The awkward conversation strategy that turned a baby hobby into a grownup business with Bapron Baby’s Kelsey Larsen

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Millennial mompreneur Kelsey Larsen shares her story of taking her home-made bibs from Etsy to mass retail by reaching out to entrepreneurs she admired but did not know, for advice, and in one case, collaboration.

In Kelsey's money story you will learn:

  • How this young mom started a company from a product she made to keep her son clean during mealtime

  • How she started a business with a $99 dollar sewing machine and $20 in fabric

  • How her first sale on Etsy launched her into full business mode and the things she had to learn along the way

  • The importance asking questions even when you're nervous to do so

In Kelsey's money lesson you will learn:

  • If you have an idea, just go for it

  • If you aren't embarrassed by the first version of your product you've started too late

In Kelsey's everyday money tip you will learn:

  • Realizing that at some point that you can't do it all

  • The importance of finding and identifying people that are great with aspects of your business that you aren't so good at

In My Take you will learn:

  • Why it's important to reach out boldly to people that you admire and can learn from

  • Why you'll want to do some test marketing before going all in on your side hustle

Check out Kelsey's website -

BapronBaby.com

Follow Kelsey!


 
Millennial mompreneur Kelsey Larsen shares her story of taking her home-made bibs from Etsy to mass retail by reaching out to entrepreneurs she admired but did not know, for advice, and in one case, collaboration. In this Financial Grownup podcast episode you’ll learn how you can take a side hustle and turn it into a successful business. #Entrepreneur #SideHustle

Millennial mompreneur Kelsey Larsen shares her story of taking her home-made bibs from Etsy to mass retail by reaching out to entrepreneurs she admired but did not know, for advice, and in one case, collaboration. In this Financial Grownup podcast episode you’ll learn how you can take a side hustle and turn it into a successful business. #Entrepreneur #SideHustle

 

Transcription

Kelsey Larsen:
I made the decision to really go all in. I made the investment. I bought 20,000 boxes for a product. I had not sold 20,000 Baprons at this point. I had not sold anywhere near 20,000 Baprons but I asked the awkward questions to people that I had no business talking with.

Bobbi Rebell:
You're listening to Financial Grownup with me, certified financial planner, Bobbi Rebell, author of How to Be a Financial Grownup, but you know what? Being a grown up is really hard, especially when it comes to money, but it's okay. We're going to get there together. I'm going to bring you one money story from a financial grownup, one lesson and then my take on how you can make it your own. We got this.

Bobbi Rebell:
That was entrepreneur, Kelsey Larsen of BapronBaby talking about jumping in big when she decided her hobby, making unique bibs that wrap around the baby, was going to be a lot more than a stay-at-home mom hobby.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hello, Financial Grownup friends and special welcome to our newest listeners. If you have a moment, I want to hear how you discovered the show and also any feedback or suggestions. DM me on Instagram @bobbirebell1, on Twitter @bobbirebell, or email hello@financialgrownup.com. As I said, suggestions, feedback, anything that can help me improve the show and grow the show, truly appreciated.

Bobbi Rebell:
Let's get to BapronBaby's Kelsey Larsen. The biggest of her story is really relatable but where she went and where she's going is pretty extraordinary and something that we can all learn from. There's so many decisions that she's made so far that really changed the course of where the company is going and that's affected her life and her business. Make sure you stay for our everyday money tip by the way. It is about a vision board, but it's not really the kind of vision board that you're used to. It's got a big twist that I think you guys are going to really get a lot from. Here is BapronBaby founder, Kelsey Larsen.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey, Kelsey Larson. You're a financial grownup. Welcome to the podcast.

Kelsey Larsen:
Thanks, Bobbi. It's so good to be here.

Bobbi Rebell:
I'm excited to hear more about your business. You are the founder and the owner. We practiced saying the name because I kept messing it up. It's BapronBaby.

Kelsey Larsen:
BapronBaby. Yeah, it's got- [crosstalk 00:02:32]

Bobbi Rebell:
Which I do want to point out is self-funded and debt-free and you have really ... I mean, your main product are these, I wish they were around when my son was younger, these bibs that are basically for the babies that rip off the bibs and throw them to the side, which is pretty much, at least my kid, a lot of kids.

Kelsey Larsen:
Exactly. The company, I started because my son wouldn't wear bibs and I was getting so frustrated with how many of his outfits he was ruining.

Bobbi Rebell:
Yeah. Outfits, furniture, walls. So much can be ruined.

Kelsey Larsen:
All of the things.

