06 Manufacturing Sustainable and Multipurpose Children’s Footwear Domestically with Baubles + Soles’ Lisa Nguyen
In today’s episode, we chat with Lisa Nguyen from Baubles + Soles. We explore the environmental costs of conventional footwear manufacturing. We Learn one of the first dinner’s out with her new baby inspired Lisa to design an interchangeable bauble to give her daughter’s shoes a new look with a twist, how Lisa’s early childhood as a refugee and career in law led her to build a purposeful business that supports children in the developing world, how a decade-old pair of drugstore flip flops led Lisa to find her manufacturing partner in the United States, and why she thinks that paying more for domestic manufacturing may be more cost-effective in the long run.
If you want to Learn more about Lisa and her sustainable, and adorable footwear for toddlers, Visit baublesandsoles.com. Looking to buy a pair? Through the Heart + Soles fund, Lisa donates a part of the proceeds to support women and children vulnerable to trafficking in the developing world. You can follow along with Lisa on her mission to create shoes that are as practical and fashionable as they are sustainable, and to make momlife that much easier on Facebook Instagram or twitter.
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About the Host
I'm Jennifer Myers Chua. The Host and Producer of the Cost Of Goods Sold podcast. I'm an entrepreneur, a creative, a cookbook fanatic, mother. I have always been interested in hearing people's stories and I've been determined to change the world for as long as I can remember.
You'll find me at home in Toronto deconstructing recipes, listening to podcasts, enjoying time with friends or wandering alone through a big city. I'm excited to have you here. Let's do better, together.
Jennifer Chua: Hello, everyone. And welcome. You’re listening to cost of goods sold with Jennifer Myers Chua episode 06
In today’s episode, we chat with Lisa Nguyen from Baubles + Soles. We explore the environmental costs of conventional footwear manufacturing. We learn how one of the first dinners out with her new baby inspired Lisa to design an interchangeable bauble to give her daughter shoes and new look with a twist. How Lisa’s early childhood as a refugee and a career in law led her to build a purposeful business, to support children in the developing world. How a decade old pair of drugstore flip flops led Lisa to find her manufacturing partner in the United States and why she thinks that paying more for domestic manufacturing, maybe more cost-effective in the long run.
If you have a growing child in your home, you know that they may go through a dozen pair of shoes in a year. Some shoes are for one purpose some are for for one occasion, and most are only worn a handful of times before little one outgrows them. And while some footwear brands are exploring new materials and sustainability until Baubles + Soles, no one had focused on the years where we change pairs most often.
Founder, Lisa created a 100% recyclable and multipurpose toddler shoe from an innovative material of sea salt and soy. Less than 0.01% of shoes purchased in north America are made in north America. And the majority of shoes sold in north America are not recyclable. Many that claim to be a really just shoe redistribution programs. The shoes are collected and oftentimes shipped back overseas. Baubles + Soles participates in a closed loop recycling. With the intent to reduce the use of Virgin material and to keep those old shoes from becoming environmental waste. Each new pair is made with a percentage of recycled materials. They’re also low carbon footprint being manufactured domestically and being animal free. And with features like water resistance, they replace all of those single purpose shoes that are not suitable for both the playground and the party.
I met Lisa on Instagram when my little one was still a toddler and she has worn these shoes in every size as she’s grown, collecting the baubles and happily putting them on the next pair, as we size up, baubles are attractive to kids. They’re rainbows, mermaids, unicorns, hearts, things like that. And while I was drawn to Baubles + Soles for the sustainable nature of the shoes and the multi-purposeness. They have the added benefit of being really attractive to those looking for a high fashion shoe for their little one.
And Lisa’s career path might surprise you. She went to law school. She spent some time as a lawyer. And doing pro bono work in Southeast Asia. She spent a lot of time in the nonprofit space and advocacy and worked in entertainment with the Vietnamese community as well as a television host. But immediately before Baubles + Soles, Lisa was a first time mom. Working on understanding and navigating new motherhood and putting a lot of pressure on herself to go back to work immediately. She was on a flight just three weeks after giving birth, crossing the country and thinking about how she was going to make all of this work.
