Meet the woman that designs celebrity baby nurseries, entrepreneur Tori Swaim


Tori_400x550Tori Swaim may have been shy as a teenager, but she’s certainly overcome it as she heads into her 17th year of entrepreneurship—and working with celebrities while she’s at it. As owner of New Arrivals Inc., My Baby Sam Inc., and Three Wishes Bedding Co., three companies that specialize in nurseries and baby bedding, Tori knows a thing or two about starting and running successful multi-million dollar companies. We asked her about her career journey from IBM into entrepreneurship—and what it’s like running a family on top of it all.

 


My first job ever was…

At the local movie theatre selling candy and popcorn. To this day, it is one of my favourite jobs ever!

Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?

Actually, I had never thought about being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship found me! My first product idea came to mind while I was decorating my daughter’s nursery. I wanted to hide the unattractive blue plastic baby wipe box that sat on her diaper changing table. That is when New Arrivals Inc. and my first product, the Hide-a-Wipe Box, were born.

My proudest accomplishment was…

When I was a marketing executive at IBM, I won the highest award they gave to an employee in the marketing division. The award was called the “Eagle Award” for top performers. Needless to say I was thrilled!

My boldest move to date was…

I spent almost two years developing my first product. Once I had prototypes in hand, I attended my first ever vendor trade show. The trade show was my first opportunity to test the marketability of my product. Fortunately, on the first day of the trade show, I was swamped with buyers placing orders! After having so much trepidation and uncertainty of whether or not the public would like my invention, I was overwhelmed and excited about their response. My bold move, which would launch my business, was to order my initial inventory of products—a container load of Hide-a-Wipe boxes! My husband and I invested $30k of our own money to launch my new company. We were nervous, but felt that we had done all of the things necessary to give it a good chance at succeeding.

I surprise people when I tell them…

I was a quiet and shy teenager. Today, I am quite the opposite! Being the CEO of a business you are constantly meeting new people and speaking in front of people. As a business owner it is important to communicate well and be outgoing and social. The shy me would have never been able to do it.

My best advice to people starting out in business is…

Make sure the business idea you have is your passion. Success is much easier to achieve if it is something you love doing. I would recommend doing a lot of research before ever launching a company. Put together focus groups of people that will give you honest feedback about your idea. Before launching my first nursery product, I invited moms to do an evaluation of my product and to give me their feedback. I also set up a table outside of Lamaze classes at the local hospital and talked to pregnant moms about my idea. Also, a large retailer’s headquarters office is located in my city, and I was actually able to make an appointment with their baby department’s buyer. She gave me great feedback, and placed a large order once my product was available!

Related: Meet the entrepreneur that redesigned sustainable fashion

My best advice from a mentor was…

Always design products that are unique, and stand out from anything that your competitors are already selling. He recommended for me to read “The Purple Cow,” which has been extremely helpful to me. The book gave me a whole new perspective on what to consider when designing new products. My biggest take away from the book was about how your products shouldn’t be like everyone else’s or “Ho Hum” as the book stated. Instead, focus on creating products that will be unique in the marketplace and your industry. If another company already has a similar successful product and holds a large market share in the industry; the chances of you entering the market and being successful are slim and risky. Instead of being a “me too” manufacturer and introducing a product that is already in the market, design something completely different than what a consumer can already buy from your competitor.

My biggest setback was…

One of my first large retail accounts was Target. After months of development and planning of an exclusive line of baby gifts for them, I was excited to finally see our products displayed in the Target stores. Unfortunately, the packaging we used for the gift items was not strong enough to withstand lots of handling by Target customers. Many of the items came out of the packaging, and were returned to us. Not only was it a big financial hit, we also jeopardized any future orders from the retail giant.

I overcame it by…

I look at mistakes as a learning experience. This unfortunate experience taught me to make sure that for any future products we consider all aspects of the design as well as packaging.


How do you balance work and life?
Tori-Mandy_400x400

This is a tough one. When you own your own business, it is on your mind 24/7. However, it’s important to take the time to spend time with your family and doing the things you enjoy. My children were very young when I started New Arrivals Inc. It was difficult, but having a supportive spouse was the key. My husband didn’t hesitate to help with the kids and the house work when I was traveling or when my business needed me. When I first opened my business, he helped me enter orders, pack, and answer the phone. Balancing work and my personal life is something I have to work on everyday. Making priorities and focusing on what is important is crucial. Make sure that you pass along any of your to do’s to employees that they are able to handle on their own.

Being a woman in manufacturing is…

Challenging! My strength is in design and marketing, but its important for me to have employees that are experts in other areas, such as finance, production, sales, and customer service. As the owner of the company, you need to spend your time on new product development, growing, and marketing your business, among other things. Focus on what you are good at and let others concentrate on their strengths.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…

Although my business is a huge part of my life, first and foremost to me is my family. When my kids were little, I made time for field trips, award banquets, dance recitals, soccer games, and more. I did not want to look back and regret missing anything important in their lives. Now that they are older, I still make time for phone calls and visits with them.

How do you stay inspired?

Being a manufacturer of baby bedding, it is vital that I stay on top of trends in my industry. Mom’s want only the latest designs for their new baby’s room. I keep inspired in all sorts of ways, including magazines, Pinterest, blogs, instagram.

The future excites me because…

Although I have had my business for 17 years, I never lose passion for what I do. Yes, I do get tired and stressed at times, but you have those feelings in any job. The exciting part for me is designing new products and working with celebrities on one-of-a-kind nurseries. I enjoy assisting celebrity moms create their dream nursery. I’m currently designing nurseries for a few celebrity moms-to-be and am excited to unveil those nurseries soon. There’s always something new and exciting going on at New Arrivals Inc, which makes it easy to stay passionate about what I do!


 

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