Bobbi Rebell:
All of the things. And I want to talk to you about how this become "A real company," a real brand because you're now in everywhere from Buy Buy Baby, you're on Amazon, just everywhere that you would ... I think over a hundred boutiques in this country. If this started as a hobby though, how did you know this could be a brand? Tell us your money story.

Kelsey Larsen:
You know, it sort of started out a necessity. I was a young mom. I had quite my job in HR to stay home with my little boy and I was living the dream, but my husband's a police officer and we started looking through things and we were like wow, we need some additional income. I had made this product for my son. It was just something that I had created for him because I needed something that would cover his entire body when he was eating meal time and he was comfortable in it. A friend mentioned Etsy. I had never heard of it. I had never sold anything on it, for sure. And I just sort of made a listing. I took some pictures of a bib that my son ... It was a Bapron that my son had actually worn. It was kind of dirty. Just took a picture of it and say hey, I'll sell this to you for ... I think I said like ... My first one, I think I sold for $17.

Bobbi Rebell:
And you just made it at home. You had just made this yourself?

Kelsey Larsen:
I started this business. Honestly, I started everything that I have with a $99 Brother sewing machine and 20 bucks in fabric. It was just something I made in my living room.

Bobbi Rebell:
Wow. Okay. So, how did you go from ... Now, you start selling it on Etsy. What happens?

Kelsey Larsen:
My very first listing sold within 24 hours to someone I had never met, a stranger in Illinois. All of a sudden, I needed packaging. I needed to figure out how I was going to send this to her. I couldn't just send it.

Bobbi Rebell:
And you hadn't thought about that?

Kelsey Larsen:
No. No, I didn't think I was ever going to sell anything. So, I had a printer and I went online and I used Microsoft Paint to make myself a logo and write a few words about the product and printed it out and it was very homemade.

Bobbi Rebell:
So, that went on for about a year, the Etsy selling. Then, you made a decision to really turn this into a brand. What happened?

Kelsey Larsen:
From Etsy, I gained a little bit of confidence. I started realizing that this is a product that mothers and families need. Toddlers are really happy in it. They're comfortable and they're working. They're waterproof. They have everything that we need. So, I made the decision to really go all in. I made the investment. I bought 20,000 boxes for a product ... I had not sold 20,000 Baprons at this point. I had not sold anywhere near 20,000 Baprons but I asked the awkward questions to people I had no business talking with. The owner of EzPz, Lindsey Laurain, she ... I reached out to her. One email ... I think I sent her an email on Christmas Eve.

Bobbi Rebell:
Cold? You didn't know her at all?

Kelsey Larsen:
Oh no. No contact prior to it but I knew that she had been on Shark Tank and it was something I had been thinking about. So, I kind of angled it as like "Hey, I'm someone coming up the same path you did and I wanted some insight." It was Christmas Eve and she responded to me at like 11:00 at night within 20 minutes.

Bobbi Rebell:
Oh my gosh, wow.

Kelsey Larsen:
She was so quick to answer questions and so quick to give me her tips because she kind of did start the same way. Just a ... Like a mom who had a product that she needed to get out in the world. From there, I was able to awkwardly ask her the questions about "Hey, who makes packages? How do you find a company that does that?" Because when I Googled it, I couldn't really find much. So, a series of those awkward conversation where I asked someone who was successful already and- [crosstalk 00:06:36]

Bobbi Rebell:
And you were just cold calling these people? You were just emailing this people cold?

Kelsey Larsen:
Honestly, it was basically just sending a message on Instagram or finding an email address or just little things here and there. There were businesses that did not ever respond to me, but that's okay. I mean, not everybody has to give me the time of day. Just reaching out about very specific questions and little by little, I found contacts for manufacturing and then I found contacts for a team here in the United States who does the actual sewing of the product.

Bobbi Rebell:
And then how did you grow it? How did it become this bigger brand that's now in so many retailers?

Kelsey Larsen:
Instagram has been a wonderful wonderful tool and being able to connect with other mothers has been great. Word of mouth advertising is the most successful form of marketing and I never could have grown my business without customers taking my photos. I don't have a photo studio but we're still growing to Buy Buy Baby and we're in Nordstrom and we're on Amazon in these places that I never could have done on my own.

Bobbi Rebell:
So, wait. What happens is people take pictures of their own babies ... And do you prompt them to do that? Do you ask them to do that or did this just start happening?