And like many of the founders that I’ve met with for this project, having a child completely changed Lisa’s perspective, and she began to look for something, something that could make an impact on the world, but also give her that freedom and flexibility to spend more time with her daughter.
Lisa Nguyen: And I remember, putting a lot of pressure on myself to go back to work immediately. That was definitely the catalyst for Baubles + Soles and it it just, yeah, my wheels, the wheels of my head, it was turning as I was looking for, how I can solve this conundrum of wanting to work and wanting to challenge myself professionally. But that at the same time, like not miss out on being in her life and seeing her every day and seeing all the milestones.
Jennifer Chua: A couple months later on an evening out with her family, Lisa had the idea that would change everything. It’s a great story. And I’m going to let her tell it. Because Lisa is a really wonderful person with a huge heart, and she’s just brimming with optimism. She’s incredibly determined. She’s creative and caring, and she’s really hopeful for the future.
Lisa Nguyen: I think everybody’s engineered for good and engineered for contribution. And, not only are we capable, I think it’s, it’s in our DNA. It’s just whether or not that part of us is ignited by the people around us, by what’s happening now in our world. You know?
Jennifer Chua: We’ve talked a lot about your past before and all of the wonderful things you’ve done in your career. To support social purpose really? Is there a moment that stands out in your mind where you can remember when you first became interested in doing this, like using your life to give back?
Lisa Nguyen: Growing up, I. I’ve always had a very strong sense of civic, duty like I think, even before I was academically excelling. I was always an average student, but I would always be the kid that would like, if there’s a tap, like a bubbler in Australia, we call it a bubble, which is like a drinking station. If there was a tap that was like slightly like running, I would run over and close it. Or if there was a kid who was struggling, I’d always want to be that person to, to help that kid along. So I remember like in primary school I got the award for the. The citizenship award, I guess it’s the award where you help others. I was not expecting it. I had no idea how it happened. I was a wallflower, that was really interesting to actually think back about that. And I had forgotten about that actually. But, like I said, I think that the desire to contribute and to leave this world a slightly better place than, than how you found it. I think that it’s, in all of us. It’s just whether or not, we are mindful of it. And then whether or not we surround ourselves with people who like have these conversations and remind us all the time. Like when I speak to you, Jen, I’m, I feel inspired to like, like, Oh, gosh. Yeah, we gotta be thinking about that again. I think it’s, it’s there in all of us.
Jennifer Chua: Can you talk a little bit about your past in terms of your legal career, a brief overview of what you’ve done for people all over the world.
Lisa Nguyen: I actually grew up in Australia. My mother and I left to Vietnam on a boat and we spent a week at sea. And then we went to Hong Kong where we lived in a refugee camp for three years. And so that is definitely a defining part of me growing up, I think. And some of the, like my characteristics, I, I definitely have a very strong sense of survival because I think we’ve really had to vote for that. Then we immigrated to Australia, on a humanitarian visa and the Australian government took us in, I was eight at the time. And then I grew up in Australia. I was never academic, but then I guess at one point, you have a couple of teachers who just really just change your life and make you believe that you can. And I was hanging out with like really nerdy girls. So then all of a sudden being smart was really cool. And it was something that I’m like, okay, well, I could. Try this. So I tried to do really well at school and got into the best law school actually in Australia, Sydney university. And I was working in banking and finance litigation, I guess, immediately after I graduated and between my, law degree and my master and I can definitely see that life and where it would go. But there definitely was a moment where I thought, gosh, life has to be more extraordinary than this. And I definitely remember a moment when, we were acting for the bank, the firm that I was working with and somebody was on the phone, I guess, the person whose house was up for sale because he defaulted on his mortgage. And I remember he was crying on the phone to me and I was, I had so much empathy for him, but then the clock was also ticking because that those were billable hours and I had to, like, it had to continue. And I just, and in the end he would have to pay for that. Like once the bank takes his house and sells that he pays for those hours. Right. And so I just. It really went against, what I, what I felt like I wanted in my life. I, just wanted something just a little bit more humane.
