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In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
My name is Hindi Zeidman, I am a single mom (by choice) to my amazing little one, Olive Steele, and I am the founder and CEO of The Ollie World. My goal has always been to have a positive impact in the lives of little ones and we hope to achieve that in the purposeful products we create here at The Ollie World.
What inspired you to create The Ollie World?
It all started with an amazing infant named Oliver. I was a single foster parent and he was my foster son. When he came to me he was on the verge of being labeled failure-to-thrive because he struggled with the basics of eating and sleeping. He was also exposed in utero to drugs, so he was truly having such a hard time. With my background in working with drug and trauma-exposed infants, I knew the importance of swaddling. I bought every swaddle on the market and nothing worked for him. They did not contain him or his joints properly, he overheated, and he escaped them all.
So, I set out to make my own and one that could meet all of Oliver’s needs. And, that is how I created the very first Ollie Swaddle. Once Oliver started using it, I saw such a dramatic change in his eating, sleeping, developmental milestones, and attachment. Seeing the impact the swaddle had on Oliver, I knew it was something I wanted to share with little ones all over the world.
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What has been your biggest challenge during the pandemic and how did you pivot to overcome it?
I am currently in one of the most challenging times of my career. I made a decision to reject several orders of fabric because they failed my spec at a time when demand for our product was at an all-time high. I care so much about the quality, integrity, and safety of every product we make, so the decision was an easy one. The result has been an extended time of being out of stock, as we make up for the failed fabric. As you can imagine, it is not easy to run a business without inventory, but there is no doubt in my mind that I did what was right.
I used this time to actually create an entirely new infrastructure that allows me to be in full control of every aspect of the manufacturing and production process. It has been challenging, as I am essentially rebuilding my business from the ground up all over again. But, again, I know this was essential for me to create products that I stand behind and believe in.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
For the most part, I am essentially all self-funded. I had an initial investment from a family member that allowed me to purchase my first round of inventory when I first started 7 and a half years ago. Since then, I have been able to operate without outside funding, which I am very aware is not something most small businesses can operate by.
So, while I am not the ideal person to be answering such an important question, I have gained experience and knowledge over the past several years. I have found that there are people out there that are willing to invest, but the key thing they are willing to invest in is something purposeful. The most important question someone should be able to answer about their idea or business is “the why” behind it.
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What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
Being an entrepreneur is so much more than selling a product; it is more about how we connect with people and how we give back to our communities. Because it is not an easy thing to do, there has to be something that motivates us to keep going, especially when things are hard.
There will never be a time when I am not affected by someone sending a dm, comment, or email about how The Ollie has impacted their and their little one’s lives. That is what motivates me to keep going. We also donate Ollie’s to drug and/or trauma-exposed foster infants, as well as recently we have piloted programs to two hospitals for their NICUs and long-term care units. I have one particular story that I think about all of the time. If I can please share with you: I would love to introduce you to Ray, who is an almost 3-month-old amazing little boy. I cannot show his picture because he is a foster infant, but I would still love to paint a picture. Ray is living with his foster-to-adopt mom and they were both having a hard time. Ray could not be soothed, their attachment was struggling, and his foster-mom was exhausted. Ray was being seen at SART, which is a local center that provides a trans-disciplinary team approach to address and support drug and/or trauma-exposed infants and children from ages 0-5. We donate Ollies to all SART centers and Ray received his Ollie in the clinic, where he was being seen. Immediately, right after wrapping Ray in his Ollie, he calmed. With tears in her eyes, his foster-mom said she had never seen him stop moving and they had their FIRST eye-to-eye contact. Ray’s foster-mom said, “Since using the swaddle and learning what you are teaching me, he has begun to grow and is sleeping and learning new skills. You and The Ollie saved my life, I was so sleep-deprived. Thank you.”
What is something many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don’t?
While experience can be such a tremendous asset, it should not be the end-all. I quit my job as a clinical social worker, to start this business. I had no experience, but what I did have was a belief in my product. That belief is what kept me going when no one would give me a chance, when every store told me “no”, when I was told I would never be able to compete with the larger swaddle companies, and that belief still keeps me going as I approach gearing up for a national chain rollout.
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Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
My dad, who passed away several years ago, has always been my source of inspiration in both life and in business. He taught me to always “come from your heart” in all that you do, especially in business. When you come from your heart, it changes the conversation, it changes the motivation, and it changes the process.