What It’s Like to Work with My Husband

When we buy a home, I hope we find one with a double-sink/vanity.  It’s silly, I know, but I just want my own sink space for once!  I’m pretty certain this desire stems from the fact that my husband and I spend every waking moment together.  Deciding to start a small business together was not an easy decision.  Before we made the first move, we had a long talk about how this was going to work and whether it would be wise to become business partners.

Our days are pretty crazy.  We get up early (when the kids get up), I make breakfast and pack school lunches, while Mark gets the kids dressed and ready for school.  We wolf down breakfast and run out the door.  Mark and I take turns dropping the kids off at school, so one of us is able to start the work day by 8 am.  Our office is in our attic, so we make the ridiculously nice commute upstairs, and start pounding away at all things Lollacup/Lollaland.  Before you know it, one of us has to pick the kids up from school, make/buy dinner, play with the girls for a little bit, and get them ready for bed.  After we put them down for the evening, we’re back upstairs at work.  Having a home office is great for so many reasons, but it makes it impossible to stop working.

Each day feels much too short and chaos abounds, but here are the 5 things we focus on in order to make things work in Lollaland:

  1. Communication Skills – Mark and I have been “dating” since the 7th grade, so we’ve had a lifetime to work on our communication skills, and this is our biggest asset as a husband-wife team.  We have learned the importance of being direct, up-front, and clear with one another.  A smidgen of kindness in the tone helps too!
  2. Shared Vision/Goals – We are constantly reminding ourselves why we decided to start this company.  Without common goals, we’d probably have given up a long time ago.
  3. Defined Roles – Mark and I had many meetings early on to clearly define our roles in the company.  Although we are always backing each other up, we stay sane by “knowing our places/roles.”
  4. Commitment – Obviously, if you marry someone, you are committing yourself to him/her, but working together on a business is another level of commitment.  Wedding vows come to mind – “in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow.”  Any entrepreneur can tell you what a wild ride this is – sleepless nights, many bumps in the road, and feeling constantly over-worked.  We work hard, but always put our marriage/family first.  We make time to go on dates, and we try our best to laugh often and enjoy the ride.
  5. Encouragement – We celebrate every little “victory” and power through each and every hiccup.  We both have our “off” days, but we try and maintain a positive outlook and attitude.  I know it sounds obvious, but sometimes, all it takes is a little encouragement.  Literally, hearing Mark say, “You’re handling all the stress so gracefully,” makes my entire week and encourages me to work even harder.

An Interesting Parenting Tip – Signaling?

When we are in the throes of manufacturing lollacups, I spend quite a bit of time in the car, driving to and from our factories.  One day, I was listening to a “marketplace” segment on NPR that was fascinating.  The discussion was about, “Why more athletes are choosing to sport eyewear.”  I really have no interest in this particular topic, but the whole discussion really spoke to me.

Apparently the NBA star, Lebron James, wears non-prescription eyeglasses, and Harvard economist Roland Fryer explains the reason as a ‘two-audience signaling mechanism.’  As Fryer puts it, “These guys are saying to one audience, ‘Hey I’m here, I’m an athlete.’ To the other one, ‘Look at my glasses, look at the way I’m dressed, look at the way I carry myself — I can promote your product.'”

This idea of a signaling mechanism intrigued me.  Prof. Roland Fryer went on to talk about one of his colleagues who admitted to dying his hair gray to be taken more seriously by his students.

I began to wonder if I have any signaling mechanisms?  By blow-drying my hair and putting on makeup before a playdate, am I signaling to other moms that I have my life together?  On the rare occasion that I’m dressed up and wearing heels and stop into Target to pick up a prescription with my 2 kids in tow, do people perceive that I am waltzing through parenthood and making time to primp?

The scenarios kept running through my head, until I realized that oftentimes, I do what I do because I truly do want to be “that person.”  When I walk into a business meeting, serious but smiling and dressed to the nines in 4-inch heels, I really do want those people to think I am fully capable of achieving and doing it well.

One thing I cannot live without is under-eye concealer.  I feel like it instantly makes me look and feel well-rested.  I am, by no means, well-rested, but I really do wish I were and for now, to signal to others that I have had a good night’s sleep is fine by me.  Maybe I’m not really understanding the gist of the radio segment I was so affected by, but perhaps “signaling mechanisms” are the best form of motivation.  Perhaps one day I will make sleep a priority.  To begin with, I will try “signaling” to my children that I am in full control of each and every situation, and perhaps, they will buy it!