I was fired at the first firm and then the second firm that I was at it was really great, but then I kind of asked them if I could just go away for four full months. I think I asked at the time, and the partner, he said, yes. And he said, come back, you always have your job here. And then I went and then I never came back. So I went to the Philippines where we did pro bono legal work for refugees and stateless people that like very similar to my mother and I were, I think they just came a little bit later on and they miss, a deadline to enable them the resettlement. So I was there, what turned out four months turned out to be over a year. And then I was offered the job as executive director of that organization in Washington, DC, and hence the move to DC.
Jennifer Chua: And why does sustainability matter to you? Do you have any experiences that shaped you in terms of sustainability?
Lisa Nguyen: I think growing up in like on an Island, like Australia, it’s the smallest continent, but largest Island. I think that we we were ingrained us children to be very mindful about the environment. It’s definitely it, I think in Canada, it’s the same, the emphasis on sustainability was huge in Australia.
We were encouraged to not buy bottled water. Because Sydney tap water is good enough to bottle. That was the slogan of the ads. We were taught to really just be mindful of the environment. And so I grew up with that mentality. And I knew when when Baubles + Soles came up, I knew we had to do something that was better than what is currently available right now. If you’re going to bring a new product to market, like, how is it better than the competitors? Like, what are your convictions like? Why you, the new guy, and not somebody who’s being around, with a lot of marketing budget behind them. At the same time, it was also like, I, was making this pair of shoe for my baby girl. So it better damn be the best possible pair of shoes I could make for her because she deserves it. So that was kind of, sustainability for me. Like I, that had to be a part of this product.
Jennifer Chua: Can you tell me the story of coming up with the idea for Baubles + Soles and moving this idea forward into an actual business?
Lisa Nguyen: It happened on the 30th of September. 2016. And we were heading out to dinner. When your new parents dinner is at 5:00 PM, so it could have been happy hour, but you know, dinner, it was and Kaia was nine months at the time, 10 months. She had this pair of shoes and it had like a big red hot on it. It was a gift from a friend and I, and that was the only pair of shoes she had at the time. I didn’t want to buy more because I knew that she was going to grow out of it like immediately. But then like there was this pair of shoes that she’s wearing every single day of all the time. And it’s so recognizable because this heart is so huge.. And I remember looking at her shoes and thinking, gosh, I wish I could just take that heart off and like put on another animal or I do something else so that it doesn’t look like she has the same pair of shoes. But at the same time, it would go with all of her outfits and that was it. Like it came to us very quickly. The drive to dinner was only about 10 minutes. And in that 10 minutes I was talking to my husband and I was like, gosh, you know what, this is what we’re going to do. Like that’s how it’s going to be done. The reason why I remember the date so clearly is because I took a photo of the, all of our shoes that day. When we arrived at the restaurant, I took a photos of her shoes, my shoe, and my husband’s shoe together. And I said, I want to remember this day because I think it’s so special and exciting. That was when the idea kind of first came to mind and it took a couple of months to set everything in place, just, flushing out the ideas, looking at how we can make the shoes, looking at how to design the Twistlock. It took me 18 months before it launched to market. Like it took a long time to, to come up with the prototypes. I could definitely go into the whole story about the R and D for the brand, but , that’s basically what happened when we, I came up with the idea.
Jennifer Chua: Can you walk us through how you’re different from other shoe companies?
Lisa Nguyen: Firstly, we are sustainably, made in America. It’s made off a bio-based material that is predominantly soy as in soy milk and salt. And so therefore it’s extremely soft and mushy and it’s machine washable. They get really dirty these shoes and you can throw them in the wash with your clothes and they come out brand new, which I love. I love that. Especially as a mother. We don’t realize that you can’t just throw any pair of shoes in the wash because some shoes that are plastic, for example, will melt and and some just don’t come out looking the same. Our shoes are machine washable, which I think, in light of hygiene and everything that’s going on in the world, I think that’s a great thing. Of course, when you have kids, that’s very important.
And then finally, it is interchangeable in the sense that you can change out the top, the decoration on top to go with different outfits and occasions. So you can take it off and just wear the shoes on its own and be at the playground and get it dirty and everything is fine. And then you can wash it and pop on a bauble and take her shopping. Or if you’re going to a wedding, then put on a pom pom and she’s going to look so cute. I also wanted to focus very much on the experience. We made the box so that they could be reusable and, everything is definitely being thought of. And we’re always improving and there there’s always things that we want to do better, but. It’s the shoes with hearts and there are two hearts on the shoes. It comes with already a pair of heart baubles so, it’s a nod to the original shoe that inspired the brand. I think we put a lot of heart into the making of it.
