Monday, October 17, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Carren Rieger of BambinOz, Clever Designs for Babies Going Places

This week I want to introduce you all to Carren Rieger of Bambinoz, Clever Designs for Babies Going Places.  She has created products like the PortaChair, seen above, as well as a bottle warmer pack.  She really knows what busy moms need in regards to products, as I have been using the PortaChair for the past couple of weeks, and don't know how I did without.  What I love about this product is how it works on various types of chairs, even arm chairs and bar stools.  There have been a few occasions where we have taken our daughter to a restaurant and either they ran out of high chairs or they didn't have any.  And, being only 14 1/2 months, she is not ready for a booster seat, so we ended up leaving the restaurant to go someplace else.  Not anymore.  I have the PortaChair in the trunk of the car and take it with us wherever we go.  It even comes in handy when we go visiting and family and friends, without children, don't have seating for Savannah.  What a lifesaver the PortaChair is. I will share more about this amazing product on Friday during my Feature Friday, where I will also run a giveaway for one lucky reader to win a PortaChair of their own.  So, mark your calendars, and head back here on Friday to learn more and enter my contest.

But, for now, here is my interview with the creator of the PortaChair and owner of BambinOz, Carren Rieger.  Enjoy!

Name:  Carren Rieger
Company Name/Product/Service: BambinOz – Clever Designs for Babies Going Places
Company Location: Tampa, Florida  
Company Website:     
Age of Company:  3 years
Favorite Book: The Pillars of the Earth

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

I have two girls, ages 3 and 5 who were born in Australia. My husband and I are both entrepreneurs and have businesses related to travel. In my former life before we moved to Australia, I was a strategy consultant and have always had an artistic edge which has proven incredibly useful particularly in the design process of BambinOz product line. 
Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?
When our first child was born, I quickly discovered the lack of suitable, portable and safe feeding solutions for families on the go. With grandparents living in the Germany and the United States and our family in Australia, we travelled often and quickly realized how difficult it was to feed a baby at a small cafĂ© when there is not a high chair or the frustration over heating up a baby bottle on an airplane. A few months into being a new mom, I kept having ideas about how to design a safe high chair alternative that fit most chairs was small enough to shove in the bottom of a bag and provided enough support for a very young baby to travel. A dear friend challenged me to pursue my ideas and design a truly innovative solution which became our flagship product, the Porta Chair. 
What is a typical work day like? 
My day starts each morning as a mom (dressing the girls, making lunches, carpool to school) and I typically get into the office by 9:00am. I’m lucky because my office, the school and our house are very close which enables me to shuffle back and forth more effectively. Once I arrive at work, there is nothing typical. My business is quite complex as I not only design, but manufacture and distribute our products to 4 countries worldwide. Each day is filled with speaking to customers, distributors, communicating with our 5 factories who produce our products , performing quality control on stock, fulfilling orders and lastly developing marketing and communications.At the end of the day once the kids are sleeping, my customers/contacts in Australia, New Zealand and China are just waking up so I typically spend another hour or so before bed emailing back and forth or on conference calls.  
What has been a struggle while starting up your company?  
The largest struggle at first was finding the right factories to produce my products. Our products are hand-sewn on machines and quite complicated to make. Initially I had a very hard time finding the right partners who were willing to take on a new design, work with me since my volumes were not that large at first and could meet my quality standards. I spoke with factories throughout the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji (all textile cut and sew manufacturing hubs) and was unilaterally turned down and told that their factories at one point had the capability to produce what I wanted but could no longer compete on price with China, therefore they decided not perform that type of work any longer. That left me in a situation where I had to work with China so I started researching factories and even flew to China to meet with a few factories to finalize the early samples. 
 What did you do in your past work life?
Before starting Bambinoz (and moving to Australia), I was a Senior Manager within the Strategy practice at a major management consulting firm in NYC.  Before that I worked as a Financial Analyst at a major automotive manufacturer, a logistics manager for a leading national seminar company, GRE/GMAT and SAT instructor, a hostess at Outback steakhouse…. 
What have been some of your major successes?
We are a small company but competing in a marketplace (and for shelf space) with much larger companies who have been around a long time. I tend to measure success based on how our customers respond to the products we make. I love when parents send us photos of their children using the Porta Chair or Bottle Warmer on holiday and share their feedback.
What have been some of your major challenges?
Time and cash flow – I made the decision early on to self-fund the company which meant that I had to accomplish many things with a small budget. I have been extremely active in developing the packaging, marketing materials, designing new products, submitting patents, running photo shoots, website development, packing orders, etc. and have been extremely selective on determining which things could be outsourced versus doing myself. By doing so much of the workflow, this probably took much more time than it would otherwise but it was the only way I could get the company up and running with the resources I had. 
On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
My husband. He is amazing at keeping things in perspective and reminding me that in business, there are good days and bad days and it’s important to keep an eye on the future, not get lost in the past. 
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
Achieving balance has always been a tough concept to master, particularly in my former life as a management consulting. My philosophy is never to expect a perfectly balanced day or week. The more important thing is make yourself available for the things that really matter and schedule those things into your day, whether it is attending a school event, fitting in a 30 minute workout or simply cooking dinner for my family. The way each individual achieves balance is unique – it’s important to focus less on the time spent doing things and more on the quality of what you are doing.  
What is next for your business?

We have a brand new product that we are hoping to launch by the end of this year designed for families on a tighter budget.  
Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business? 
It is so important to flesh out your idea or concept, make a small business plan and then take a good look at your personal strengths, time and financial commitments before starting your business. I have seen so many people spend a lot of money on setting up websites, advertising, leasing space, etc. before they truly understand if the business is something that has the potential to grow. Leverage friends and contacts for advice and establish networks early on with people who have some experience in starting up a company.


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