Cheers to All Those Who are Casting for Shark Tank Season 4!

We have received many emails and phone calls from Shark-Tank-hopefuls since our own segment aired on April 27th.  I have to say that the folks who reach out to us are three-steps ahead of the game.  It never even occurred to me to reach out to Shark Tank Alumni.

Then we heard that a few Shark Tank Alums crashed the Chicago Open Casting Call, and had a great time networking and re-living the whole process.

Please keep in mind that Mark and I are in no way affiliated with Shark Tank, ABC, or any of the casting crew, so what we have to say has zero influence on whether you get on the show or not, BUT we did go through casting and if you want to grab a drink and put your mind at ease before the Casting Call in Los Angeles, we’d be happy to talk with you.  We’ll be at the bar (Tula’s Lounge) of the hotel where the casting call will be the next morning between 7-9 pm if you want to come out and chat, talk about the stresses of entrepreneurship, etc.  We’d love to meet you.  We are always happy to talk about our wild ride into the Shark Tank, but please keep in mind that you have to take everything we say with a grain of salt – because we had such a great experience, we can be  a bit biased 😉

  • Who: Team Lollacup (Mark and Hanna)
  • What: Networking with fellow entrepreneurs and Shark-Tank-Hopefuls
  • Where: Beverly Garland Hotel – Tula’s Lounge
  • When: Wednesday, May 23rd from 7-9 pm

What it’s Like to Be on Shark Tank

It’s been 24 hours since our [Lollacup] pitch aired on Shark Tank last night, and my heart and mind have not stopped racing.  So much to do and share.  How we went from a simple idea for a new straw sippy cup to landing Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec as business partners is baffling.

I guess I’ll begin by sharing how Mark and I tuned in last night.  The most responsible thing to do would have been to watch the Shark Tank episode at home, with phone in-hand and computers fired up to attend to any issues that may arise.  BUT we thought about all the people who were in involved in bringing this straw-sippy-cup-project to fruition, and we just had to get everyone together and relish in the moment.  How often does one have an idea, take it to market, get on national TV, and land a business deal with Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec?  You only live once, so we just had to go the viewing-party-route.  I promise we will respond to your voicemails and emails soon.

Between family, the friends we see regularly, and people who’ve directly worked on lollacup, we had about 75 people we needed to host.  Our home/office was not an option with those numbers, so Mark and I had to get creative in thinking about how to plan a Shark Tank Viewing Party on a budget.  Mark suggested watching it at our old high school, where we met and started dating.  I thought it was a long-shot, but we asked the administration, and the school was gracious enough to let us use the lunch area for dinner and drinks and the auditorium to watch the show.  It was so nostalgic and special to be on campus for this event.  Some of our teachers even joined us!

Thank you Phil Webb and Fleetwood-Fibre for the "card." We have the BEST vendors.

Guests began to trickle in around 7 pm, and they all tried their best to stay off of social media so as not to know the outcome.  We were last into the “tank,” so by 8:40 p.m. everyone was pumped for our appearance – our bellies were full and we had all had a few glasses of wine.

Finally, around 7:45 p.m. the commercial break ended and our friends were cheering [loudly] as we were introduced as “next into the Shark Tank.”  I don’t know about you, but every time I hear my own voice on a recording, I cringe.  Can you imagine how I felt watching my every mannerism on national TV?

During the taping, Mark and I stood in front of those sharks for well over an hour, and what you saw on Friday was edited down to less than 15 minutes.  I must say that the show did a great job with the editing . . . everything you saw was a concise representation of how we remember it all going down.  Aside from childbirth, it was the most intense and stressful hour+ of my life.  I am so proud we survived and so happy Mark and I did it together.

So to tell you “what it’s like to be on Shark Tank” – SIMPLY AMAZING!  For the most part, we have had people go out of their way to send kind words and well-wishes our way via Facebook, Twitter, email, blogs, and even phone calls.  This whole experience is such a huge motivator.  We know how expensive parenting is: the cost of diapers alone is astounding.  Thank you all for supporting Lollacup as we grow.

