Huggies awards Mumpreneur with $20,000 for her Startup

- June 27, 2011 6 MIN READ

Your full name: Shae Tye

Age: 36

Names and ages of children: Alannah 22 months old and Hamish 4 years old

Company: Sleepy Wings

Tell us about yourself and your business:

Shae Tye- Married and mum of 2  I am a Sydney based Retail Design Manager currently working for Stockland Shopping Centres for the past 6 years. My hours are part time 4 days a week. I have over 13 years Retail Design experience and LOVE SHOPPING, drawing and creating.I am imaginative, future-orientated, and work with intensive bursts of energy! I have an outgoing personality, an extrovert and find it hard to relax. I thrive on being a busy bee and hate to be late to events as I am a social butterfly.

What is Sleepy Wings?

Sleepy Wings is cotton / elastane infant slumber wear jacket that is worn for a baby‟s day and night time sleep. A newborn baby can sleep up to 16 hours in their first months of life; therefore it is essential that parents provide a safe and comfortable sleep environment, ensuring their baby is slept safely on their back.

The Sleepy Wings design allows baby to sleep in their natural and preferred position – with their arms bent at the elbows, and hands beside their face enabling self consoling. The garment design keeps a babies chest and neck clear of hazard and overheating which is essential for safe sleeping. Sleepy Wings can also be rotated 180 degrees to be worn with arms down.

It is common for dummies to be used when trying to get a baby to sleep. However babies under 6 months of age have limited tongue, eye and hand control and coordination. When a dummy is dislodged from their mouth, it is physically impossible for a baby to place their own dummy back into their mouth themselves. Sleepy Wings has been designed with two dummy pockets giving a baby two chances to learn to retrieve their own dummy within head turn reach.

Sleepy Wings is approved by the ‘Infant and Nursery Product Association of Australia’ INPAA and is Australian made.What was the inspiration behind your product?

Enduring the sleepless Sydney summer nights (January 2010) and whilst midnight breast feeding, gave me the time to brainstorm the idea and pattern of a garment that would keep my 5 month old daughter Alannah cool without overheating, but also wrapped so she didn‟t startle or scratch.

Drawing on my own mothering knowledge and drive to solve this everyday problem of replacing Alannah‟s dummy, I made the decision to enter the baby business, eager to share her innovative garment with other parents. The versatile design provides parents the option to allow their baby to sleep with either their arms up or down (by simply rotating).

“My husband and I would return to Alannah’s cot countless times to replace her dummy, which inspired me with the challenge to create this garment with a way for Alannah to replace her own dummy and give us all more sleep! I have found no other garment or object worldwide that can do this for a baby, and done in such a safe and easy way. :)”

The homemade pattern making, followed by overlocking classes and months of trials, gave me the time to refine the design and its function, ensuring it solved the everyday problems that other parents also endure with lack of sleep.

With longer sleep patterns proven with the wear of Sleepy Wings, this would ultimately improve the nurturing bond between mother, father and baby with all getting more sleep, which is essential to all in the precious first year of life. Happier baby and family!

What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?

I was on maternity leave caring for Alannah for the first 2 months of business set up, which I would manage around her naps. My father passed away only 2 weeks after my daughter Alannah was born. I suffered Post Natal Depression, but my business plans brought me out of the depression. My dad would be so proud.

My return to part time work in March 2010 limited ANY time I had to communicate with manufacturers and arrange product testing and trialling.

I gave myself a realistic time period of over 8 months to conduct my market research and product trials for Sleepy Wings to ensure the size and fit was right. Therefore with part time work and daily mummy duties, my only available time to „work‟ on Sleepy Wings is from 9pm to midnight…!

So my biggest challenge is TIME !

The spare bedroom was converted the Sleepy Wings head quarters!

Unfortunately my immediate family is based in Geelong and I am Sydney based. My mother in law Ruth Tye is an enormous help on my days off, happy to mind Hamish and Alannah. My mum has travelled to Sydney so many times over the past year to help me with my baby expos and manage stock quality assurance.

Why did you want to become a mumpreneur?

I made the decision to enter the baby business after months of product testing on friend‟s babies and seeking facebook followers. With positive testimonials coming back, and queries of Sleepy Wings availability, I couldn‟t wait to hit the retail market to share my innovative garment with other parents who also need more sleep in their household!

With longer sleep patterns proven with the wear of Sleepy Wings, this would ultimately improve the nurturing bond between mother, father and baby with all getting more sleep, which is essential to all in the precious first year of life. Happier baby and family!

I wish I could say that I could work at home amongst my young children, but I just wouldn‟t get any work done.. Once my children attend primary school, this will make pick up times easier, so hopefully I can quit my part time job and work from home full time!.

The customer testimonials and photos I receive daily on either facebook or email just make my day! As the designer, manager and fellow mum, I can take full credit for my success. I have to pinch myself daily as it is so rewarding.

What did you do when you found out you were the winner of the Huggies Muminspired Competition?

The wait to hear from Huggies whether I was successful or not was long and nerve racking!

I received the call whilst quality assuring hundreds of Sleepy Wings with my mum one Thursday morning. I just burst into tears of happiness. Seconds later my mum joined me, as we both cried and hugged with pride!

The news couldn‟t have come at a better time as my bank account was too low to engage any advertising or replenish further stock.

The exposure from Huggies and my Kerri-Anne appearance has provided invaluable exposure, providing such a positive response with sales and new wholesale orders.

Financially it may take months to breakthrough into profit, but I remain ambitious and patient for my brand‟s success.

The Huggies Grant has been a life saver to my business allowing me to keep Sleepy Wings in the spot light and now set up my business infrastructure ready for growth!

What are your plans for the future of your business?

The next step for Sleepy Wings is to ramp up the wholesale distribution to baby stores nationally and maybe internationally.

I currently haven’t the time to visit stores to do the pitch.. With additional funds (the Huggies Grant) would help me engage the services of a trusted agent to boost Sleepy Wings exposure. With placement on the shelves of retail outlets nationally such as Baby Bunting, Baby Kingdom and other major baby stockists, would provide regular wholesale orders and be displayed to my influential target market. Thus helping more parents and baby’s with their precious sleep!!

I would also envisage further sleep wear designs within my range, including the design of a transition wrap for the use to wean bubs off Sleepy Wings.

My dream would be to quit my day job and focus full time on Sleepy Wings! How rewarding!!,, I would be so proud!!

What advice do you have for other mums that are thinking about starting out in business?

1. Be unique in your offer

2. Do the figures first and be patient for the dollars

3. Gather support and ideas from family and friends to keep you inspired

4. Try and fail,but never fail to try

5. Invest in advertising, facebook and PR for exposure!

To start! Set up a facebook page; test the market for support of your business idea. Starting small, and slowly build up your dream to bigger things. Seek grants available, some government grants are available for innovation.

Don‟t be reluctant to utilise ALL your support systems – grandparents, sisters, aunties to help out with minding the children or doing the house work. You will need them on occasions so you can focus on your business!

Mumprenuer Facebook businesses are popping up everywhere which excites me. Facebook is an ideal platform to start without the overheads. Gathering interest from ‘likers’ grows virally from friends of friends who follow in your footsteps.