Helmtops are cute, rubbery, decorative charms that fit through the holes of safety helmets such as bike helmets, ski and snowboard helmets, and other helmets with holes. Helmtops was started on the idea that it was easier to get kids like ours to wear their bike helmets if they could personalize their helmets with unique decorations. Our business is all about encouraging kids’ safety in a fun, inexpensive way.
What inspired you to start your business?
Our family was sitting on a stalled chairlift at a ski mountain, and as usual carrying on at least two conversations at once. One of the conversations involved my daughter asking about why she had to wear her ski helmet that “really isn’t that cute, Mom;” and the other conversation was with my husband and son talking about how when we were kids, we would collect little metal decorative pins from places we skiied or visited, and pin them to our hats. A lightbulb went off — I realized that while you can’t pin anything to a helmet, most helmets have holes that are perfect for a little “bling” and would hopefully make my daughter more interested in wearing her helmet.
How long have you been in business?
We’ve been in business for just under a year, although we’ve only been in stores for about 4 months — there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes leg work that goes into bring a new children’s product to market. (Luckily we were too naive to realize that when we started!) We’re excited because we have great traction and are selling in 20 stores in New England as well as through Amazon and our own website, www.Helmtops.com.
What did you do in your past work life?
I have spent most of my career in finance, so this has been a fun way for me to let my creative side bloom a little. My husband’s expertise has been marketing and operations, so we are hoping we have the bases covered between us!
Describe your ideal workday.
My ideal work day now has been spending a sunny Saturday with my family working at one of the charity bike rides we have donated product to, like the PMC Kids Rides (http://kids.pmc.org/) which raises money to help cure cancer. There is such a positive vibe and the kids love running around and meeting other kids. It’s really energizing even though it is hard work.
What have been some of your major successes?
Despite having less than a year under our belt we recently received the 2010 Seal of Excellence from Creative Child Magazine. Our sales continue to expand primarily through the 20 stores who carry us — a mix of independent bike shops and Learning Express, a high-end specialty toy store.
What have been some of your major challenges?
Finding the right manufacturing source for our product was the first obstacle because we wanted to make a safe, high quality product. We did quite a lot of testing of designs and materials to come up with the best one possible, but it was time well spent because we have a product we can really be proud of.
On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
A mix of caffeine, a great family involved in the business, and the knowledge that if Helmtops even encourages one child to wear their bike or ski helmet more often, that we’ve been successful. Helmets really do save lives.
If there was one piece of advice you could give to your children about running a successful business, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to try. I think many people have great ideas but never take it that next step. Building a business from scratch has been an intense learning opportunity in design, testing, manufacturing, distribution, sales, finance. No matter what happens, I will bring all of those lessons with me.
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
Right now my secret is involving my family IN my business. Because we have been doing a lot of grass roots marketing and donating product to good causes, we’ve participated in lots of fun family events on the weekends. Our two children come and help give out Helmtops, along with my husband and my sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, and whoever else we can get tome come by.
In the longer term, we will have to set boundaries around certain family times, the way we’ve done in the past with our previous careers.
Do you have a favorite business tool and/or resource?
We really like social media, particularly Facebook as it lets us communicate directly with both our consumers and distributors. Friend us!
What is next for your business?
Helmtops is heading to Interbike, the largest Bike and Cycling show in the world, in September in Las Vegas. We also have new designs coming out and are building plans for customer designed or logo’d Helmtops.
Give us your two cents sales pitch.
Helmtops — soft, fun, colorful charms that helps get helmets onto kids’ heads and keep them there!
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