I currently live and work in Laurel, Maryland, but I was born in Kumasi, Ghana, West Africa. I am the eldest of four children and was the eldest grandchild in our home. My childhood was full of love and surrounded by both immediate and extended family members. I was raised to know I am valued and gifted, and that with God on my side, I can do anything I put my mind and heart to do. My parents relocated to the United States when I was thirteen years old in hopes of giving my siblings and I a chance for a better education with more opportunities. Both my mother and father value education and were willing to forgo their comfortably established life in Ghana to start from scratch in a country they were not as familiar with. Leaving their native land for the prospect of a better future paved the way for me to be who I am today.
Growing up I saw the value of hard work embodied by my parents. Indeed, a good example goes a long way to teach a child. Even as a secondary school teacher, my mother was involved in their family trading. My mother, grandmother and aunties owned a local store where I learned that using your mind to create and build would be my most valuable asset.
I did not intentionally start off on my entrepreneurial journey. It began when the idea arose after the birth of my first son. Diapering time was a hassle for me, and the baby items I needed to change my baby—wipes, diapers, baby ointment and changing pad—were always scattered in different places in the house when I needed them to be together for a quick diaper change. One day, on our way to our family vacation, I found I couldn’t readily access my packed huge diaper bag full of diapering items. I decided right then to draw up what my ideal diapering organizer should be—a portable organizer that could keep each diapering item in its own compartment and yet keep them together while being easily accessible. After falling in love with the prototype and seeing how much time, energy and frustration it was saving me, I wanted to find an avenue to get the design to other moms and dads. And there it was, my journey as an entrepreneur was conceived with the birth of the ChangePal design.
I founded Baby Convenience, LLC shortly after conceiving my product idea in 2010 in hopes it would propel me to move forward with the product creation. As a new inventor, I quickly learned that the many pieces to opening a business—running the company, producing and marketing the product— required more time, hands, resources, planning and work than I had initially conceived. So, over the years, while maintaining my professional career, and raising my growing family, I had to adjust and grow the business at a sustainable and healthy rate from the time of idea conception to what it is today.
I first realized that I had the skill for being an entrepreneur when other moms and dads would come back and provide positive comments about the ChangePal product making a positive impact in their life. I realized that my passion for people could be extended to offering innovative products that can help others. The adventure of being an entrepreneur has allowed me to come in contact with great people that I otherwise would not have met. Being an entrepreneur has extended my worth of knowledge in so many areas I did not have experience in before. I now know how to invent a product from scratch and bring it to market! The knowledge acquired over the years could be an education degree in itself—from product research, to sourcing a factory, to making the product, to testing, to product regulations, to pricing, to inventory management, to warehousing and storage, marketing, seeking out buyers and reaching the consumer—I have learned it all along the way.
It has not been an easy journey. Marketing a newly branded product while competing against established brand name products is a big challenge and has been my biggest challenge in doing business. It takes a small business, even with a better product, a greater effort to introduce their brand to the market in a system where consumers and retail buyers alike regularly purchase products with names they are already familiar with. I am breaking through this barrier to get to market with a lot of hard work and supportive feedback from the mom and dad users in the marketplace, and this hurdle has also been my greatest accomplishment. Through constant marketing, product improvement and design innovations, the ChangePal is slowly gaining ground. It can now be found online with big retailers such as Walmart.com, BuyBuyBaby.com and Macys.com. We also continue to offer ChangePal on Amazon.com and the original MyChangePal.com website. We offer combined avenues of direct to consumer and direct to retailers to reach our end users. My goal is to offer the ChangePal in more stores and avenues where moms or dads or gifters can see the solution they need for a much easier diaper changing time.
Through it all, being a business owner has shaped my current and future plans differently than I could have ever imagined. I have to organize my life in such a way to allow me to be a business owner, and at the same time, fulfill my other life roles in an organized and manageable manner. As a mom and wife, I have had to learn to delegate some of my business responsibilities as my business grows to be present for my family and to have personal time for myself. I have had to make decisions regarding my career choices to be able to have a balanced and fulfilling life. Being a business owner means you are part of the decision process of the business and requires you to sometimes make personal sacrifices now in hopes for growth in the future.
MAVIS’ LEARNED LESSONS
1. Do not introduce your product into the market until you have a patent approved or at least a provisional patent approved. This was the best advice I was given and took, and I now see why. You cannot stop others from copying your design all over the world, but you can be protected in your main market.
2. Prepare and plan before you go all in. Although it is good to start small and make changes as you grow, it is also quite essential that you have a good business plan in place before you start, big or small. Going with the flow without clear-cut goals can distract you from your goals.
3. If you are coming up with a brand new item, be prepared to know that it will take the market time to know and learn about your brand/product. Continue marketing consistently. Don’t spend all your marketing funds at once in hope that the market will catch on after a few months. Slow and steady seems to win the race in this case.
4. Just as you plan for your business, you must plan how the start of your new business is going to affect your personal life. Be ready to adjust yourself before you start a new business. Being a business owner involves planning for both to be successful. Find a happy balance between your business and personal life.
5. Relationships are everything. You cannot go at this journey alone. You need to build relationships for every aspect of your business, especially if you are new to the business world. Create and maintain your valued relationships over the years, you never know who you will meet again along the way.
6. Set timelines and goals for yourself along the way; however, if you believe in your business concept, and you truly believe in your product, DO NOT GIVE UP easily. It takes time to build a new brand. You have to learn from your mistakes, adjust and make your mistakes part of your treasured learning points instead of just disappointments.
7. Be kind along the way, even to your competitors. Know the reason behind why you are doing what you are doing. Your goals and drive to succeed should not overshadow who you are or cause you to act out of character.