Jennifer Chua: Often people refer to Baubles + Soles as a minimalist shoe because they are so multi-purpose like they’re water shoe, a dress-up shoe, a daycare shoe, a play shoe they’re a number of things in one. Which one of these things was the most important to you? The multipurposeness, the social good, which we have to get into still, or the sustainable materials? Recyclability. What, what was your focus in the beginning?
Lisa Nguyen: Some of those things. Overlap with each other. So for me, I think it’s, and a very smart person once told me, but it’s just one shoe from playground to party. And that would be you, Jenn, we trademarked that. And so I think that that’s the most important element of the shoe is that it’s just the one shoe that goes from playground to party. But because of that one shoe, you are not leaving 10 pairs of shoes in landfill, which then speaks to the sustainability. And then that also speaks to the multi-purpose of the shoe, the ability to use it for different occasions. So I think that that’s probably the defining thing about the brand.
We had another slogan, it was one shoe, endless possibilities, but really it’s playground to party, really like it summarizes up this brand so beautifully and it speaks to the interchangeability, it speaks to the sustainability. And then it also speaks to the playfulness of being a child. Like when you’re a kid, I mean, what are your memories? Like it’s going to be at the playground or going to see your friends for play dates. At least that’s what we hope for our children. Right. And so, yeah, it just encapsulates the brand beautifully.
Jennifer Chua: So if someone has managed to destroy a pair of Baubles + Soles, and they want to send them into be recycled, how does that work?
Lisa Nguyen: We do have a a program whereby we can take back old shoes. And actually if they’re, completely destroyed and there’s no way to repurpose them, then they can be grinded down and made into new shoes. In fact, I want to say that each pair of shoes uses either 25 or 75% of like old material and new material is only is like a proportion of it. I certainly didn’t engineer all of that. We were very lucky to partner with a factory in America that does that. But it is so perfect and we feel so grateful.
Jennifer Chua: As a mother, I do know how many pairs of shoes a child goes through per size, of course, but also per occasion. So I really do appreciate that Baubles + Soles, at least in my case, or in our case here at home were placed like six pairs of shoes at once. So I just love that so much. With conventional footwear for children. Why are our shoe buying habits so problematic?
Lisa Nguyen: Everybody loves shoes. It’s just one of those things, we love our shoes, especially if you’re a woman it’s in your DNA. I don’t know. But I think the problem that we are solving is that, especially when they’re growing so fast and they’re changing so much, you don’t need 10 pairs of shoes of a size five, and then then 10 pairs of shoes in a size six three months later. You really absolutely don’t and they don’t need it. And I think that people need to be mindful that, these shoes that we buy, then they grow out of so quickly, like that, that will eventually end up in landfill, where it will sit there for thousands of years.
I have seen images of, of like shoes in landfill, as we were doing some research for the company and we never participate in that kind of marketing, like the guilt marketing, it’s just not the way that I’m engineered. I don’t like to kind of make too many references to that and then, but focus on, what it offers like the good things. However, I do think that if we do see If we do see the shoes in landfill, I think that we would think twice and it is just about mindfulness.
Jennifer Chua: Your shoes are made domestically, they’re made in the United States. How many companies are doing that? Like how, why are shoes not made domestically more often? Why are we always going overseas?
Lisa Nguyen: well, so like 0.01% of shoes are still made in America. Of shoes that have purchased in America, and with children’s shoes, it’s even less than that. Obviously it’s a cost. It’s a cost factor for sure. We could have chosen a different route, which would have made that like our cost of goods sold a lot less. But then at the end of the day, I think that it’s this like, well, do you add the human factor to that cost of goods sold when you’re, doing your spreadsheet of numbers?
