In Conversation with Nicki Radzely of Doddle & Co
Describe your business in a few words?
We love our babies. We want to love their stuff. Products today are complicated, clumsy, and not hygienic. We’re making the things we want; essential, innovative, and smart tools, solving small frictions only parents can appreciate. Beginning with our award winning and patented pacifier, The Pop.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
A great idea that thrilled me to pieces. It was a big enough vision that I would sacrifice for it. That’s when I knew that I was ready to build it.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Pharma advertising, pharma sales, hospital administration. Nothing to do with baby goods! But I pull on my life and previous work learnings to help me see what to do and I have people to reach out to, which is critical.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I think I wanted to be independent and an expert in something. I love to build ideas and make them come to life. I love to lift people up. I believe that entrepreneurship requires grit and empathy. I’m lucky that I had just enough strife in my life to make me decent at both.
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 plan was to build the business in boutiques across the country. I believe that they understand their customer best, make shopping personal and because of these inherent traits, they create trends. We did go this route as well as 4 other channels but this was most important.
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?
I’ve truly learned that our customers, these babies, are the number one priority. Our colors, our branding isn’t going to make that baby happy. However, to get to them we go through parents, typically moms first. If we can’t soothe your baby, in turn, it will make Mom’s life more difficult and then we are not doing our job. In 2017, after we launched, it came to our attention that we could make the design better, and satisfy more babies and their parents. It ended up being a huge pivot but we made it. For a small business, inventory management is a big deal and the sheer cost to shift to a new strategy was challenging. I’ve never done this before and the mechanics of pivoting is tough and scary. Plus managing a team and trying to keep all the balls in the air while putting out fires makes for an amazing challenge and thus a lesson.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
There is always Shark Tank, and that makes me extremely proud. Thousands of people apply who are far better and more deserving than I am. But honestly, it’s the fact that I can physically see our products in a national store – it gets me every time. To have seen this as a drawing, a prototype, a product; then to see in store floods me with pride and humility. That surprise and delight will never be lost on me.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I love asking a question that goes like this: “Monday morning, myself of Janna forward you an email and ask, “Could you read the below and figure this all out?” Let’s say that is something totally out of their wheelhouse. I’d like to hear where their mind goes. It’s important to me that everyone has a scrappy nature and won’t add work on to my plate or anyone on the team. Google practices this same idea. We like do’ers and thinkers!
- Listen closely if they speak negatively even in small and humorous ways about their previous employer and anyone in general.
- Ask recommendations that you need such and such person, and you know they are fit for the job but you’d like to know a true blue weakness. Not a weakness that is also a strength… those don’t count here!
- The candidate may seem completely qualified for the role, but take a step back and make sure you like them. Not just “okay,” but you have a sense of trust, personality fits with yourself and team. The space to say, you’re doing a great job but you also need to improve in these areas. If you can’t be honest then you can’t be respected to the level you need to in order to run a company. Much easier said than done.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
It has largely changed our model and focus. A huge part of our business relies on brick and mortar. From larger corporations to the boutiques and everything online. So as doors closed, online became busier. We knew that on day 1. This was easy for us to switch gears and focus in on our online business and bump up our marketing needs. We are considered an essential product and this is definitely helpful at this time! Also, our team was built over Skype/Zoom and we work from our homes across the country while raising our small children, so this part was less of an issue to get used to.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
New innovative products in the baby care category! We are interested in all the little points of friction or lost time between a parent and their child from ages 0-18 months old. So, with that in mind, we design our hearts out. We own enough patents and have endless ideas on how to solve every little instance. So look out in 2021!
The Doddle will become a staple in the baby industry. We are here to find and solve problems and manifest those solutions into beautiful and clever products.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Being nimble has paid off.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
- How to read a balance sheet (ha!)
- There is an art to hiring.
- A good negotiator listens.
- A good leader isn’t in front and on top. They are behind and beneath, supporting and pushing their team.
- Know where to spend money and when to stop.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Taking personal days. I took my first one in November and it feels amazing! It’s relieving and relaxing to remind myself not to check email and not to worry. It feels like I am skipping school, but I think it’s necessary. Especially for people who have always worked from home but now home is a full house. Having a ritual, I believe, is a perfect way to ground oneself.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I do not 😉 I think the search for balance is the balance. I only have two speeds, so this is very difficult. The closest I’ve come is guarding my time and realizing when to say no. What are your boundaries, is the question to ask yourself, in both work and in life.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
Ha! I was a very bad student and an even worse employee!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Coffee, music, and an achievable to-do list. Give yourself some credit. Sometimes I complete a little task (sent returns back!) and I’ll scribble it down on my to-do list and then immediately check it off. Sometimes you just need to see what you’ve done to feel good about where you spent your time. Getting shit done!
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
An entrepreneur is defined as a person who organizes and operates a business, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so. An Entreprenista, or at least this one, takes those same risks to each area of the business and it involves emotions, smarts, insecurities, limits, personal sacrifices and the capacity to know that failing is very real. The odds are stacked against you moments after you have any kind of win. What that means to me, is that I can leverage all of my complexities and all of my learnings to gain a lesson that nothing else in life can reveal to me, because nothing else takes the culmination of oneself and simultaneously tests it to the brink. It’s an honor to have that kind of fight in life.