What is in this article?:
- Shazi Visram and HAPPYBABY hit the jackpot with American Express commercial
- An Oprah moment every day
- Funding growth without private equity or venture capital
- Organic still where it is at for baby
Visram, a celebrated organic products entrepreneur and mother of one, opens up about the AMEX ad, why HAPPYBABY will always be organic, and why the company continues to make the journey each March to Natural Products Expo West.
Funding growth without private equity or venture capital
NewHope360: In the spot, you talk about growing from 5 to 7,500 stores. How were you able to achieve this distribution expansion?
SV: We have a phenomenally dedicated team. We pioneered the premium baby food category and have always believed that there should be huge demand within the market for our products. Before we entered the market, there had not been any real innovation in baby food since the 1930s, and yet the new mother is the most important demographic for any retailer based on her lifetime value as a customer. We knew moms were looking for innovative food products for their babies and children. When we started, I never imagined that we would get this $50 million exposure from American Express, but we have been preparing for success all along.
We believe every baby should be a happy baby. We started in the natural channel and are now sold in so many small independents. That is really the core of who we are. But we believe every baby should be a happy baby, so we have been happy to grow into mass accounts and spread out into the Safeways and Targets of world.
NewHope360: What is your ownership structure at HAPPYBABY?
SV: We are still independently owned. We haven’t taken a dime of private-equity backing. There are a lot of great brands out there that can only grow so far without private backing and have to go and accept a venture capital or private equity partner. But in so doing, a lot of entrepreneurs and their missions get derailed. Fortunately, we have been really blessed to have strong networks that have helped us get additional exposure and that have led to investors who are less than traditional.
We have been able to do a lot of networking as a result of the commercial, and one of our newest investors is Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. She is a phenomenal woman who started a company with $5,000 and prototype and built it into a multi-million-dollar empire. Another of our celebrity investors is Madonna’s business manager. Seth Goldman from Honest Tea has been a supporter from the beginning.
NewHope360: Will HAPPYBABY be at Expo West this year?
SV: Absolutely. I have been attending the show for eight years and got our first booth five years ago. The shows are tremendous. They provide an opportunity to sell a new product to a lot of new customers, and this saves time on the road. We’ve also been able to generate a lot of media coverage at the shows and build marketing partnerships with other brands that are talking to the same moms. You also get ideas for product innovation, operations and sourcing. If you use your time wisely at the show, you can leave the event with three to 4 months of real follow up that can take your business to the next level.