Our shoes is a one-piece construction and it’s great. The buckles and the Velcros don’t fall off. But unfortunately there is a downside to that. Like when a child has like slightly chubbier feet, it’s a little bit harder to get into the shoe, but so the reason why we made it a one-piece construction is because the shoe is not handmade because if it’s hand made in America it’s going to be really hard cost-wise. I invested in tooling for the shoes and so it’s injection molded. So when only a machine is injection molding, then the cost goes down dramatically for us. Adding Velcro or buckles, the cost would have been exorbitant and we wouldn’t have been able to do it, but when we’re talking about like made in America, like some of the things that we’ve had to do to to cut costs, they are also perks to it, but you know, there were also some downsides.
Jennifer Chua: I’d like to talk a little bit more about your manufacturing, because it’s something that people ask me about all the time and I don’t have the information because I’m not actually manufacturing anything. Can you tell me the story about how you managed to find a manufacturing partner in the United States?
Lisa Nguyen: Sure. So when I was living in DC and working for a nonprofit, I remember going to CVS, CVS. Yes. And I found these flip-flops and they were made in America and they were machine washable and they were the right price. And I was like, wow, this is fantastic. So I would wear this flip-flop everywhere. And I still have photos of me during those years. And it’s like, I’m always in those flip-flops like everywhere with everything like fancy dresses, just yoga clothes, like all the time. And I would buy the shoes for my like friends. For my parents back in Australia for my sister and then my boyfriend at the time who now is my husband, thankfully. I would always gift the shoe. And so when the opportunity came to make the shoe in America, they came to mind, for sure. So I just cold called them. I called, I Googled the factory and I called them and immediately they were like, yes, we do private manufacturing and private labeling. And that was kind of like the beginning of that journey. I mean, they do not always take on startups, so it took a lot of persuasion and follow-ups to have them give us a chance. But I was very lucky because the president of the brand the factory, she at the time had a four year old. So she knew what we were doing. And because of her, it was really the reason why we landed on the manufacturing relationship. Everything great that’s ever happened to this company. It’s been because the person on the other side of the line had a young daughter in our age range at the time.
Jennifer Chua: And they saw the value.
Lisa Nguyen: Yes.
Jennifer Chua: Are there any benefits other than carbon footprint and the local economy to manufacturing in the United States, like in terms of holding stock or lead time.
Lisa Nguyen: Yeah. So exactly. When you talk about margins, the effective margins of a brand like ours is actually even is better than, than if we had had it imported because you’re not losing, a month at sea, import export. You are not losing a very long turnaround time for the shoes when they’re made here in America, I could place an order and have a very big batch made like within a week. My cost of goods sold for the money that is kind of sitting in inventory is not sitting at sea. It’s not sitting, in customs. So, yes, there are some really fantastic benefits. And I know in our media kit, like we talk about like how much diesel we save from not having these shoes ship in from, from overseas. So, all of those things are amazing. And another thing is the material is also a US patented US made material, the bio based material that’s being certified by USDA. So like all of those things, I think just make the shoes so special and, it’s, it’s near and dear to my heart for sure.
Jennifer Chua: As conscious small business owners, a lot of us have been trying to create systems and products that help create less waste and your shoes are truly minimalist and have done so, and one of the things that I would like to mention is that they’re vegan. So in terms of sustainability, they’re not made with animal byproducts, which I think to a lot of people is important as well.
Lisa Nguyen: That is absolutely right. In fact, my sister-in-law she’s vegan and raising her children vegan. I was a vegetarian for a very long time. I’m not anymore, unfortunately, but one day we’ll go back there. But yes, the shoes are vegan which you know more about the products than I do.
Jennifer Chua: If we want to make an impact, we can do so in a number of different ways. And I just love that your products tick so many of those boxes that people would be interested in. So someone that maybe isn’t as concerned about, what your giving back program may be more concerned about like vegan materials. So that’s, that’s wonderful.
Lisa Nguyen: I think it’s just about being very intentional with what you’re bringing into the world. And, and my thing is always, if it can be better than what’s out there right now. Because of this point or because of something else that you trying to put into your product, I think that that’s the world needs more kindness and love, right? So then it just needs more people making products with kindness and love and understanding what’s out there and understanding what, what else they can do to make the current status quo better.
