As many of her friends and family members became new parents, Jill Cartwright increasingly heard complaints that many of the products they were buying were styled for children instead of adults.
In addition to unpleasing aesthetics, the makers of these products did not cater to the comfort and safety needs of caregivers. Cartwright saw the opportunity to create ergonomically safe yet stylish products for parents, and Go Gaga was born.
Smart Business sat down with Cartwright to discuss entrepreneurship and how to turn a problem into a solution.
What were some of the challenges you faced after launching and how you overcame them?
As you can imagine, there is a lot of competition in the children’s industry. It’s incredibly crowded, especially when you start looking at things like diaper bags and diapering accessories. Given that we were entering the marketplace during a particularly tough economic time, it was really difficult as a fledgling company to go head-to-head with some of the more established brands — especially when it came to approaching retailers who are under a lot of pressure to produce their SKU count. But fortunately, because of the innovation behind our ergonomically safe strap, I was able to open up a few doors. And we’ve actually just rolled out nationwide with one retailer.
What is your philosophy on building customer and vendor relationships, how do you make them survive?
I think the key to building good customer relationships is to eliminate any assumption you have about what their needs are. I think a lot of companies project their own needs onto their customers, as opposed to taking the time to meet them where they are. Go into their shops, go in to their offices. Understand what their challenges are and then present them with solutions. It’s been really interesting. I make it a point to not only ask my customers what they need but also spend time with them, because the most exciting thing for me is when I can meet a customer’s need that they didn’t even know they had.
Where do you find your best ideas?
Honestly, I find my best ideas in airports, on sidewalks, anywhere where people are out and about and trying to navigate their day. Because that’s where I think our greatest opportunity is to make it easier, to make it more comfortable, to make it more stylish and honestly, to make people feel more confident as they’re trying to navigate their daily activities, with or without their children.
How you determine which ideas are go or no go, do you test them?
I do, and that’s a great question. It goes back to my point about making assumptions. The interesting thing is that I’m not a parent, and so that forces me to always look back to the marketplace in terms of retailers and parents themselves. … So our product development process is really exhaustive, in the conceptual stage, talking with people, doing focus groups (and) making sure we get prototypes that we can then put out into the marketplace with retailers, as well as those customers that I can trust to give me the bad news as well as the good. The constructive feedback, as well as the accolades, helps us improve the product before it ever makes it to market.
How to reach: Go Gaga, www.gogagalife.com