One bright July day, Scott Morris and his wife were enjoying a Padres baseball game in San Diego.
Their friends had a 4-month old baby who was clearly bothered by the sun. Scott asked if the parents had baby-sized sunglasses and the answer was “no”.
“I always wore the Wayfarer style and I put my adult sunglasses on him. Of course they didn’t fit.” An idea was born...
Here’s the story of how one couple launched a successful small business that’s making lots of parents (and kids) happy in the sun.
Scott’s road to entrepreneurship wasn’t a direct one. He attended UCLA and earned a degree in Political Science and Sociology before earning a law degree in Chicago.
He followed the typical path of an attorney and took a position with a large firm but he was on the lookout for other opportunities. “It was very corporate and buttoned down. I was there three years and was able to pay off law school but I was always scheming my exit and life design.”
His encounter with the unhappy baby sparked a business idea he wanted to pursue. He already had a solid idea of what the product would look like. “I wanted to take my sunglasses and shrink them down. They had to be chewable and durable but safe for baby mouths. Of course they needed to be BPA and lead free.”
Scott’s busy mind starting working. “I wondered how much money it would take to create a prototype. At this point I didn’t even know what to show a manufacturer. I just knew I wanted to ‘make em so they can’t break em’ and I wanted the sunglasses manufactured in the US or Italy.”
He started searching in the U.S. and quickly discovered that sunglasses manufacturing in America was nonexistent. He turned to Italy. “It’s the sunglasses manufacturing capital of the world. All Oakley, Gucci, Kate Spade and other top brands have their manufacturing based there”, he says. “The glasses have a reputation for being very well-made.”
Scott located a small independent family owned manufacturer. “They were willing to listen to someone who didn’t know what he was talking about,” he says. “They also had a background in toy manufacturing. That was important.” The company used material that was flexible, chewable and BPA free - a special material that is safety tested for kids that is ultra durable.
“The company came back with molds that were awesome. They had the perfect blend of experience. Our point of contact is phenomenally nice.”
Roshambo Baby was incorporated in 2013 and launched a crowd funding campaign with Indiegogo to get feedback and spark interest in their product. “We raised about $16,000 – it was a great start for us.”
But the business encountered a big speed bump. A competing company released their version of baby sunglasses 6 months ahead of Roshambo Baby. “We had never heard of them and thought we were the only player. My wife was flipping through a magazine and saw small aviator style glasses on a celebrity’s kid. That weekend we turned on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and those glasses were being given away - they took off like a rocket.”
Scott and his wife didn’t get discouraged. “We interpreted it as the market is there and is not proven. When we sit down and have moms compare our glasses to theirs, 100% of parents choose our product.”
For two and a half years, the couple worked nights and weekends to promote their children’s sunglasses. “We’d hit the streets to try and sell at small tradeshows and street fairs. The needle kept moving a little bit. It was an exposure game for us.”
Scott’s wife, who had a career working on large social media campaigns, wanted to try dynamic Facebook ads but they didn’t have the budget. The point when the couple flipped the switch and got hard fought traction in the market was from a simple video Scott made with his phone on the grass in their backyard. “It was a couple of shots of me bending and twisting the glasses and putting them back into shape.” The video was targeted to women age 25 – 40 on Facebook. “The moment we put up the video it went nuts,” he reports. “It’s been viewed well over a million times on Facebook and shared all over the place. It’s our most popular video…simple, organic. People related to it.”
The Roshambo Baby Facebook page has continued to be a big driver for product sales and awareness and the company now has 40,000+ followers. “You have to know what your product is and how to sell it to the right audience. Facebook is perfect for us and we’ve dedicated most of our advertising budget there.”
Business began taking off and Scott realized he needed more working capital to keep up with demand and expand into other territories. “Projects started popping up in my head. I needed inventory and put together lists of how I could utilize money in a smart and effective way. I knew a loan could get a great ROI and would be a tool to get us to the next step.”
Scott began working with SmartBiz to acquire an SBA loan and found the platform “super user friendly”. His relationship manager was key to the easy process. In a review on the SmartBiz Loans TrustPilot page, Scott writes “Mike D. was great; super accommodating and helpful with every step.”
Roshambo Baby received a $150,000 SBA loan with a low APR, a 10-year term and low monthly payments.
“We’ve had interest at the distribution level but didn’t have the inventory. We were missing the low hanging fruit, international sales and retail. Now those conversations become a lot easier. I’m talking to Canada and Australia about expanding into those countries,” he says.
He’s also considering bringing on more staff. Currently they run a lean operation. “It’s my wife and I and one other part-time person. We’re thinking of adding more customer support employees. In order to do more trade shows and account outreach for retail, we’ll have to grow the team. ”
Another area where they plan for expansion is for prescription lenses. “People have come to expect to pay hundreds for frames. Coming from a small independent manufacturer, we disrupt that expectation. We’re at the tip of the iceberg as to where we can take that.”
One small problem? His toddler refuses to wear the sunglasses her family has created. “We’ve tried too hard with her,” he laughs.
Scott is very positive about the future. “We’re climbing this mountain one mom at a time, one Facebook ad at a time. We’re so proud of these sunglasses.”
Interested in learning more? Visit the Roshambo Baby website now. We dare you not to say “awwww” when you see pictures of cute babies sporting the stylish, safe and functional sunglasses. (Bonus: They also make adult sizes so you can match your little one)
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