Leah is a lawyer by day and a mom of three boys who embraces life’s chaos with the same resolve that her Midwestern home is known for. So much so, that a particularly messy plane ride with her first-born led to creating LCeeeDesigns and its first product, The Flipping Holder.
It all started when Leah decided to stock up on squeezable food pouches and accessories for her first flight with her then 1-year-old son. She typically made her own baby food, but figured that going through security didn’t need to be any more complicated than it is with baby gear in tow.
Unfortunately her best laid plans for feeding her son on the flight back-fired.
“It was a matter of 30 seconds. I opened up one of the pouches…he grabbed at it, and it just squeezed everywhere. It got all over me and all over the person next to us and I felt horrible,” she recalls. “Of course…new mom, only with a 1-year-old, on a plane for the first time… it was a mess.”
Leah nearly swore off pouches, but instead at the encouragement of her husband, tapped into the same creativity she’d used in other hobbies.
How to Make it in America
What started out as a series of sketches, turned into cardboard concepts, a 3D prototype and ultimately a clandestine meeting at the ABC Kids Expo. There she met an “idea guy,” Gerald Beranek, who had revived an old warehouse in Cedar Rapids to help entrepreneurs take their ideas from concept to manufacturing and distribution.
BeraTek Industries has helped bring other sanity-saving American made baby products to the market, including CleverTot to organize your stash of food pouches, mother & daughter-designed UnbuckleMe for car seats, and a teething-friendly iPhone case that’s currently in the prototype stage.
Leah shared multiple advantages to manufacturing within a few hours of her home in Southern Minnesota:
“Everything’s better because I didn’t have to go overseas…The quality, the consistency; there’s less drama about it. You have more certainty that the product you’re getting matches what you wanted to get. You don’t have to wait 3 weeks for a container to come overseas to confirm it,” she says.
“I can actually go down to the facility–I have several times–and check in and say hi. I went down there to pick up the initial samples, see the tooling; it was really great.”
“If more people who have ideas knew that there were people here that can help them develop and grow those, it would be just wonderful.”
How This Mompreneur Makes it Work
Leah’s days are jam-packed, from morning to night:
“My typical day consists of wrangling kids in the morning and getting them ready. Usually then I’ll also pack and ship my online orders. Then I’ll go to my office, I’ll work all day and then I’ll come home sometime around dinner time,” she says. “Then I’ll get kids wrangled and fed, hang out and play games, and then we do bath time and bed.”
“About 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock, I turn on my business computer… answer emails, whether it’s bloggers and new connections, or social media and figuring out future posts. Usually by then more orders have come in, so I’ll pack those up. I do that for about an hour or two most evenings.”
“After that I try to go to sleep, but with a 4-month-old, that’s hit or miss.”
To tackle the challenges of growing a business while having a demanding schedule, Leah takes advantage of business mom groups on Facebook (in fact, that’s where we met) and the support of her family.
“My dad is an engineer by education, and he works in a tool and dye company. So, I use my dad as a resource to help me figure out how I should navigate the manufacturing process,” she says.
Her husband stays home with the kids and naturally goes through a lot of pouches.
What Makes it All Worth It
While Leah set out to solve a problem for herself and the many parents who are purchasing The Flipping Holder, it ended up having a unanticipated benefit for special needs children.
About a year after launching the product, Leah and her husband found out their oldest son is autistic.
“My son doesn’t have the same gross motor skills that his friends do,” she says. “This gives him the confidence to do the same thing that his brother is doing or his friends are doing without worrying about also causing a problem on accident.”
Women Helping Women Succeed
Leah spent the first three years going through six iterations of her product to “get it perfect.” Her advice for other mompreneurs is to embrace imperfection and put yourself out there.
“Trying to be perfect and trying to wait for things to line up and feel perfect just isn’t worth it,” she says.
“Pick one thing and go with it, because once you do, the snowball that happens and the motivation that happens…it’s so helpful.”