp cloths – just put it on the bottle and voila! Out the door. 
The company, funfunctional®, is based on the notion that daily activities can be made more fun through creative expression and design.
What is a typical work day like? 
My day starts with a cup of coffee. Aside from that, the days vary.  I’m either marketing, packaging my product, sending out orders, doing media outreach, web updating, accounting, organizing, and designing all the while taking care of my daughter who is at home full-time and toddling! Because I used to work as a professional organizer, I’m pretty good at being mentally organized in terms of knowing what needs to happen business wise every day, but also rely on a desktop monthly calendar as my visual reminder if I’ve forgotten something. I also work part-time as a realtor/home stager with my mother, so I’m always on my feet.
What has been a struggle while starting up your company?  
It’s actually been a lot of fun – I look at starting a company as a giant lesson and everything involved as feedback. No’s are not “No’s” but “Not this way’s”.  So, I keep looking for solutions, ways of improving.
However, I have learned to be more patient and to enjoy all the in between moments. Everything takes longer than I had anticipated. For instance, while Le bibble® was being manufactured I had two months of down-time. Sometimes, I wasn’t sure what to do.
I’ve also had to learn to be my own salesperson. In the past, I wouldn’t consider myself very ‘sales-like’, however now I have to be the biggest cheerleader behind my product. At the end of the day, I am the one responsible for the success of Le bibble®, so I have had to embrace this new and sometimes unnatural role for me as ‘horn-tooter’! Now, I’m toot-tootin’ away.

What did you do in your past work life?
Lots of things – I guess you could say my work life has been a little off the beaten path. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Virginia, then went on to work in print and television journalism/writing/research for various companies in London and Washington, DC. Then went on to New York City where I studied acting for three years. Most recently, I owned my own business, i-organize, LLC, in Los Angeles while studying for my Master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology. It was at this point while an expectant single mother that I moved across the country back home to Virginia to raise my daughter. It was a difficult decision to leave my business and friends, but I knew it was the right one. Now I know why!  
What have been some of your major successes? 
Following the most challenging and transformational period of my life, I am very proud of my personal and professional happenings over the past year-and-a-half. Number one being my daughter! 
Personally, I am very excited about our partnership with Homestretch, the largest Virginia non-profit that provides housing and services to homeless families while getting back on their feet (50% victim of domestic violence and 90% being women.) As a certified professional home stager, I have gotten together with a group of seven other home stagers as part of Le village, my company’s giveback program, to turn the housing units provided by Homestretch into true ‘homes’.  Witnessing the reaction of one particular family was truly heart-warming and joyful. Upon seeing her newly decorated house, this single mom of two exclaimed “Now this is a home!” It is moments like these that make me feel really good about anything and everything. The fact that I can do my part to help another family in a precarious situation motivates me beyond words. 
Professionally, I am very excited about our Belgian Distributor VERBA, bvba, who approached us within 2-months of business to distribute Le bibble® in the Benelux Countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg). We are officially now in our first two retail stores, Baby Look, and Cornia Maison in Belgium. Certainly not where I thought Le bibble® would first be available making it all the more fun!
What have been some of your major challenges? 
Raising a baby as a single mom and beginning a company at the same time can pose its challenges. When my daughter was an infant it was easier to get things done – I could work while she napped and she was not yet mobile. Now that she is a toddler I have found it more difficult to work while she’s home so I have to do much of my busy-work/outreach/marketing at night or during her naps (if she takes them!). That said I wouldn’t trade my situation for the world. I feel very blessed that I can stay at home with her, especially while she’s a little one. And I have a wonderful support system which is essential as a single mom.
Interestingly, I have found it harder to get the word out here in the US about Le bibble®. I’ve gotten quite a bit of interest internationally, everywhere from Australia, to Canada, to Scandinavia, to England, to Ireland, to Hungary, to Slovakia, to the Czech Republic and even to Israel, yet the US seems to be a more difficult market to penetrate.  I just keep at it hoping that at some point someone will want to hop on Le bibble® train!

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going? 
Not sure exactly. The only way to answer this is that I just do. That’s how I know I am doing what I am ‘supposed’ to be doing. Even after a difficult day when something has gone awry or I’m tired and I exclaim “I quit!, I will wake up the next day and keep doing whatever I was doing the previous day like the energizer bunny. Even when I try to quit, I can’t! I think I’m really determined because of my daughter. She’s my little grounding anchor.
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family? 
Well, for me it is a little secret brilliantly described by another mom as “carcations”. I have always needed some downtime everyday to clear my head – and this can by difficult wearing both work and mom hats at home. So I always take Lucie on a little car ride every day to listen to music and take a little carcation. Fortunately, I usually have somewhere I need to go, so there’s an actual destination. If not, it’s a surprise……
What is next for your business? 
Keep on marketing, getting the word out, selling Le bibble® both online and to retail stores.
Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?
Do it, do it, do it! I believe when you work from the heart, it will always pay off in some way. There is a reason you are interested in going out on your own, so trust that.

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