Jennifer Chua: I wanted to talk about your big dream in the beginning days. Do you remember, or could you tell me about the first thing that you were really proud of and why
Lisa Nguyen: Oh, no, I think that first day when we came up with the idea, it came really quickly. So that was lovely. I certainly like when I was telling my close friend about the idea and I was like explaining what it would be and what it would like do. And then I was like, and it’s going to be called Baubles + Soles and she was like, I still remember her reaction to that. And then another friend was like, Oh my God, you’ve hit your million dollar idea, but I think it’s, it’s that response to this concept at the beginning, that was really exciting. Obviously, the realities of being in the footwear industry is harder than those initial days of dreaming. And, obviously we dreamt about being on Shark Tank because when you come up with an idea for a product that’s what you want to be. But for me, the proudest I think I am most proud of executing the product of my dream.
This is the idea, and this is the thing that we want it to be. And then to make it a reality, that’s probably my greatest joy and achievement as I think about the brand. And as, as I think about the amount of time that I’ve invested in it, I think that there are some exciting things on the horizons, but yeah. It’s, it’s definitely been a great joy and a huge sense of pride.
Jennifer Chua: And you have had some big wins, like you’re in countries. Countries all over the world.
Lisa Nguyen: Yes, there are some big wins. And then obviously to be able to be on Shark Tank with my family, I, I couldn’t bring out seven month old at the time. Cause that would have been just like absolutely disastrous. But, my Kaia, the one that inspired the shoe, she was there with us in the tank and then to be in there with my husband and to take him along on this ride, it was great. And then the fact that we walked out of there with a deal when we almost did not like that was all, like, I am so grateful. And I think that all of this happened for us, just, I think it’s because of the karma and the Goodwill that we’re trying to put out there in the community. I mean, it’s not always easy fighting the good battle and trying to be, quote unquote, good. Sometimes, it, it sometimes feels like it’s easier to do the easy thing. But I think with Baubles + Soles, we’ve tried very hard to do the right things and, we’ve had some really great wins.
Jennifer Chua: Are there any other ways that you use Baubles + Soles to affect social change?
Lisa Nguyen: We do make a donation of our profit back to a charity. That’s not something that I like to talk overly about just because I feel like that shouldn’t be the reason why people buy the brand. That’s not the marketing message for us over here for us. It’s about the sustainability and about the one shoe from playground to party and then anything else that we do above and on top of that is, it’s, it’s something that we do within our family. Oh, and you can match with your little girl, we have a partnership. So then there are these mommy and me shoes. How cute is that?
Jennifer Chua: From the beginning built into this business, it looks like giving back was always going to be a part of Baubles + Soles. I was just wondering if you wanted to comment on the heart and souls fund.
Lisa Nguyen: We, make a donation to a charity that educates children. I have always been involved with the education of children. I know that sounds so fru fruit, but, Senhoa is a charity that I helped found it and it’s still very close to my heart. It’s something that we still work on as with my board of directors. And so we do donate a percentage of our profits, to Senhoa In our efforts to educate children who are at risk of sexual abuse and human trafficking.
Jennifer Chua: I think that’s a really big problem that people don’t understand. And I applaud you so much for giving back in that area.
In your journey through Baubles + Soles, have you encountered any really big challenges that were like huge learning lessons for you?
Lisa Nguyen: When we came up with the idea we were looking for Like an engineer, a designer, an industrial designer to help us with it. And we met a person who I guess. We were going to hire him to do the design of the Twistlock. But he was so enamored by the idea that he wanted to be an investor, turned into an investor. Looking back, I think that it would have been much easier had we just paid for him to design the shoe just because, getting an idea from idea to execution. It’s, it’s a lot of hard work and there’s a lot of , Falling down before you stand up. It was very difficult those early days of trying to get the project off the ground.
I think the message definitely is like, believe that you can, don’t think that anybody else is going to be the answer to your problem. No, that you can, with enough determination. The learning lesson there definitely is that, you can, and you will, and like there’s no Knight in shining armor coming to rescue you. You are your knight in shining armour.
Jennifer Chua: Was there ever a point in building Baubles + Soles where you didn’t feel so confident about this? Like, was there ever a point when you felt really differently?
