Heather Correa has weathered a few storms in life. Starting Rain or Shine Kids was the result of a gale-force tragedy in 2002.
At the time, Heather had an 18-month-old daughter and enjoyed spending time outdoors with her toddler. She and her husband, a chef, happily spent time at the park with their budding family. One day, while enjoying a day at the park playground, her husband broke his leg in a freak accident. He snapped both his fibia and tibia above his ankle while also twisting his ankle off the bone.
“It changed our lives in drastic ways,” she says of the experience. He had to have many surgeries and lots of unexpected health issues surfaced. In spite of all the frustrations and difficulties with Ron’s leg, the couple decided they would have another baby. Even after the couple’s second daughter was born, Ron was undergoing more surgeries. Then, because he couldn’t stand for long periods of time, Ron went back to school to learn a new trade The difficulties didn’t stop there. The couple faced overwhelming medical bills and no steady income. Heather decided to go back to waiting tables at night and says of that time that it was “totally the bottom of the financial barrel.”
While waiting tables, though, she met friends who were creative and in similar predicaments. She came up with the idea to make blankets that were fashionable, yet versatile enough to use outdoors.
“We cut fabric while the kids were napping and come home at night and sew blankets,” she recalls. Looking back, she remembers the birth of her company as a “humbling experience.” They brought the all-weather Woobee to a few local boutiques who agreed to sell the blankets. Heather waded through a lot of rejection, though. “When the market crashed retail stores were less likely to take on a line they were unsure about. Reps wouldn’t touch anything without a proven track record. The economy was going down and my product has so many features, the big box stores were wary to take it.”
Although her business was growing each year, Heather was turned down by bank after bank for business loans to help her grow her startup. Soon afterwards, she started working in business development with BabyLegs and attended the ABC show where big brands in the juvenile industry came to socialize, network, and get seen. It was there that she met the founder of BabySteals.com, Jana Francis. The site created a rare opportunity to both market her brand to a large audience of moms and sell a large volume of her product quickly.
Heather decided to give BabySteals a try. She worked with BabySteals to sell 300 fleece blankets during a 12-hour online sale.
“We sold out in 18 minutes. It was crazy! The second time we sold more than that and sold out in 22 minutes,” she remembers.
During those early sale days, Heather watched the BabySteal fans become her fans. They raved about her product and how much they liked it.
“It’s so fantastic as a small business owner, to have that kind of feedback. You know your product is good, but without feedback it’s hard to not doubt yourself — to have that kind of validation keeps you going,” Heather reveals. During days when she’s the featured brand on BabySteals she is on Facebook watching it all unfold with the BabySteals fans.
“BabySteals customers are fanatical, I love it!” says Heather of the women on the BabySteals Facebook page who post comments, give advice, and pledge loyalty to both BabySteals and the brands they feature. “I get to use those comments for my sales staff,” she continues, “I can jump in and have conversations with the fans, too. BabySteals has grown my Facebook following dramatically.”
Heather has tried many other marketing methods over the years, but comes back to BabySteals as her go-to marketing solution.
“I’ve worked with competitors, so I know the differences,” she says. The 12-hour sale method of BabySteals is one of the best marketing opportunities for her because the sale is only for one day so “there’s a very small chance you’ll ever upset your retailers.”
Heather says “the brilliance of BabySteals” is not only the exclusive marketing opportunity, but the demand it creates among all the fans. “They are marketing you. You have the opportunity to tell your story and have endless photos — because your images are everything. BabySteals is marketing just your product. They create a frenzy, a panic almost among the customers. “
We were doing a product that was an organic blanket with UPF 45+. [After the blankets were already made] our distributor in Japan came back and said it was too late in the season, so they couldn’t distribute the product. We were sitting on all that product — about 6500 pieces — and we had just missed the window for early summer. I called Kristin (BabySteals buyer) and she bought 1200 pieces.
We sold 1200 of those pieces within two hours on BS. I was able to get wholesale accounts in Canada from that feature. We received a ton of web orders with that feature. We were able to sell through that enormous amount we had in stock, pick up new accounts and introduce all those new customers to our winter products.
BS commits to a certain amount. The other groups want you to commit to holding a certain amount, but you never know how much they’ll sell. I use purchase orders from BS as a way to receive financing to help fund new projects. We plan out our year and work BS into our ordering with manufacturers. It helps us meet minimums in ordering from manufacturers.
As Heather considers new products and grows her product range, she plans to continue using BabySteals as her marketing partner.“We consider BabySteals as a way to launch our new products. The feedback is fantastic. We use them as a test market,” she says. She advises new businesses aimed at reaching moms to make BabySteals part of their marketing plan. One of the most fantastic things, “No matter how much you’re paying in advertising, you’re never going to reach the amount of moms that you reach in the first two hours of your feature,” she explains. “The beautiful thing is that you can actually make a profit out of it! BabySteals allows their customers to see the products, experience them and talk about them. BS is a big part of our marketing plan.”