Spotlight on Mompreneur: Jessica Kim & BabbaCo.
by Sandy Abrams
Jessica Kim has built a successful career with her keen sense of intuition when it comes to noticing products that are missing from the "mommy" marketplace. She has created several products through her company, BabbaCo.
Within a year of developing a variety of products from the BabbaCover to the BabbaMat, Jessica had several niche products distributed to over 1,000 locations in the US in 2009.
Moms are an engaging customer base and Jessica Kim listens closely to them and shebuilds a very interactive community through social media and newsletters. Jessica says the most common question coming from her BabbaCo. customers was "What do I do with my kids...that's enriching?"
Living a parallel life to most of her customer base, Jessica's a busy mom with two kids (now ages two and five) and is familiar with feeling anxious about finding meaningful activities for her kids. "I found myself frustrated with the difference between what I ideally wanted to with my kids and the reality. I always ended up reverting to TV or the same old coloring books. I started putting together themed activities, but it took way too much time and energy. Plus, I don't have an early childhood education degree, so I wasn't fully sure if what I was doing was age appropriate or the best way to teach my kids about the topic."
So Jessica did what she does best, she filled the void in 2011 with the BabbaBox, a monthly membership product business that's basically a deluxe playdate that arrives in the mail.
Jessica was methodical in putting a complete multi-sensory package together for children ages 3-6 years old. She describes her initial process, "I pulled together the best panel of experts (PhD early childhood educators, preschool teachers, physical therapists, special needs experts, nannies, parents) and created a development-based solution that incorporated the four major ways they engage and learn: Create, Explore, Story tell, Connect (digital)."
Rather than continuing to sell through retailers, Jessica decided to develop this product on a membership basis. She says the monthly membership model seemed the most appropriate and effective because of two major things:
1) Enrichment and education are best received on a consistent basis vs. a one-time experience. The boxes really build upon one another.
2) Memberships with monthly deliveries and interaction leveraged one of our key strengths - community and relationship building with our consumers. The membership model fits our strengths and long-term goals better.
Jessica describes the Pros & Cons of BabbaCo.'s Membership Model:
"On the business front, there is so much insight we have on buying behavior, what to improve, what's successful or not, what else consumers are clicking on, etc. We're an e-commerce business, so we have access to every data point from awareness to purchase to customer relations.
On the operations front, the pro is that we don't carry a lot of excess inventory. We manufacture our next month's shipment on an ad hoc basis. We have a pretty sophisticated way of projecting and delivering based on our experience.
The major con is that we must develope and produce a totally different product every month. It's not as efficient as if we only made one box. We came up with a pretty efficient operations model though, so overall, it's better for us."
As a very busy mompreneur, Jessica admits it's not easy to balance motherhood and biz:
"Being an entrepreneur and mom are two full-time 'all in' roles that you can't drop the ball on. There are a few things that I do that have helped me tremendously. For one, I don't need a lot of sleep. My body just functions on three hours of sleep. It's odd, but it allows me to still get a lot done while still being the one cooking dinner.
The other thing is hiring a strong and talented team who are just as passionate about our ultimate mission as I am. It's also about prioritizing and being flexible about changing those priorities based on how the day goes. Motherhood and running a business can have a lot of unexpected. So, being able to prioritize immediately is key."
Jessica Kim offers her Top 3 Tips for other entrepreneurs considering this Monthly Membership Biz Model:
1. Make sure the model fits your product and solution offering. Building a subscription model just for the model's sake is no good. If it inherently makes a consumer's life easier by making it an ongoing monthly shipment, then that's when it's a fit. So, consumers' needs come first.
2. The biggest key for a subscription model are the metrics behind it. Do a lot of testing to offer the product/service that will make people stay on longer and not cancel. The actual product/service has to be top notch. Then, make sure you set up all the tracking involved to truly understand what's going on with the business.
3. Tighten up the operations. If you are a product-based subscription model, there are actually a lot of operational logistics behind the business that need to be efficient and sophisticated. Anyone can ship a monthly box of items from their home by packing it themselves. The true test is whether you can quickly scale at an efficient and profitable manner. So, make sure the backend fulfillment and operations are well planned out at every stage.
Jessica has her finger on the pulse of what her market wants. She's poised to continue to deliver products that solve the ongoing problem for busy parents who want a unique learning experience for their kids. BabbaBox is curated by experts and delivered in a convenient package with everything needed, completely turn-key.
There are lots of businesses within several markets that utilize monthly memberships from the food biz to beauty products to shoes -- because who doesn't like to receive something fun in the mail every month?!
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