Why 2016 is important: With more deals to sell in stores, the founder must manage inventory and production carefully to continue to grow.
Gina Lipstein's startup, which sells water and beverage bottle adapters to help on-the-go parents feed their babies, is finally beginning to feel more like a business.
For one, she's no longer living in her parents' house to keep costs low. Now she's making money, and reinvesting a big chunk to continue to grow the company, Tampa-based Refresh-a-Baby, even more.
Since its first orders in March 2015, Refresh-a-Baby has done $150,000 in sales. With a number of pending deals currently lined up, Lipstein expects sales to triple next year.
Lipstein's water bottle adapter is currently sold in 1,500 stores. By January, she expects to be in another 830 locations. And if she wins a pending contract with Safeway, her product could be available in an additional 3,000 stores by March.
The former elementary school teacher says she's learned a lot in the last year. But perhaps the most important lesson is to not take a step back. “You have to always be selling,” Lipstein says. She learned that the hard way, when sales slowed a bit in October.
Her current No. 1 challenge is managing inventory, particularly given the possible orders coming in January. “This is really huge. I had to spend a lot of money to make sure I had the inventory. I wanted to be prepared,” Lipstein says.
She's spent nearly $60,000 to keep the product stocked on retail shelves. She hasn't run into any issues thus far, but knows if she isn't prepared, it could wreck future deals.
One of her big orders coming up in January was a bit of a surprise. She typically attends the ABC Expo in Las Vegas, which features a number of baby products, but in early November she decided to check out the souvenir-focused IGES Show in Sevierville, Tenn. She wanted to mingle with a different crowd, and it paid off. “I had no idea going to the travel market that I'd get such a great response,” Lipstein says.
Refresh-a-Baby was picked up by Palace Entertainment Theme Parks, a company with 40 theme parks in the United States and seven more in Mexico. More orders came after the show from other independent chains and theme parks, including Fuego mall stores, with 29 locations.
Refresh-a-Baby has also made a splash in the grocery market. The product recently got into 109 grocery stores in Texas, and Lipstein has meetings with Safeway and Kroger officials in January.
Lipstein founded the concept for Refresh-a-Baby in 2006, when she found herself frustrated at a park when she realized she only had a water bottle and a baby bottle nipple, but no bottle to feed her 1-year-old son. She asked her friends, wouldn't it be so much easier if there was some kind of adapter to turn water into baby bottles?
She thought so, and a new business was born.
In addition to sales growth, Lipstein hopes to expand the product line. She has a prototype for a sippy cup adapter, but it's not quite ready for release. She has four patents for the invention, and is waiting on a few more before a product launch.
Lipstein also has to decide if she should wait until she has enough money on her own to invest in a proper product launch of a new adapter, or if she should take on an investor. She says it would require around $40,000 to get it up and running and another $150,000 to $200,000 in marketing costs. Says Lipstein, “I have really high hopes and high goals coming up.”