BY HILARY MANDEL via Junxion Strategy
Ask Marcie Weinstein-Smith what inspired her to start her company, and she’ll give you the typical “mompreneur” spiel: her baby needed “something,” she couldn’t find that “something” on the market, and so she made it. Turns out, that “something” was Canada’s first natural diaper ointment in a stick.
Like other early-stage mission-based* entrepreneurs who’ll be attending this week’s SVI Women – Vancouver (SVIW), Weinstein-Smith decided to take a risk and move forward with manufacturing and wholesaling a product line targeted to a quickly growing segment of moms interested in natural baby products. In other words, she created a social venture.
Weinstein-Smith’s start-up, Lovey’s Body Products, based in Delta, BC, is one of two case studies on the agenda for SVIW, the first Social Venture Institute held in Vancouver that’s designed exclusively for women entrepreneurs who are creating social and environmental change through their businesses.
The SVI Case Study
SVI Women’s case study format mirrors that of its sister conference, SVI Hollyhock. Weinstein-Smith will have a short period of time to present a business challenge her company is facing to the full conference group. A panel of experts, who will have been briefed on the company ahead of time, will ask a series of clarifying questions, and then the full group will have an opportunity to do the same.
After Weinstein-Smith has answered the questions to the best of her ability, the panelists will put forth their best advice regarding the challenges she’s laid out, followed by more recommendations from the full group. Finally, Weinstein-Smith will have a chance to reflect back her thoughts on what she’s heard. This rapid exchange of information happens in a supportive and confidential setting, offering the entrepreneur who’s “in the hot seat”– and the group as a whole — a unique and often transformative dose of business learning.
Lovey’s Challenge: Steering the Rapids of Growth
Even though developing a product like the Tushi Stick requires a fair bit of science, Weinstein-Smith admits she doesn’t have a chemistry background (although, she hastens to add, “I always loved making potions when I was a kid.”). More likely, it’s her 18 years in corporate sales, marketing, advertising and relationship management in the technology sector, plus experience as an independent business development consultant, that gave her legs to stand on when it came to launching Lovey’s.
Weinstein-Smith oversees Lovey’s manufacturing, finance, administration and logistics. In addition, just three and half years into her business, Weinstein-Smith now has the added challenge of handling the sales and marketing for not just one, but two product lines.
Weinstein-Smith says that ChafeGuard™, her new chaffing relief product, came about as another case of filling a need, one she started hearing about from New York City Marathon runners who were using her baby stick and asked for a natural product made for them. Weinstein-Smith, the business consultant, delved right into competitive research and saw the opportunity for natural anti-chaffing products not just for runners and cyclists, but also for elders suffering from heat rash, people with prosthetics, and more.
But of course, growth brings its own set of challenges. So what’s the biggest hurdle for this solo-eco-mom-preneur? Weinstein-Smith says there’s not just one. To start with, she says, “When you’re one person, you get pulled in so many different directions.” Given the collective experience of the SVIW crowd, Weinstein-Smith is likely to leave this week’s conference with a clearer sense of which direction is next for her.
* “Mission-based enterprise” is used here to mean a for-profit business with a built-in social or environmental mission — whether a “classic” social enterprise in support of a particular NGO (as defined by ENP and others), or a privately-held commercial enterprise, as in Weinstein-Smith’s case.
Social Venture Institute Women is taking place at SFU Woodwards World Arts Centre in Vancouver, May 1-3, 2013.