After the birth of her son, Spencer, in 2000, Skip Hop co-founder and chief creative officer Ellen Diamant realized that she was seriously unimpressed with the baby products available in the marketplace.
"Back then," the former art director tells Mom.me via email, "the gear and bag products were either very cheap or very expensive, and both tiers had no innovation."
Soon after, in 2003, the new mom launched Skip Hop because she wanted "a great-looking diaper bag that was thought-out for my needs and could hang nicely from the stroller." So Diamant designed one herself—and turns out, she was onto something.
"My husband, Michael, thought it was such a great idea that the bag could be a good product for all parents," Diamant says. "Out of this need, the Skip Hop Duo Diaper bag was born, and it’s still one of our most popular must-have products."
Diamant talks to us about starting a business with her husband, who is Skip Hop's CEO, why she's taking more risks and her advice for entrepreneurial moms.
What is your work dynamic with your husband?
Working with a spouse is not for everyone, but it works for us since we have such different roles. I lead the design and innovation, while he concentrates on the business and operations role. If functions overlap, it may not work for a couple. Each person needs their own domain. Plus we never “commute” together!
When did you first feel successful?
I felt really successful about my new business when I was on line with my son at a New York City grocery store and he went up to a mom with a stroller (with a Duo hanging off of it) and said, “I love your Skip Hop bag!" He was only 4 at the time, but I felt so much pride that he recognized what I was doing and was proud as well. It was just the happiest moment. I took so much pride that he took pride in my accomplishment!
As a successful female entrepreneur, what are some ways that you want to teach your son about "girl power?"
I think by watching me he has learned that women can create their own destiny and make their ideas a reality. Even if it’s a small business, I have taught him that in life and business we are equals and to always be respectful.
Has there been anything about starting Skip Hop that surprised or inspired you in a way you didn't expect?
Before I started Skip Hop, I worked in the publishing and design industry; I always had very steady full-time jobs with lots of security. I never thought I would take the risk, quit my job and start a business creating diaper bags. I never felt like a risk-taker before, and now I believe there is no other way. If you have a great idea, take the risk and make it happen!
What's your advice for moms who are looking to start their own business?
My advice to moms is always pretty similar. If you have a product idea, something you really believe in, do some really fast homework. Check online and make sure there isn’t something in the market that is the same. I have spoken to so many excited moms with great ideas, and they just don’t do their research. Also, be prepared that starting your own business is not easy, and make sure you are emotionally ready for it. It’s a lot of work, especially for new moms with really little ones.
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and career professional to keep everything in balance?
I have definitely sacrificed me-time. Between my husband, son and business, there is not a lot of extra time, but I try. I also wish I had more time to see my friends. I always try to make the effort, since I feel there is never enough time!
What would you say are the most important skills and experiences you've brought from previous positions to Skip Hop?
Before I started Skip Hop, I was an art director in publishing and branding. I created ad campaigns and created photo shoots. These were amazing skills to have as we developed a new brand for parents. Also, early in my career, I worked super hard as an assistant. I did anything and never complained about it. I feel like that prepared me for any of the nitty-gritty work I needed to do as we developed our brand from scratch.
If you could have lunch with any business person/mogul living or dead, who would it be and why?
Steve Jobs! Would have loved to meet him. This man was truly an innovator, and he truly thought differently. We like to think we share the same philosophy as Apple: Make life easier and more streamlined with our products. We like to make parents' busy lives just a little easier (and more fun).