With the recent launch of her latest invention CloudTot, Lisa Furuland, founder of Dock-A-Tot on the importance for women to be a force in the working world
by Colleen Crivello
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GirlBoss: Smashing glass ceilings like it’s our job! A series highlighting the incredible work of our community of entrepreneurial women (mamas in particular) that are raising the bar, breaking new ground and challenging their industries everyday.
Lisa Furuland, found her way from media into the world of babies by solving a problem… and of course tenacity, perseverance and vision! Now after ten years and three incredible inventions later – one of which just launched yesterday, congrats on the CloudTot! – we talked to this mama boss about how running a business is similar to running a family, why she is driven by her mission to make parents’ lives easier and the importance for women to be a force in the working world.
How you found your way in the baby industry – have you always worked in baby gear? No, I had worked in media originally. However, I studied art history at Stockholm University and Professional Photography Studies and Architectural Education at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. So, there’s always been creative elements in my life. And then I found my way to the baby industry by necessity!
On how you started your company: When my first son, Ilias, was born, I was inspired to create something new in the baby and children’s industry. I searched unsuccessfully for an alternative to a blanket, a cot and a baby lounger, something more snug that was also versatile and completely safe. We launched Sleepyhead® almost 10 years ago in Europe, and DockATot® was launched in July 2015 in the US. DockATot® started strictly with a website and social media. We handle our own distribution in North America.
Did becoming an entrepreneur come naturally to you? Yes. I started my first company at the age of 24 – a media company – and now my husband Costa and I run three businesses together. My husband and I always support one another and share the same vision for all our enterprises, including how we raise the kids. I also think being a mom gears you up for entrepreneur life — running a family is not dissimilar to running a business!
What is your deeper, bigger mission for both of your brands? My mission has always been to provide the highest quality and safest products that help make parents lives easier.
Any advice to aspiring entrepreneurs – especially moms? Being a working parent can be tough, and I think women in general could support one another more. Be happy for the accomplishments of other women and cheer each other on, be it personally or professionally. If both you and your accomplishments are recognized, it does wonders for your energy levels. Also, you need to pursue uniqueness. Don’t copy – where’s the pride in that? In order to become successful, you need to fill a void in the market. Lastly, cut yourself some slack: Life’s short. Buy those shoes. Eat that dessert.
What are some of the challenges of starting and then running your own business – especially as a mom? Finding the time to fit everything in! As much as I can, I prioritize family time before work. I know that these precious days when the children are young won’t come back. When they’re teenagers, I know I won’t be thinking ‘Oh, I wish I had gone on more conferences and business trips when they were young.’ On the contrary, which sets the agenda for our lives and work at this point in time.
What are some of the positives of starting and running your own business – especially as a mom? The flexibility for sure! I’m able to work from home so I don’t have to worry about a commute and I’m able to see my children in the morning before school and directly after school. Also, as an entrepreneur, I hope I’m teaching my kids a solid work ethic and a sense of pride. I hope that my kids will feel like they, too, can accomplish whatever they set their minds to. I also think it’s important to show the world that women can be just as much as a force as men in the work world.
When did you realize that you were on to something and that your businesses were going to be a success? When Sleepyhead won its first Junior Design Award in 2011, which is an incredible honor, I thought things were looking good! The growth rate we’ve had in the past few years is amazing. And when we put our thinking hats on, focus on product development, we seem to come up with sought-after ideas. Which is incredibly rewarding. We had an amazing response at the most recent Kind + Jugend trade show we attended in Europe this month, where we presented several new product. We’re now headed to ABC in Las Vegas with a packed appointment calendar!Most rewarding part of your job: The sense of satisfaction when you launch a new product or win a design award is hard to describe. All your hard work has paid off. But the greatest gift of all is the fantastic customer reviews. When you realize that your product has made life a lot easier for thousands and thousands of families, how can you not but feel incredibly proud.
What people might not know about both DockATot and Sleepyhead: Both products are hand stitched by a team of more than 30 workers in Europe devoted to making DockATots and Sleepyheads every day of the year. These talented workers pride themselves on craftsmanship – they carefully and expertly hand cut, hand-stitch and hand sew each dock.
The best career advice you ever received? Be clear about what message you’re trying to convey to the public and stick to it.
What would you attribute your social media growth and growth of the business to? We’ve been incredibly fortunate that much of our marketing success comes from the moms who use and love DockATot. They’re so passionate about the product and how their family has benefited from it that they literally can’t keep it to themselves and actively post about it on social media. The challenges have been keeping the product in stock!What makes DockATot and Sleepyhead different from other brands out there? The multi-functionality of it. The docks are the perfect tool for co-sleeping, tummy time, resting, sleeping, playing, lounging and snuggling. They’re also extremely portable and made with utmost attention to detail. Plus they’re made for all around the house use, I created the dock to be a product that even design snobs would love!
What does your 9-5 look like? How do you spend the first hour of the day in the office? A typical day in my life involves breakfast with the kids, readying them then watching them walk (across the street) to their school. I’m fortunate to be able to work from home, so I retreat to my office right after the kids leave – or right after a workout – and then it’s back to back phone calls, approving designs, checking in with all my teams around the world and answering many emails. I resurface after the kids get home and make sure to always have dinner together as a family. Then, when the boys are in bed, work tends to continue into the night, with answering emails till late. Which is what happens when you’re global, with teams and partners in various time zones.
What are the next big steps for both brands? I’ve been dying to tell the world! We just unveiled our latest invention at the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas! The CloudTot – A genius product, if I may say so myself 🙂 CloudTot allows you to track baby’s movement and breathing with two revolutionary patent pending features, The first is a pep peg that allows you to gently nudge baby awake and alert parents if no movement (meaning no breathing) detected for 12 seconds. And the second is moisture detection via app and special conductive fabric that tells you when baby has wet the bed. We are over the moon to have finally released this product as there are no other motion sensor currently on the market that have these capabilities.
Where are you headquartered and how do you continue to inspire and lead your team on the daily? HQ is where I am. Which currently is in Athens, Greece. The whole family recently relocated from Sweden to Greece. And we love it! The team is made up of a growing number of extraordinary people, with vast experience within their respective fields, spread out around the world. I consider myself being very lucky; I have a team of true gems. None of this would be possible without them. We’re in daily contact via email and Skype. And the entire team also has a weekly con-call where everyone is brought up to speed and we can iron out issues and discuss to-do’s and plans.
Did you raise capital for either brands? No. I have grown from zero by myself, organically, always growing by reinvesting in the business.
Your biggest “pinch me” moment in your career? Sounds like a cliché, but every day is a pinch me moment. The number of people sharing their sleep success stories with us is nothing short of amazing. Tenacity, the mindset of never giving up, not letting other people’s limited imaginations limit oneself – that spirit took us here. And the latest launch of my new invention!!