Here are some of my favorite tweets from the sharks:

Robert HerjavecRobert Herjavec ‏ @robertherjavec #sharktank – i LOVE this guy – ” I only want to play with winners ” – LOVE IT

#sharktank – wow – it took these two amazing pitchers to get me to work with @mcuban

Mark CubanMark Cuban ‏ @mcuban I really liked them. I’m not usually that nice to robert. I felt bad for him ;-).

 will robert and Mark finally work together!! #sharktank
Lori GreinerLori Greiner ‏ @LoriGreiner Love these two!! Their passion in #SharkTank is undeniable.

Why We Decided to Enter the Shark Tank (and Lessons Learned)

I know we’ve been shamelessly plugging our appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank this Friday, April 27th, and I should’ve realized that doing this has been an open invitation to questions galore.  So, this week, I decided to focus my blog posts on Shark Tank-related topics, so here goes . . .

Lollacup standing in line at the Shark Tank
Season 3 Open Casting Call

  1. Why did you decide to enter the Shark Tank?  My husband and I have been big fans of the show since Season 1, when Lollacup was just an idea.  The friends who introduced us to the show would joke that we should try out for the show.  Fast-forward 2 years, and we had actually launched Lollacup and were running the business full-speed.  As many small businesses do, we needed more money to help pay for growth.  Why not try and get funding, national TV exposure, and strategic business partners in one shot?  We’ve had many discussions with people about the pros and cons of going the Shark-Tank-route.  Some have argued that it is pure stupidity to sell a part of a growing business for such little money.  I agree, to some extent, but every business is different.  If there were some magic formula, we would all be millionaires.  We thought about our current business and where we wanted to be in a few years, and if given the opportunity, we chose to try and work with moguls in the business world.
  2. How did you actually get on the show?  We went on the Shark Tank website, and found a link that said, “want to be on the show,” followed the instructions, sent the email, and never heard back.  One night, we were perusing the site again, and saw that there was an open casting call the very next morning.  Luckily we live in the Los Angeles-area, so we arranged for childcare, filled out the 30+ page application that night, and got in line at 7 am the next morning.  We didn’t get seen till 2 pm that day, but that was the 30-second pitch that got the ball rolling for us.
  3. Is the show real or is everything scripted?  Others may have had a different experience with reality TV, but for us, everything was very real.  We were assigned 2 producers who helped guide us through the intricate process that is reality TV, but aside from some changes to the wording of our pitch, nothing was scripted.  I do have to say that what we may see on TV this Friday may be different from what we remember happening, only because an hour and a half of taping/negotiations is edited down to a few minutes.

Lessons learned and some unsolicited business advice from Lollacup:

  1. Business strategy and the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis are a crucial component of entrepreneurship, and to be frank, my husband has a solid background in business, so that’s where we have a leg up.  The contribution I bring to the table is this – I like to think like I did when I was a high school chemistry teacher and used “backwards planning” to lesson plan.  The premise is you determine your end goal, and plan all the steps to achieve that specific goal.  Many teachers like to plan around themes.  For example, just because it is the month of October, everything lesson revolves around pumpkins.  This kind of thinking, to me, sends the message that the end goal is to teach and learn about pumpkins.  Wouldn’t it be better to determine what you want students to learn, and plan lessons that move toward that goal?  I like to use this method and thinking in business too.  For example, when we first launched the product, the biggest question was, how were we going to compete with the dozen+ sippy cups on the market owned by companies like Gerber, Playtex, and the like?  Our initial goal was to build buzz and brand awareness, so our first steps were to build a unique product, package it so it stands out, and build a beautiful booth so we get noticed at tradeshows.
  2. If you have a specific goal you want to achieve, make it your obsession.  Although we didn’t start a business with the end goal of being on Shark Tank, getting in front of the “sharks” was just one short-term goal we did have, and we literally became obsessed.  We checked the same website over and over, watched the show incessantly to glean business tips from the sharks and other entreprenuers, and did whatever we could to increase our odds of getting casted on the show – honed our elevator pitch, made sure we were on top of every last detail of our business, and just tried to be candid about it all.
  3. The third lesson learned is to be overly prepared and move quickly.  We stayed up all night before the open casting call, filling out the 30-page application.  We saw so many others filling it out on the sidewalk that morning and not being able to complete it, because it actually required a lot of information that they didn’t have on hand with them.  Also, to increase our odds of getting selected for the show, we answered all Shark-Tank-related emails within minutes.

Wow!  That was a mouthful.  I can’t believe that after all this, I still have more to say on the matter.  Stay tuned for more . . .In the meantime, stay focused on your goals!