Kelsey Larsen:
No. At first, I was just on Instagram trying to [huck 00:07:50] my product to the 12 followers that I had or something. That first customer that I told you about on Etsy, she had bought the Bapron specifically for her little girl's 11-month photo shoot. So, she just sent me pictures just saying like "Hey, look how cute your product is on my baby." I asked her if I could use that for my marketing and she absolutely goes "Yeah, that would be great." And from there, I started to find that people are pretty excited to have their photos out and so I would just reach out individuals who had taken their pictures in the past, say "Hey, if I send you a few products, can you take pictures for me?" Absolutely, they would and it's been a very slow organic growth and brand repping has been something that I've been really grateful for.

Bobbi Rebell:
So, it's really been organic authentic growth through social media.

Kelsey Larsen:
Yes. Along with that though, there was a lot of pacing myself, realizing that I can't do it all. I can't balance manufacturing on my own and marketing on my own and running my social media and taking care of my son and making sure that my family has the things that they need. I very quickly learned how important it was to recognize the things that I'm failing at. Maybe not failing, but that I just cannot fit in and get over the guilt of it, stop feeling bad that I can't do it all. There's a David Allen quote that says "You can do anything, but you can't do everything."

Bobbi Rebell:
All right. What is the lesson, the takeaway for our listeners from this story?

Kelsey Larsen:
If you think you're not ready but you have an idea, there is no harm in just doing it, just going for it. If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product that you've launched, you've started to late. You'll find your success and you'll find what's working by putting it out in the marketplace, using your success as a test market and allowing yourself to organically grow.

Bobbi Rebell:
All right. Let's talk about your everyday money tip because it's something that a lot of us ... It has to do with, frankly, guilt that we feel because we can't do everything we feel we should and we don't want to let people down.

Kelsey Larsen:
So, I have a vision board. I actually have a physical vision board kind of like we did in middle school.

Bobbi Rebell:
Sure.

Kelsey Larsen:
I put pictures of things that I'm really good at or I will identify things that I need someone else to do. For example, I do not take good photos. I just don't. And my product and my brand, I mean on Instagram, everything has to look great. So, I've been able to find and identify people who are great at it who I can pay to handle that. Even if it's not money that you've got, talking with other women, other mothers, other business owners, people are really willing to help out other individuals who are trying.

Bobbi Rebell:
Kelsey, before I let you go, tell us where people can find out more about you and the company.

Kelsey Larsen:
Yeah. So, we do most of our sales on bapronbaby.com. We are on Amazon. We also ... As far as social media goes, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram. It's just BapronBaby.

Bobbi Rebell:
And you're also in retailers, right?

Kelsey Larsen:
Yeah. So, local retailers throughout the country. We are in bundles with EzPz on Buy Buy Baby and in Nordstrom.

Bobbi Rebell:
Love it. Thank you so much, Kelsey.

Kelsey Larsen:
Yeah. It was great to be here. Thanks.

Bobbi Rebell:
All right, my friends. Let's get to it. Financial Grownup tip number one. Reach out boldly to people that you admire and can learn from. Be smart about it. Don't stalk anyone, okay? But there is nothing wrong with a few polite emails to someone that you admire. Flattery is a great strategy. You would be surprised how well it works and how few people actually do it. Maybe you're going to get a mentor like Kelsey did and that, in here case, got her into a top retailer for her product. You would be amazed at the kinds of things people will do if you connect with them and you bond with them and make a relationship. People really do want to help other people.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup tip number two. If you have a side hustle and are considering going all in as Kelsey did, you gotta do some test marketing first before you go all in as she did. Let's not forget. Kelsey was selling Etsy for a year before she even tried to go big. So while her growth plan, once she was doing it, was pretty bold, it did have a really strong foundation.

Bobbi Rebell:
Finally, I want to thank you guys that have checked out my new podcast, Money in the Morning, with Joe Saul-Sehy. You may know him from his other podcast, Stacking Benjamins. So, Joe and I take a couple of news headlines and we share the lessons from it that we can all learn from and we come up with a big idea, a big takeaway that you can really take with you and hopefully make some positive changes in your financial life and your wellbeing and sometimes just overall happiness.

Bobbi Rebell:
Here's where it gets really interesting and really scary for me. We do it live. We do not cut anything out and we do it in front of you guys on camera on Facebook Live and if you want to be on the show, you can actually participate with your comments, which we integrate into the show. Go to Facebook.com/istackbenjamins. Set your alerts for when we go live. It's really easy to do that. We're working on a regular schedule but set the alerts for now. We would love to see you there. Check out the audio podcast as well, Money in the Morning. That is wherever you enjoy podcasts, just like this this.

Bobbi Rebell:
All right. Big thanks to Kelsey for sharing her story and for helping us all get one step closer to being financial grownups.