While I’ve had a lot of guests on the show talk about entrepreneurship, Beth is in the trenches right now, and toward the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey. In this raw interview, Beth opens up about a Kickstarter campaign she launched that didn’t work out as she hoped. She talks about the “imposter syndrome” and what it’s like to not feel like a “real entrepreneur.” She talks about working a full-time job, starting her own company, and raising her son, and not dropping the ball on any of those three. We talk about Bunker Labs, dreaming big and going for it, doing what you want to do, getting enough sleep, and using the gaps in your day.
Beth Fynbo is the Founder of Busy Baby Mat. She is also an Enterprise Account Manager at Cardinal Health, a global, integrated healthcare services and products company, providing customized solutions for hospitals, healthcare systems, pharmacies, ambulatory surgery centers, clinical laboratories and physician offices worldwide. She started out in the Army as a Crytpologic Linguist and Broadcast Journalist, where she served for over 10 years. Since her military service she has worked at the National Guard Bureau and Alutiiq.
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Other episodes about Bunker Labs
Local organizations that can help you
1 Million Cups - if you have a company this is a great source of feedback from a variety of people from different industries and experiences
Transcript & Time Stamps:
Joining me today from Rochester, Minnesota is Beth Fynbo. Beth Fynbo is the Founder of Busy Baby Mat. She is also an Enterprise Account Manager at Cardinal Health, a global, integrated healthcare services and products company, providing customized solutions for hospitals, healthcare systems, pharmacies, ambulatory surgery centers, clinical laboratories and physician offices worldwide. She started out in the Army as a Cryptologic Linguist and Broadcast Journalist, where she served for over 10 years. Since her military service she has worked at the National Guard Bureau and Alutiiq.
You left the military after serving for ten years. Can you talk about that decision?
It was difficult. It was a difficult decision at the five year mark as well when I ended up re-enlisting. I enjoyed my time in the military but I wanted more control over my life. I re-enlisted at the five year mark because I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like I was prepared for civilian life so I re-enlisted. So at the ten year mark, I made the decision to get out so that I could be closer to home and closer to family.
What was your first job search like after the military?
The first job search I did was after college. At the time the economy was low so finding a job was tough. But I had worked at Target in college so I applied for a management position because I had gotten leadership experience while I was serving the the military. I interviewed well but at the third round of interviews they told me that they liked me but that they didn’t know whether the people reporting to me were going to commit to me as a leader or simply comply with me. That really struck me because I was still kind of in a military mindset where I expected people to simply do what I said because I was there boss. But it’s not like that in the civilian sector so I had to learn to be a human again and not just a soldier. You have to treat people and interact with people in a more human and caring way.
So I didn’t get the job at Target and then went into looking at more government based jobs. I ended up working in a couple different government positions.
At what point did you decide to start your own company?
I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur my entire life. My dad is an entrepreneur and I loved that this gave him flexibility with his schedule where he could attend all of our sports events and activities. But I didn’t have an idea of what I was passionate about to make the leap into entrepreneurship. But last year, at age 40, I had my first child. I went from my maternity leave where I was spending all day with my son to spend much less time with him once I went back to work. So I started thinking more about entrepreneurship after that as a way that I could add some flexibility to my schedule.
The next day I went out to lunch with my girlfriends and two of them had their babies with them. The whole time we were trying to keep certain things out of the babies reach and give them something acceptable to play with. So I went online to find something that I could get for my son that would keep him entertained when I brought him to a restaurant. But I really couldn’t find anything so that’s what started this journey.
How did you then go into starting your business?
I had a concept in my head and went down to my basement and found a tube of silicon and squirted it into a small baking pan to make my first prototype. So I started playing with the idea and when one of my friends had a baby, I gave her one. She loved it and told me that I should start making them for real. I didn’t really know how to go about doing that.
At that point, I reached out to a friend in the Army and I was recommended to Bunker Labs. That’s what really got me started on my way.
What was your experience like with Bunker Labs and how did this program help you move your idea forward?
I took part in Bunker Labs Launch Lab cohort. It was one night a week for 12 weeks. They would bring in experts in fields like marketing and accounting and these people would help us learn more about entrepreneurship. We really had to think about what our business was and how we could deliver that idea to people we didn’t know. The program gave me the confidence to make decisions and start investing money into the product. It’s also been an incredible resources for connections. I was referred to a patent attorney through Bunker Labs. I finished the program in April but it continues to be a huge resource for me by offering me a network of resources to reach out to.
One thing that I think about working in a veteran network is that we all have similar experiences. We all hear about veterans as being hardworking and dependable. But I think what we don’t talk as much about is that veterans are great at learning new things and helping each other. In the military, you’re constantly helping others around you.
Where are you at with the company today?
The company is called Busy Baby. It’s a silicone placemat for babies with suction cups on the bottom to fasten to a surface. There are toys attached to the mat. I’ve made several versions of the mat. We’re currently raising funding to start manufacturing.
How are you raising the funds for manufacturing?
We just wrapped up a Kickstarter. My goal was $40,000 and we raised $10,000 just in the first few days. But it kind of plateaued after that and we didn’t reach our goal. So I pivoted and came up with a new strategy. I’m looking right now at getting some money to do one of my product lines. Instead of producing the entire product line, I’m going to start with the small mat and tether toys.
I’m not in a place where angel investors are interested because I’m pre-revenue and pre-manufacturing. Investors want to put money into something that has proven success. So once I get the first mat out there with sales, that’s when investors would become interested.
It must have been frustrating when your Kickstarter didn’t receive full funding.
It was frustrating because the people that invested didn’t end up getting a product they were really interested in. But now on my website people are able to place pre-orders so I’ve contacted the people that contributed to the Kickstarter and referred them to the website where they can place an order.
What is the cost of the mat?
The small mat retails for $24.99 and that comes with two tethers.
What’s something you didn’t realize about entrepreneurship before you went down this path?
It’s an emotional roller coaster. Some days I’m on top of the world and then other days I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. The same thing happened when I started my first corporate job. So just trying to manage the mental roller coaster has been more than I anticipated.
You’re also working full-time. What is that like?
The advantage of doing both Busy Baby and my full-time job is that that Busy Baby isn’t making any money yet so I have keep paying my bills. So it’s all about using the gaps of time. That’s how I work in the Busy Baby stuff throughout the day. I also make sure I make time for my son. But it’s really out of necessity because I want this job to work so I’m doing what I need to to make sure that happens.
It’s easy for the business to consume you but you have to make sure the important relationships in your life remain a priority because that’s what keeps you sane. And you really can’t burn the candle at both ends because you’ll end up burning yourself out.
Is there any other advice you have for entrepreneurs?
I would encourage people to just go for it. I would have never thought that at this stage of my life I would be doing these things. But it’s so exhilarating. I believe that the last ten years of my life, I was following what society expected me to do - go to school, have a certain career. I would just encourage people to do what they want to do rather than what society dictates because you’ll be so much more happy.
Do you have any resources you recommend?
There are a lot of local resources that will help you out. 1 Million Cups is an organization where you can pitch to a group of people and they will give you feedback and advice.
I like Tim Ferris and and Kevin Rose’s podcasts. Just anything you find inspiring.
I also recommend just reaching out to people. People are so generous with their time.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?
Not so much. I would encourage people to reach out to me if there’s anything I can help them with. I’ve been so grateful to the people that have helped me along the way and I would love to pay that forward.