With DockATot, Lisa Furuland created a new market category. We sat down with her to hear how she grew DockATot with a fully remote team and learn about Aristot, her new line bringing high design into nurseries everywhere.
First, tell us the story behind DockATot. What inspired you to get started?
Lisa: DockATot really began as a need I had as a new mom. When I had my first son, I was desperate to find a product that could function as a safe and portable resting spot for my baby as well as something we could use to co-sleep. We’re outspoken and passionate bed-sharers in our family, but we wanted a way to do it safely. So, I created a prototype, and when my son Ilias loved it, I knew I was onto something.
How did your background help you bring your idea for DockATot to life?
Lisa: My background in art, architecture and photography as well as my Scandinavian upbringing gave me a design sensibility for the product. My motto has always been that all the things we make must look as good in the living room as in the nursery. If you’re a parent, you know that very little time is spent in the nursery. The nursery tends to move into the lounge and take over your home. Also, I am a strong believer in products that do more than one thing. We do not need to spend more resources, neither our own nor the earth’s, on short-life, low-quality single-use items. And with the versatility comes the benefit of ‘life’, as in the increased lifespan of the product, which in turn means value for money, even at a higher premium price point.
How did launching DockATot take you outside your comfort zone?
Lisa: Although I was an entrepreneur and had already started previous companies, I had never created anything in the juvenile space, which can be a pretty daunting industry to enter. My instincts told me that this was a product that would become an essential tool for families, so I stayed on task. The product was the first of its kind; we created this category. It fills a purpose and fits a gap in the juvenile market, so although it took me outside of my comfort zone, I was also confident and determined that consumers would want it.
You scaled DockATot globally and relatively quickly. What did you learn in the process?
Lisa: It may seem that DockATot is an overnight success, however that’s not exactly the case. I launched Sleepyhead in 2006 and worked tirelessly to grow the brand in Europe. I waited until 2015 to launch DockATot, which is the U.S. counterpart to Sleepyhead. I wanted to be completely sure that the product was ready for its global debut before even thinking about bringing it to the States.
Like let’s talk about where you work and how you do it! What brought you to Greece? Where is your team based?
Lisa: My husband Costa is half Greek and prior to moving back to his homeland, we spent every summer in the Aegean, in Greece, with our two boys. I am so fortunate that our favorite vacation spot has now become our new home. My sons are very into the outdoors and we enjoy the beautiful beaches and nautical life as well as the deep history found in Athens.
My team is based around the globe! Our sales and marketing team work remotely from all around the world, including Atlanta, Utah, New York, California, London and Stockholm. Our manufacturing is all done in Europe.
What are the challenges that come with running a fully remote team? What are the benefits?
Lisa: The challenges mostly have to do with logistics, such as time zone differences when it comes to scheduling calls. It would also, of course, be nice to have a team member physically around at all times to bounce ideas off of on a whim. However, I think the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Working remotely allows everyone on my team to give 100% because they are the masters of their own schedules. It also allows me to tap into the best experts in the field, since I’m not relegated to finding team members purely based on their location. The best part about having a remote team is that it allows me to support other parents who want to work from home. Bottom line, this is the workplace of the future. Again, we should waste as little of the earth’s resources as possible, and we have obviously totally eliminated work commutes. And the broad spread of our locations actually brings us closer to more of the parties we deal with. Also, we take advantage of all the technology and systems that streamline work processes and communication. We are truly a modern company.
You’ve grown a global company with a relatively small, global team. What’s your management style like?
Lisa: I’m pretty hands-on and like to be involved in many aspects of the business, and I regularly check in with my team. However, our recruitment process is very meticulous, so I can safely say that we have built a team of the very best. I fully trust the acumen and instincts of my staff and give everyone the freedom they deserve to do their best work, whilst allowing them to balance life and work. I’m lucky to have found incredibly smart and talented people to join our team, and I learn from them every day. So in the words of Steve Jobs: “It does not make sense to hire smart people to tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
My prize at the end of a work day is spending time with my family–so it’s fantastic motivation to get things done
How does motherhood make you a more effective businesswoman?
Lisa: Being a mom has certainly helped me manage my time and prioritize what needs to get done every day. Every moment counts in my work day and that has helped make me a better decision maker. My prize at the end of a work day is spending time with my family–so it’s fantastic motivation to get things done. Being a mom has also helped me say no to things that are not important.
How does your new line, Aristot, build on DockATot’s mission?
Lisa: I love the idea of bringing fashion and style into the nursery for those who prefer the baby to sleep independently, in their own space. And that’s how Aristot came about. Aristot, like its sister brand DockATot, was created to grow with families. The mission at the heart of both products is to offer something that’s both stylish and multi-functional and strengthens the bond between parents and their little ones. High design aside, this collection presents some unique features. All the pieces can convert into adult pieces of furniture, such as tables, ottomans and even chairs, so it’s not just for those months when baby fits into a bassinet.
Aristot is hand-crafted in Europe. It’s a luxurious collection of true heirloom pieces to be passed down through generations.
In what ways has your own experience as a mother informed the design and functionality of the Aristot collection?
Lisa: I always gravitate towards items that are multifunctional and sophisticated, especially as a mom. The sheer amount of stuff you collect as a new parent can be overwhelming. The design of Aristot is so stylish that it deserves to take up prime real estate in your home. I also wanted to use materials that were both beautiful and safe for baby- we stuck to classic designs and made sure that every material has been rigorously tested for its safety. I also found that so many of the products we purchased for our sons when they were babies eventually just got tossed our donated, so I wanted to create pieces that could remain in the family for years to come.
Now that your kids are a bit older, how do you talk with them about your business and your work life?
Lisa: They are fully supportive of my work and love hearing about it. They understand what I do is extremely important to me, but they also know that family comes first. I like to involve them as much as I can and they are always intrigued—proud, in fact—to hear about how our products help people around the world. Also, they’re an endless source of inspiration for me. In fact, my boys are starring in the Aristot launch campaign. They were modeling a lot whilst we lived In Stockholm and for the Aristot launch campaign, they got to do it again!
Try to stay in the moment when you’re spending time with your kids. Put your phone down and just focus on them.
Get your rest. Being a mom takes everything you’ve got during the day. The best way to recharge your battery for another full day of motherhood is by getting a great night of sleep.
Your kids are only young once. Try to remember that when they beg you for one more bedtime story or 5 more minutes of snuggle time. You can get to those dishes later.