Monday, March 5, 2012

Spotlight on Mommy -- Megan Gage, Creator of Hot Tot Styling Products for Children


I stumbled upon this week's Spotlight Mom while managing my LinkedIn contacts.  If you aren't on LinkedIn yet and have a business, you should really sign up for a free account.  It is a great way to keep your contacts organized, as well as meet other people you may not have otherwise met.  This is the case with Megan.  I am so glad she reached out to me and wanted to share her amazing Hot Tot styling products for children and personal entrepreneurial story with us.  With two little ones of my own, I am always cautious on what health and beauty products.  And, just like Mommy, they both have sensitive skin, so I have to be extra cautious on what I use, or they break out instantly in rashes.  My husband found this out the hard way the other day when he gave Savannah a bubble bath with an Elmo wash he picked up at the store.  Within minutes of sitting in the tub, Savannah's skin became red and irritated, and she wasn't a happy camper for the next few days.

Because of their sensitivity to products, I haven't been able to find good hair care products for them.  And, our littlest one, Arabella, has some wild punk rock hair that we are always trying to tame.  I will definitely have to pick up Megan's Spotless Tot product, as well as her conditioning detangler and finishing mist.  In addition, Megan also offers other styling products, as well as infant and toddler apparel on her website.  So, if you have been searching for natural and organic hair care products for your little one, why not take a look at the Hot Tot product line today.  You will not be disappointed.  And, it is a great way to help support another mom entrepreneur!

Please enjoy my spotlight interview with Megan Gage, the creator of Hot Tot styling products for children. 

Name: Megan Gage

Company Name/Product/Service:  Hot Tot (styling products formulated for children without the use of harsh or harmful chemical)

Company Location:  Denver, CO

Company Website:

Twitter Handle:  @HotTotHaircare

Age of Company:  We will be celebrating our first birthday on 4/15/2012! 

Favorite Inspirational Quotes:  "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Favorite Book:  Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.
My name is Megan Gage and I am a wife and mom to two lovely children (Jaiden, my daughter, is nearly 12 and my son Christian is 2 1/2).  We live in a suburb just south of Denver.

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?
I created Hot Tot, my specialized hair styling line for children, after the birth of my son in 2009.  I was mixing a small amount of lotion with pomade to give him a simple baby curl and was constantly approached by strangers that were curious about his hair.  After jokingly telling my husband that "someone should create a product to achieve this look" I stumbled upon some research (No More Toxic Tub, 2009) that outlined the dangerous chemicals commonly used in children's products.  Outraged, I set out to create a styling line formulated for the physical characteristics of immature (children's) hair without the use of harsh or harmful chemicals.

What is a typical work day like?
Checking email tends to be the first and last thing I do each day and I try to get started around 7am.  Most of my time is spent working from my home office which is wonderful since my son isn't in school yet.  I have the freedom to fulfill my duties as a mom while making calls, shipping boxes, and responding to emails.  The trade off for flexibility, however, is extended hours.  I work seven days a week. 

What has been a struggle while starting up your company? 
In the beginning, I called around to different product manufacturers seeking a lab to formulate my line.  It was very difficult to find a chemist that was willing to work with me, as my project required a great deal of time in the lab since I wanted to create products from scratch (rather than make slight adjustments to pre-existing formulas).  I don't think people took a mom with no beauty industry experience very seriously. 

I eventually found a Canadian company that was willing to work with me and jumped at the opportunity.  After producing a small order of Hot Tot's four initial products, I was in business.  Things were going well and I quickly began searching for an American manufacturer because I wanted my products to be made in the U.S.  I tracked down a cosmetic sample given to me at a luxury department store by calling the number on the back.  I was shocked to learn that it was manufactured in my home state of Colorado.  Even crazier, the facility was located on the same street as the place I worked while in graduate school (though I didn't know what actually happened in those buildings).  I think it's a great example that all roads truly do lead to home.  In October 2011, we added two new products to my line and moved the entire operation to Colorado.  I am so proud to be an American company and love that I get to be so hands-on with the development of new products since my manufacturer and lead chemist are local. 

What did you do in your past work life?
Shortly before the birth of my son, I quit my full-time job as a social worker to spend more time with my family.  When people ask "what do you do" I instinctively tell them that I'm a social worker though I haven't officially been employed as one for years now.  I have always felt very committed to my profession and I think it's a part of who I am.  Hot Tot is very committed to being a socially responsible company and donates a portion of our proceeds to charities that benefit children.  It has proven to be an unconventional way to work with several agencies who's purpose I've always admired.  Even better, I don't have to sit in rush hour :-) 

What have been some of your major successes?
I have poured my heart into Hot Tot and always consider positive feedback about the concept, company, or products a major success.  I have put so much of who I am into my company so it's difficult not to personalize positive or negative comments.  Hearing that a child with severely sensitive skin is able to tolerate my products is equally as exciting as receiving an email from an enthusiastic beauty editor.  Hot Tot has attracted the attention of three luxury department stores (which has always been my ultimate dream for the line) and it is exciting to think about our possibilities for the future.  I recently learned that we have a few famous fans and am BEYOND excited that Hollywood has discovered the products within our first year of business.  A well-known beauty industry executive reached out to congratulate me on a job well done.  I am both flattered and humbled by all these things.  We all have our critics.  I choose to focus on the positive.

What have been some of your major challenges?
It has been very difficult to get noticed, as I think people automatically assume that I'm mixing product in my bathtub when I tell them that I'm a mom who has created a children's styling line.  Most people are creatures of habit and are resistant to the idea of trying something new, be it in a boutique or salon or in any type of media publication.  This was very difficult in the early stages so I decided to focus on the people who were most critical to our success:  moms.  In the nine months since our launch, Hot Tot has been featured by over 60 magazines, upscale mommy blogs and television programs.  We have not paid for one single placement which I think clearly illustrates that moms are ready for something new and different.  The interest from media sources, industry professionals and retailers has followed as a result.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
I am really passionate about healthy products and want to share what I've learned with others.  I know it's a tall order, but I want Hot Tot to serve as a prime example that healthy products can be both posh and effective.  When I was seeking products for use on my own children, I was frustrated by the lack of choices.  I combined all the elements (elegant packaging, healthy and effective formulas, baby-fresh scent...) that I was looking for in hopes that other moms would appreciate the result.  I really believe in my concept and have always been a hard worker.  I don't ever want to fail because I didn't put in the proper amount of effort.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
I don't feel suited to give advice when it comes to balance because that is something that I struggle with.  I think my family would say that at times, I work way too much.  I try to remember that my kids will only be small for a short time and have to force myself to take a break from time to time.  The work is always there when I return.

I hope that my strong work ethic sets a good example for my kids.  I want them to see that effort and determination can overcome feelings of fear and being overwhelmed.  I share some of these emotions with my daughter and want her to see me persevere so that she will apply the same principals in her own life. 

What is next for your business?
Good things!  Hot Tot is different from any other company so it's unrealistic to even attempt to follow behind someone else.  I am so excited about the possibilities and will continue to do my best to give the line the attention it needs to grow.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?
You can do it!  While negativity will always exist, I think most moms instinctively want to see other moms succeed and will support you if you're willing to be authentic.  The power of passion is seriously underestimated; a well-funded bank roll doesn't necessarily guarantee success but people will respond to your enthusiasm.  Risk can bring reward; even if things don't go as planned a sincere effort sets a great example for kids and serves as an excellent opportunity to teach.  Give yourself some credit!  Moms are masters of multitasking!  You are capable of a lot more than you realize!

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