How Maradith Frenkel turned bamboo into pajamas for the whole family with Little Sleepies
Describe Little Sleepies in a few words?
We make buttery soft bamboo sleepwear that your whole family will love.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I saw a white space in the market after I had my son. I absolutely could not find a sleeper that checked all of the boxes I wanted: Soft, cute, functional, and affordable. I was also struggling with the fact that cotton jams were irritating his eczema. I decided to start researching fabric and samples, and obsessed over the details for about 18 months. I ultimately launched the company as an experiment and ended up never looking back.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Before Little Sleepies, I spent my entire career in the movie industry. I used to be a studio executive at a major movie studio and oversaw feature films like Bridesmaids and Snow White & the Huntsman.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes! I started my first business when I was around six. I used to stop cars on the street outside of my house with a branch and charge them a “toll” to pass. (It worked, lol). I supported myself during college and during my first job working in a Hollywood mailroom by running a successful eBay store.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
My marketing strategy was really just based on my own experience knowing that moms love to share a great find with other moms. I had no actual marketing budget, so I was counting on organic word-of-mouth, and it worked!
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Everything in this business has been a learning curve, since I came into it knowing nothing about ecommerce, manufacturing, textiles, operations, marketing, etc. But I would say that my biggest (and most expensive) mistakes revolved around inventory forecasting in those first 18 months or so. We had entire months where we were out of stock. Because our supply chain is slow, it can make planning really challenging. While it’s still difficult to forecast the demand for new product launches, we’ve finally reached a place of inventory stability on our main product lines.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Nothing makes me happier than our jams being a small part of special moments and memories for families: Bringing a baby home from the hospital, meeting a sibling, first steps. I get chills every day from the notes, photos and videos we receive!
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
My entire team is permanently remote, so all hiring is done via Zoom. I love to ask where they see themselves in five years – those answers tend to be really insightful. I also like to focus on transitions between jobs or positions on their resume. Did they leave one job for another because they were poached by a client or ex-colleague? I’ve realized that is a sign of a really strong employee.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our factories in China were shut down for several months at the beginning of the pandemic. It was a really scary time for the business and a great lesson in contingency planning and not having all of our eggs in one basket. We’re still feeling the impacts on the logistics side of things in a big way – the shipping industry is a mess right now, it’s hard to book containers, there are delays at every port, a shortage of truckers, etc.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We’re expanding our product lines every month, and we have something very big to share that’s launching in June. It’s still a surprise but stay tuned!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
My focus as a founder is pulled in a million directions every day. I’ve really learned to ask myself, “Will this issue matter in five years? Five months? Five hours?” and handle accordingly.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I wish I hadn’t waited so long to build out my team! I did everything by myself for way too long. Hiring amazing employees and learning to let go in certain areas has been a game-changer for me!
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
My kids keep me grounded and keep my priorities in check!
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I believe in it, but I’m definitely not achieving it yet. I’m still very much in the startup life mentality, so if I’m awake, I’m working. I’m trying to be better about stepping away on weekends where I can and building in some time to exercise every day! Definitely still a work in progress and a goal to find more balance.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I spent years taking trapeze lessons!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
1) Look at everything you’re doing through a work smarter, not harder filter.
2) Lists, lists, and more lists. Write everything down. Highlight the priorities.
3) Time blocking – I use the Pomodoro method where you batch your time into 25 minute increments. It really helps me get through an overwhelming to-do list.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista means supporting other female entrepreneurs to follow their dreams!