In 2004, two friends — Henry Thorne, a world-leading roboticist, and Rob Daley, a successful businessman — discovered over lunch they shared a vision for the type of company they each wanted to build that would foster creativity, collaboration and loyalty.
Rather than working alone, the two teamed up to take advantage of their complimentary skills and backgrounds, with Thorne as CTO and Daley as CEO.
“We also knew there were only two ways to make it as an entrepreneur: create a new market or change an existing one,” Daley says. “With its steadily decreasing price, electronics were both cheap and powerful for the first time ever (known as Moore’s Law) and could be used as a change agent to completely redefine an industry.
“We decided to focus our efforts on the plumbing industry, a field that had not significantly changed since the introduction of copper pipes after World War II,” he says.
The two built a showerhead demo that used behind-the-scenes electronics to control the exact temperature of the water. Daley says they took the prototype to the Pittsburgh Home Show, expecting a wave of excitement from tech-savvy men.
That wasn’t the case.
“Elderly women living alone loved the product because it was a tool that could help them maintain their independence, and mothers wanted something similar for the bathtub so their children would be safe and comfortable while bathing,” Daley says.
“After researching both elder care and juvenile products, we determined the juvenile product industry presented the most appealing opportunity, and the spout cover — 4moms’ first product — was born.”
Officially established in 2006 under the parent company Thorley Industries LLC, 4moms has experienced rapid growth in recent years. Sales were close to $30 million in 2013, and are projected to hit $60 million and $100 million in each of the next two years.
Here’s how Daley and Thorne got their company off the ground and are now focusing on identifying the right people, partners and systems to scale the business as it grows.
Entering the market with solutions
Usually, in a static market, like the juvenile products industry, incumbents win, Daley says. But by effecting change, companies can successfully enter the market.
4moms was built on the philosophy that the future of robotics lies in taking abstract or expensive technology and making it practical for ordinary use.
It also gives the company an impetus for creative growth because parenting can always be just a little easier, and technology consistently gets faster, lighter and less expensive.
In the company’s first focus group of mothers, the group explored juvenile product pain points, providing valuable insight that led to product creation.
“People don’t buy products. They buy solutions, and robotics helps us provide those solutions,” Daley says.
One way to become more innovative with product development, in any industry, Daley says, is to first minimize the scope. Then, work hard to get the job done right, while continuing to improve it.
Along those lines, 4moms is introducing new products similar to existing, successful products. For example, in January, 4moms launched rockaRoo®, a baby swing that rocks like a rocking horse. It’s a companion product to the existing mamaRoo®, an infant seat with five motions that mimic a parent comforting his or her baby.
Later this year, the company also will launch a lightweight version of its popular origami® stroller.
Managing growth through the right culture
With success has come rapid growth. The company secured more than $40 million in strategic funding. It also projects 300 percent revenue growth over the next three years, driven by increased demand for current and new products.
In addition, the team is adding U.S. retailers and is poised to secure several more international partners. Current retail channels include more than 500 U.S. stores and distributors in more than 40 countries.
Daley says it’s important to make sure you have good people to handle the rapid growth.
“Culture is everything,” Thorne adds.
A focus on innovation, passion and people should help ensure the company doesn’t lose its way while undergoing exponential growth, Daley says.
By fostering creativity, collaboration and loyalty, while offering opportunities for growth and encouraging employees to develop their own ideas, he says you can create a successful company culture.
Some values they want to keep in mind:
- Never let fear of failure limit your creativity, and be open to change whenever good ideas present themselves.
- If you’re passionate about what you do, that will inspire passion in others.
- Treat people like they are your most important assets, because that’s what they are.
In addition, some specific ways that directly contribute to employee happiness and retention include company lunches, new employee retrospectives, leadership development, team member reviews, monthly team “Lunch & Learns” and more.
The company also put together an e-book called “Vision and Values,” which serves as a reminder to the team about what makes 4moms a great place to work.
“We have resisted putting words to things like our mission and our values and our culture. We’re either innovative or we’re not. We’re either a great place to work or we’re not. Anyone can write platitudes but writing them doesn’t make them true,” the introduction states. “However as we grow, it’s important that we don’t lose our way.”
Then, in the 68-page e-book, some of the 113 employees contributed in their own words what 4moms means to them.
“As founders and active leaders at 4moms, we are focused on building a great company that cares about more than just financial success,” Daley says.