Lisa Nguyen: Yes for sure. I mean, there would definitely that’s when you were like, okay, we had never going to be able to engineer this. Twistlock like, it’s never going to happen. And I think Jen, you also witnessed a lot of the early stages of that, when we did make it happen, but it was just a lot of back and forth about, about getting this product right. I feel like we are definitely there now where like, we’re at a point where, okay, it’s right. But for a long time, there that was a challenge because we needed this mechanism to be cheap enough to produce so that we can price it accordingly. I didn’t want the baubles to cost as much as a new pair of shoes that would go against the purpose of this company. It needed to be affordable so that you can pick up a few baubles and then just use that one pair of shoes. But then at the same time, it was like, it needs to have the clearance so that it’s not so high. So the bauble doesn’t sit so high from the shoe. And then it needed not be dangerous for the kids.
So for example, everybody’s like, have you ever used magnets? Yes, we have thought about magnets, but what, if that magnet detaches from the shoe and a baby eats that, it was just, it wasn’t a risk that we were willing to take. So yes, there was definitely a time when we were like, we had never going to be able to make this happen.
Jennifer Chua: Could you just give me a little bit more insight into what the Twistlock is? Just in case someone doesn’t understand.
Lisa Nguyen: The baubles, the decoration on top, is attached to the shoes using a push and twist lock mechanism. So very similar to a medicine cap. Basically, it’s got a rubber spring for you to push down and then you twist it into place. And then it goes into a cavity that then locks it into place.
We actually just got the patent issued, which is awesome. And that’s how you detach and attach a bauble to the shoe. That took a long time to design and get right. And luckily we had another engineer who’s Canadian who helped us with the final prototype and he actually helped us in a friend capacity. And I always say to myself, one day when I sell this company, I need to make sure that I compensate him and give him a percentage of it, because like, he was very much instrumental in helping us realize this dream of a Twistlock.
Jennifer Chua: So oftentimes speaking with the owners of product based businesses, I hear that they feel that it’s going to be cost prohibitive to manufacture domestically or manufacture close to home. And while definitely the costs are going to be different. If you choose to manufacture somewhere like China, there has to be other considerations taken into place as well. I was wondering if you could speak to things that you’ve learned from choosing the American manufacturing over Asia.
Lisa Nguyen: I was doing this research when we were preparing for Shark Tank and one of the things that a CEO that I was working with at the time she pointed out, listen, your effective margins is actually better than if you had manufactured it overseas. And here she is talking about the turnaround time for this product, the time that it, so you have to pay for these products, but then it sits at sea for a month before it gets to, to America. And also like we have the ability to maybe place a lower MOQ minimum order quantity when it’s made here domestically, because it doesn’t have to go so far. When you manufacture off shore, you have to plan out your inventory 6 to 12 months in advance, and then you order accordingly and then your cash goes out, as, as you’re waiting for it to come in. So in actual fact, your margins, like the margins is actually higher than you realize because of the amount of time that it takes and how much money you have sitting in inventory. And then you have to sell out of the inventory. For us here. We have the flexibility of a lower MOQ minimum order quantity and so then our effective margin is actually I think if not lower than the same as if we had chosen to make it. Off shore. If you think about the cost of goods sold and there maybe you add marketing, because people feel good about that. And, and people feel like quality is there because it is made here. So then that’s actually a little bit of marketing funds that’s already built into the product.
Jennifer Chua: And I wanted to bring this up because of other small business owners that may be listening to this, to take that into consideration because if you have 50,000 units made or this massive amount of product made overseas and they’re shipped here and then they’re sitting in a warehouse they’re defective or degrading or not selling, and you have to dispose of them that needs to be taken into consideration as well. Like what’s going to happen to your goods that aren’t selling financially or otherwise. Like, what are those costs?
Lisa Nguyen: Without, feeling like this is bashing off shore produced products, I do know that you need to build in a certain amount of RMAs, like defective Products in your cost of goods sold when you are looking at products that are produced off shore. I mean, We have RMAs for the shoes too. For example, if the injection molding, like if it just didn’t run through the cavity properly, but I can tell you that percentage of that is like, I like a fraction of some of the RMA issues that we experienced with the parts of our products that are made overseas. It’s just a reality of, mass manufacturing. To the extent that it is when it’s done off shore, you don’t have as tight of a quality control. And like, by the time it reaches America, it’s like, well, there’s no recourse for you really. You’ve already spent that money, and it’s, definitely . Something to keep in mind.
