We love a good start-up story at heymama and when we met Nicki Radzely, we knew we had to learn more. We’re thrilled to have Nicki in our community and love the stories and passion that she exudes for her new brand, Doddle & Co. Their first ever product, the Pop pacifier is not only an award-winner, its colorful, bold design will be a perfect ice-breaker for picking up mamas at the playground. Nicki is also going to be on Shark Tank this on January 21st where we can’t wait to see her battle it out with the sharks. Check out more about Nicki to learn more about her best advice for creating a cult-like following from the get-go. Read on…
Tell is about your experience on Shark Tank!
Shark Tank was a truly invigorating and exciting experience. I love to pitch. I love television, but to combine the two was a thrill! I was in the tank for about 2 hours (I am told) and it felt like 15 minutes. As you will see my guest shark was Sara Blakley, the founder of Spanx (yes, I wore them). To be in a room with her and realize that this woman was exactly like me a few years ago–struggling to get an idea from paper and out to millions of people was deeply inspiring. I think we oftentimes put people on pedestals or simply we aren’t in close proximity to see the highs and lows, which often paints their lives in perfect colors. To see her in person reminded me that she too, wrestled with accounting, legal, margins, branding, packaging, customer expectations… on and on. I thought to myself a second after she first said hello to me that if she can do it, my team and I have a chance.
We love that you are innovating traditional baby products! Congrats on your huge success. Tell us, what was your background and how did you start your business?
My background stems from sales and marketing. I began my career at Johnson & Johnson as a sales rep and then moved into marketing and advertising in NYC.
My real background is rooted in a modest upbringing—I’ve been working since I was in Kindergarten! My first job was in the office of my elementary school, where I helped the secretary every day during recess. It instilled in me a strong work ethic (and I was grateful to never have to go out and play at recess; I was very shy!).
Kickstarter was a huge part of your launch. What was that experience like? Is there anything you’d do differently? Do you recommend it for everyone looking to start a business?
Kickstarter is a tremendous platform for those looking to gain insights into their product marketability, sellability, brand insights and general feedback. I leveraged Kickstarter as a way to support the early stages of Doddle & Company and also test out the likelihood of The Pop gaining digital foot traffic.
We went way over schedule and it was the first time that I had to meet the concerns of angry customers (before we had a product!) which was a wonderful failure and hence, a true learning experience.
I wish we would have waited to go on Kickstarter a little later. I think in 2015 people launched their ideas at the early stages but were actually going on to market their product and less about raising seed capital. I would have liked to have had that foresight and launched closer to our shipping dates.
I do recommend it, but I would also recommend doing a ton of research beforehand and being ready to make a large investment. The space is great for some products and not others. Baby products are really hard on Kickstarter, so be ready and willing to make an investment in your video—most other projects don’t need to do that but with kids’ products I think you do.
Doddle & Co’s mission is to create tools to make parenting easier. What are some of your own tools for streamlining the work/motherhood juggle?
Manufacturing time 🙂 Finding the time is impossible, so I now set up “dates” with one baby at a time.
Noah (6) and I will go out for an adventure and Aiden (4) stays at home with Daddy or a sitter. The adventure might be to build a fort, go out for dessert or simply read books under the blankets with a flashlight.
Aiden and I will have a special date where we build magna-tiles and eat ice-cream before dinner.
For me it is now about creating and spending time with them that is truly fun. I like doing what they want to do and not giving way to what I think is cool.
I’m kinda in love with this idea of designing a “command center” near my kitchen to keep us all on task. Each boy gets their own calendar and can foresee when we have a date, class or sport. Gmail calendar is also my ally for keeping it all together.
What is your philosophy as a business woman and as a boss?
Life is sweet. If you interact with Doddle & Company on any level I want it to bring you a certain amount of joy and wholeness. I want to inspire and heighten our team’s talents.
We are trying to build a global brand from our home offices. It can be super challenging with mounting inboxes and tight budgets. However, if you feel that you are a part of something beautiful and bigger than yourself—and you get some joy from that and it fulfills your talents—then you are doing something right. I desperately want people around me to feel satisfied. Not necessarily happy, because that will come and go, but a sense of wholeness from the work they put in and the work that comes out.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
“If you can see it, it exists.”
I took from that statement, that if I can envision something, then it is entirely possible to run after it. I can’t imagine a color I’ve never seen before. So, I can’t do anything with that. However, I can clearly see a global brand that creates beautifully crafted baby products that will one day be recognized from the other side of the room. So, I can do something about that.
Your first product, the Doddle Pop was the 2017 JPMA Innovation Winner in the Feeding category. Congrats! What do you think you’ve done differently than most start-ups to stand out in an otherwise crowded marketplace?
The center of Doddle & Company is the design. Janna, my partner-in-crime is truly brilliant. We created a pacifier that solves a problem and is beautiful.
When we were chatting you shared that you had created over hundreds and hundreds of prototypes for The Pop before going into production. What advice would you give to other women who are hoping to start a business? Does it always have to be perfect?
Yes it does! There’s no going back, so it must be perfect. Plus any doubts would be expensive mistakes. Your product should be perfect and tested, so that the internal team believes in it as much as you do, and you have substantial market insights.
Attending trade shows in advance of launching helped me tremendously. I was able to get insights from buyers (big and small) that helped shape our entire strategy.
Do you have plans to expand your line? What can we look forward to next?
Yes! We are working on a lot of products and plan to do so for years to come. Our next product, The Chew will be launching in the Spring and is a perfect baby item for babies that are growing out of the pacifier stage or someone shopping for a cool baby gift. We also plan on developing more Pop pacifiers for different ages and in new colors!
How has community played a part in your life and business?
I rely on the Mommy community. It’s what inspired this entire idea 😉 On maternity leave, I met a ton of Upper West Side Moms who were taking a total departure from their roles. Marketers, for example, were becoming chefs.
You have two littles, aged 4 and 6. Do you have any non-negotiables with the balance between work and family?
I am trying to make homework and bedtime stories non-negotiables 😉
It can be really challenging juggling motherhood and business! Is there anything that really pushed your buttons?
Doddle & Company really pulls me. It’s my button. I am not at all motivated to do it, I am pulled by it. I can’t stop even if I wanted to. For me, personally, that’s the only sign I need. It’s a good fit and I enjoy the craziness of trying to juggle it all.
The Pop Pacifier is available at Nordstrom stores nationwide.
Be easy on yourself.
Tell your children stories about your life, it makes for a wonderful lifelong bond.
Wear your favorite perfume everyday so you can feel like a lady and your kids will always know you and remember you by it.