Surprisingly, Nanette Meneses’ journey to entrepreneurship didn’t begin with grand aspirations of business ownership. Instead, it was kickstarted by her role as a Mom.
When her month-old baby began suffering from colic that left her in tears around the clock, Nanette agonized over how she could make it better. She tried everything—changing her eating habits, going to pediatricians, chiropractors, but nothing relieved her baby’s discomfort.
Distressed by seeing her child in so much pain, Nanette continued to look for answers. After researching colic, she was surprised to learn that it affects 5-25% of all infants, with constant crying that results in much more than just the baby’s discomfort. In fact, it can cause significant relationship stress for parents, create frustration and bad behavior amongst siblings, make breastfeeding difficult and in some cases, lead to child abuse like shaken baby syndrome (SBS).
The more she read, the more Nanette felt compelled to find a solution that would not only make her child feel better, but could potentially bring relief to millions of children and parents around the globe.
Coming from a family with interests and careers in natural medicine, Nanette knew there had to be a way to alleviate her newborn’s symptoms without drugs or drops. When she couldn’t locate an effective solution on the market, Nanette took it upon herself to find a way to deliver much-needed relief to her baby.
After doing extensive research and experimenting with different combinations of ingredients, Nanette developed the solution she was looking for: a heated waistband filled with carefully selected herbs that bring comfort and calm to both children and their caregivers. She contoured the waistband specifically for a baby’s body to ensure a comfortable fit that delivers maximum relief.
After discovering how well the waistband worked for her own child, Nanette began giving them to friends and family, as well as donating them to local orphanages and shelters for drug-exposed babies. When she heard the overwhelmingly positive feedback, Nanette realized that she could no longer keep her smart solution a secret. To make the impact she wanted, she needed to make her product available to parents and children on a large scale. That’s when her product, Happi Tummi was born and her business, Household Name Products Inc. began to take shape.
Nanette started selling the Happi Tummi waistband on her website and on Amazon, as well as in local children’s boutiques and specialty stores like Buy Buy Baby. However, she reached a point where she realized she was stuck and needed support to take her business to the next level. As a former marketing and executive coach, Nanette knew that building a solid foundation would be key for her company’s successful growth, but she didn’t quite know how to get there. She needed someone with experience to help her identify what she needed to put in place in order to achieve her long-term goals.
That’s when she heard about MicroMentor. Impressed with the variety of business professionals she saw on the platform, Nanette thought it might be the place she could find the guidance she was looking for.
“When I came to MicroMentor, I had reached a turning point in my business. I felt like ‘I don’t know how to make this thing and fix it, and grow it.’ When I worked with companies as a coach, I saw that you’ve got to get your foundation straight or else you’ll go under. I knew that I could get the sales, but I didn’t know how manage my growth successfully and sustainably. I really wanted to build a strong foundation and I needed help doing it.”
Through MicroMentor, she found Bill Orabone, a retired serial entrepreneur with an impressive track record of growing successful start-ups in the U.S. and overseas. Over the course of his career, he had started four businesses of his own and invested in 46 others, which gave him a vast range of expertise in building profitable enterprises from the ground up.
Bill’s background in engineering, manufacturing, sales, tech service, strategic planning, and finance gave him a well-rounded perspective that helped him take a deeper, more holistic approach to solving business problems. This point-of-view offered just what Nanette needed—a chance to step back and start building her business in a sustainable way. After the pair chatted for the first time, they decided that working together would be a great fit.
“One of the things I loved about Bill was that he had nothing invested other than wanting to see my business succeed. That was comforting because I knew I could trust the advice he was giving me. He had nothing to lose. Because of what he’d done and accomplished and created in his own career, I really felt like he was going to guide me in the right way.”
With his inside-out knowledge of how to grow a successful enterprise, Bill dove right in to understand and assess Nanette’s business problems thoroughly and from every angle.
“What I liked about Nanette is that she was already selling her product, but she had aspirations to go farther. She has a knack for marketing, and is very personable and good at sales—but she really needed a partner to help her step back and see things big picture.”
As he dug into the specifics of her business, Bill delivered the critical insights that Nanette needed to restructure her company and build a stronger, more viable enterprise. He made suggestions for how she could cut costs, increase profitability, and become more attractive to potential investors. In addition, he helped her find creative ways of funding her business indirectly, which would allow her to maintain greater control of her company.
Bill also guided Nanette in broadening the way she marketed Happi Tummi. Although she had initially created the product to address her own child’s colic, she learned that the product worked equally well for babies suffering from gas and constipation, as well as for soothing general fussiness. By speaking to these additional applications, the pair realized that Happi Tummi had the potential to reach an even larger target audience of parents with children suffering from these common problems. This gave Nanette the opportunity to help more families, while attracting new sales and speeding up her business’ growth.
As Nanette pursued distribution deals, Bill acted as a key business advisor, steering her towards the contracts that were in her best interest and encouraging her to walk away from the ones that weren’t. He also assisted Nanette in fundamental tasks like redoing her corporate book, reviewing her Articles of Incorporation, and preparing for shareholders’ meetings—while coaching her on how to renegotiate with her manufacturer to get more preferential terms.
“Bill pushed me to points that were totally outside of my comfort zone and taught me to look at things in ways I never would have thought of.”
The pair made progress quickly and in their first year of working together, Household Name Product Inc.’s profits nearly doubled. As her business continued to grow, Nanette set her sights on what she perceived to be the next chapter—gaining distribution in big box stores like Wal-Mart, as well as drugstores like CVS and Walgreens.
Serendipity struck when Bill and Nanette were out having lunch and another diner overheard their conversation about Happi Tummi. As luck would have it, he had a company that represents products to Wal-Mart. According to Bill, this chance meeting came at just the right point in he and Nanette’s efforts together: “Had we not been having the right discussion and saying the right things, he might not have even introduced himself.”
This put into motion a series of events that led to Nanette’s Happi Tummi waistband being carried in 820 Wal-Mart stores across America. The Wal-Mart order propelled Nanette’s business to new levels of success, but her sights remain focused on what still lies ahead.
Her goal is to ramp up further, so Happi Tummi can be eventually be carried at all 4,300 Wal-Mart stores in the U.S. She is also currently pursuing distribution at major drugstore chains, and exploring international growth through talks with Wal-Mart Canada, Wal-Mart Mexico, and Wal-Mart Brazil.
Nanette has also been developing several new Happi Tummi products, which she hopes to launch in the near future. Throughout her business’ growth process, she’s continued to work with Bill as a mentor, and now as a Household Name Products Inc. board member.
“I feel so fortunate as a small company to have that level of executive support. Having someone of Bill’s caliber on my team is like having the resources of a hundred million dollar company. I’m looking forward to the day when I can pay it forward, by helping other entrepreneurs on MicroMentor avoid the mistakes and bumps I hit along the way.”
Despite the challenges of juggling two kids as a single mom, Nanette has managed to make remarkable strides as a successful business owner. What began as a solution for soothing her own child has since become a viable consumer product, attracting rave reviews from parents who, like her, have tried everything to comfort their fussy babies. Transforming her idea into a profitable business has not been easy, but it’s been a lot more manageable with Bill by her side.
“Bill has really stepped over and beyond. He originally committed to work with me for six months and he’s gone way beyond that—it’s been over four years. He has stuck with me through everything and he’s still there whenever I need him and have a question. He’s helped me learn to trust my gut, which has really boosted my confidence. I feel like if I can do this, anyone can.”
This match was made possible by the support of Sam’s Club, helping us to create a better product and provide excellent service to our entrepreneurs and mentors.