Jennifer Chua: Some really fabulous publications have featured Baubles + Soles, and everybody is focusing on you and your spirit of never giving up, which is amazing. But I had noticed that in the Shark Tank episode, when I watched it, they did not mention the sustainability or recyclability of your product. Do you know why they made that choice?
Lisa Nguyen: We were in the tank for, I believe an hour and a lot of things were discussed during that time. I actually wanted to spend some of that air time talking about postpartum depression and bringing just a little bit of light to that because I did struggle for a little bit there after I had my first baby girl with just my identity and like, who am I? And I’m this different person from, I was before, but then I also wanted to do the things that I was doing before. So it was like definitely going through an interesting period. And I, I spoke about that in the tank that I had hoped would be picked up in the final edit. In the end, it was eight minutes, that they took of the one hour that we were in the tank. And we definitely talked about sustainability. I think though, my episode, the spirit of never giving up was probably strongest of all the things that was discussed when we were in the tank. And so that was what they really focused on when we were there. We spent a lot of time. We talked about my past. We talked about like living in a refugee camp. They were really interested in that. We talked about, my grandfather and how he shaped, a lot of things that were talked about. And They, in the end there was just a time. And I think that the, the Shark Tank message is obviously the unwavering spirit of an entrepreneur.
And what came out of our episode just fits that messaging so perfectly. So that was what was in the end, the final edit not to say that, that they don’t care about sustainability, I know, obviously people feel differently about Shark Tank and especially those who have been on. I loved the experience and every single minute of it, I am so grateful and like it’s definitely a claim to fame for my husband and my little daughter. She got her first paycheck at a Shark Tank because they had to pay all of the extras. So she had like, I dunno, a hundred dollars or something for her time. It’s it was an incredible journey for us. And honestly, if you get to work with the producers, you’ll find that they are definitely there for the American dream for the entrepreneur. And it’s very obvious when, when you’re working with the producers and when you meet the sharks, Like, they’re actually not that as scary in-person as the editing makes it out to be. I have to tell you it’s, I mean, that’s drama for TV, but they’re actually honestly quite nice. I mean, we experienced obviously rejections when we were in the tank, but they were generally overall very nice to us. So we had an we were very grateful for the journey and the experience.
Jennifer Chua: Getting a business off the ground and getting it to the level where you’re now, you won’t be able to do that on your own and well, I’m sure that you’ve had blood, sweat, tears, DIY in your journey. I was wondering what you chose to outsource who you brought in initially, or where you found the support that it took to move your business to the next level.
Lisa Nguyen: I think that when it comes to making things like tooling and, and. Like extremely technical things like assets that you really have to invest in that I think it’s best to go to the the experts in their field to do that. Other than that I think that you are capable of anything that you put your mind to. So there are now a million outsource Outlets or platforms, that you can really find people to help you with areas that are not your expertise. But what I think is important to realize is that you are in the driver’s seat. You, are the answer you’ve been waiting for. As long as you have the determination and the will to execute on your idea. Then there are tons of resources out there, not crazily expensive, like an Upwork or Fiverr that can help you, cover areas where maybe you don’t have skill sets.
What is something that the world needs more of and what is something that the world needs less of?
Oh, goodness. I mean, this is just setting me up for giving you that world peace answer. I mean, how can you not, but honestly, you know, definitely love and kindness. I just feel like if we just put out into the world, the energy of more love and more kindness. That’s definitely going to just move the world in the right direction. What does the world need? Less of? I think it’s negativity. I’m sick of the negativity. I think that the message, there are two, the first is, always inspire towards good, aim for good, and for kindness, and for better than what is currently existing. And then the second is that you are the answer like you are it, and you are enough. You are the person who’s going to make that happen. And if you have the will and the determination, then you will.
Jennifer Chua: If you want to learn more about Lisa and her sustainable and adorable footwear for toddlers, visit baublesandsoles.com. Looking to buy a pair? Through the heart + souls fund. Lisa donates a part of proceeds to support women and children vulnerable to trafficking in the developing world. You can follow along with Lisa on her mission to create shoes that are as practical and fashionable as they are sustainable and to make #momlife that much easier on Facebook at baublesandsolesUSA or Instagram and Twitter at baublesandsoles.