Martha Van Inwegen is the creator and owner of Action Wipes, a game changer for premoistened body wipes because they’re made with natural, plant-derived ingredients and smell quite pleasant. We included some of her wipes in our Bike-to-Work Starter Kits, which gave me the opportunity to ask her a few questions about how she came up with the idea of Action Wipes.
This is the inaugural post for my new series title Women Making Things, in which I interview women who have started successful companies. This is partly self-serving, because, as a first time entrepreneur,I am always looking for mentors to help me understand how I can take my company from Point A to Point B when there is no clear path. I always find their stories enlightening and look forward to sharing them with you!
Me: Starting a consumer products business is an interesting journey! What are three lessons you’d share with someone interested in starting their own business?
Martha Van Inwegen: Boy, there are so many lessons to share, can I share my biggest four?
1) It’s going to take more funding than you anticipate. So make sure you are prepared to max out your credit cards, take a second on your home, spend yourchildren’s tuition, sell your most cherished family heirlooms and live on macaroni and cheese if needed.
2) The business will evolve and change over time, so be flexible and listen to your customers needs. I didn’t start out to make a body wipe for outdoor use, but the change in the economy and the needs of our customers guided us towards the outdoor market. We listened and acted.
3) It really does take at least 4-5 years to take off, so make sure you have the stamina, the funding and the patience. There will be a lot of tears, a lot of sleepless nights and yes, a lot of high-fives. It’s a journey -challenging, but awesome.
4)DON’T GIVE UP! (Me: Thank you for the encouragement Martha!)
Background: The first inception of Action Wipes was an intimacy product for “tidying up” after, er, relations with your partner. Martha explains the origins of that product here:
Me: With your original positioning as an intimacy product, how hard/easy was it to transition to being perceived as an Outdoor product and being embraced by that industry?
Martha: Ha! I must admit, I was very nervous, I wasn’t sure if it would really go over well. But I received some great advise from the founder of Simple Shoes, Eric Meyer, that helped me overcome the fear. He said “It’s not about how or why, it’s about the product. This is a great product, just be honest and tell people the truth. They won’t care how it got started, they just care that it works and they like it.”. So I did just that – I told the story on our website and no one cared. Eric was right, if the product or service is good, people will embrace it. We now have avengelists from all over the world.
Me: Share with us an Action Wipes story that was particularly gratifying to you as the owner.
Martha: As mentioned before, having a business is a journey with a lot of lows and a lot of highs. My biggest thrill has been having the CEO’s of major consumer product corporations tell mewhat an awesome product I have. I was able to capture a snippet of Rick Alden, founder of Skullcandy on video when he just couldn’t stop complimenting me on them and then, John Baudhuin, CEO of Mad Dogg Athletics called me out of the blue one day to give me a thumbs up. He later sent me an email with a picture of him using Action Wipes on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I took these as huge compliments as they’ve been where I am – a startup with one SKU, and now they run multi-million dollar corporations with numerous SKUs. That’s pretty cool!
Me: Anything in the pipeline you can tell us about?
Martha: I’m always thinking up great ideas. I have two all new products in the works right now and all I can say is that you’re going to love them. Oh, and I’ve started another company – Therabee Honey. Yup, I’ve become a beekeeper. With the plight of the bees, I thought it would be cool to created a co-op in our county to help our bees population. We now have 60 hives in various properties across San Luis Obispo, and we just had our first harvest this week. So that’s keeping me ‘bee’sy too. Crazy right?!
Thanks Martha for your time and insight! Good luck with the bees!!!
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