Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in consumer products, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Leslie Brooks, president at Hippo Hug Inc., in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Tell us all about your business...
Hippo Hug is a weighted blanket company with a heart. Every blanket we ship is handcrafted in our shop and made specifically with the customer in mind. We started in 2011 as a small home-based business that made 60 blankets in our first year. We have expanded to a full-fledged manufacturing operation based in Calgary, shipping blankets across Canada and the U.S.
In 2016, Hippo Hug saw colossal growth, completing over 500 blankets and moving into manufacturing space. We have ten employees and owner Leslie Brooks full-time at the helm. Everyone at Hippo Hug loves helping people find a solution. We are committed to making sure a weighted blanket will work for you and finding the size and weight that will fit you best. Whether you have restless legs, anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain, or insomnia, we care about why you want a blanket. We want you to call and ask a million questions or borrow a blanket to see if it works for you because we pride ourselves on compassion and customer service.
What's your background and motivation to grow as a solopreneur?
I have always had an affinity for empathy for as long as I can remember. Caring for and understanding people's needs is something that people say is my superpower. Ten years ago, I had a client that needed a weighted blanket and the ability to sew. I said to my husband, "Maybe I should do this?" It seemed an ideal way to stay home with my young son and have extra income for the family while using my creativity and fulfilling my desire to help people. I started with a small goal of 10 blankets; that year, the first year of production, I did 120. I saw the need was expanding beyond the special needs community, and growth in orders was steady.
I began to hire contractors to ease the workload, and in 2016, things took off with an article in Maclean's magazine.
From there, I decided to leap leasing a dedicated manufacturing space and showroom, which opened in late 2016, a perfect way to celebrate five years in business.
My motivation each day comes from the people that we help at Hippo Hug, hearing stories of the widow whose grief was soothed by one of our blankets or the transgender child whose transition was eased with the comfort of a weighted animal.
I always say people before profit and helping people is more reward than any paycheck.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Being one of 300 recipients out of over 3000 applications for the Women's Entrepreneurship Fund from the Canadian Federal government. That and creating jobs and keeping all my staff employed during a global pandemic with fair wages and full health benefits
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a solopreneur?
STRESS - The burden of decision-making and financial responsibility can be crippling at times. As a person who feels so deeply for humankind, the toll of knowing my decisions and actions can affect the livelihoods of my staff is enormous. But I make sure to keep communication open but my mental health in the picture and take care of myself.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Do it at your own pace, don't feel pressure to do more than you can. It may take longer to get to the goals that others see as indicators of success, but you are going into it for yourself.
- Brag about and be proud of your achievements. You work hard and should not feel bad for reaping the rewards
- Stay true to your values and principles. Be strong and push back when needed; you are your company's best advocate.
Where can people find you?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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