Going into business for yourself is no picnic. In the beginning, it’s entirely possible that the only people that you have to help are the unfortunate friends and family members that you’ve roped into working for you. Then there’s the logistics to consider. How do you take your product out of the design/prototype phase and into mass production? How do you produce your product in a way that’s profitable? How do you ultimately get that product onto the shelves? These are all things that entrepreneur Tammany Atkinson had to figure out for herself in her journey to create her nationally successful line of baby clothing: “Bee’s Knees.”
Like so many other entrepreneurs, Atkinson’s idea started with a tiny, nagging problem that she encountered in her daily life. When her son, Jackson, began to crawl at 8 months, Atkinson began to notice that all of the activity was causing her son’s knees to become red and abraised. When she asked some of the other moms that she knew if they were having the same problem with their crawling tots, the answer was a resounding yes. Thus, a seed was planted that would grow into some of the most successful protective pants for infants on the market.
But business success doesn’t begin and end with a good idea. As Atkinson learned, just because she was making a product for babies didn’t mean that the rest was child’s play. After she’d developed a prototype with the seamstress who made her wedding dress, Atkinson moved on to try and get her product into production. In her feature on the Success Power Unlimited Blog, Atkinson said,
“When you’re by yourself, there’s no employee protection laws and I’ve met some interesting characters over the years and been put in some strange situations. In the beginning, I licensed with a company that manufactured clothing but had no experience in the baby industry, which was a disaster. I had missing samples and incomplete orders that were poorly manufactured. That’s where I really learned the lesson that even though you may license a product and have a little assistance, you’re still on your own and you can never sit back and trust anyone else to do the job for you and make the company a success.”
Through the pitfalls of breaking into the retail industry, Atkinson learned the importance that attention to detail and self reliance play in making a successful small business. Just like the idea for her product, Atkinson’s first break was a result of her own attentiveness and ingenuity. “Our first big break was when David Arquette was on David Lettermen, and his daughter, Coco, was crawling. He described that Coco was getting bruised knees from crawling on their hardwood floors, and he would end up carrying her. We called and got Courteney Cox’s information and sent a package to her. Within two weeks, I got the nicest card in the mail from her thanking us for the pants and saying how great an invention it was, and she gave us her endorsement.”
After this endorsement, Bee’s Knees started to appear on the babies of other celebrities like Kate Hudson which, in turn, got Atkinson some air time on “The View.” Today, you can find Bee’s Knees on the shelves of Babies R Us and other stores around the country and the world. Though things eventually lined up for this “mompreneur,” the road to success wasn’t easy. Through a lot of hard work, sacrifice and dedication, Atkinson was able to turn her idea into a business success.