21 Creating innovative and developmentally-focused products for baby/toddler and the realities of counterfeits and intellectual property with ezpz’s Lindsey Laurain
Lindsey Laurain from ezpz turned the toddler feeding space upside down with a tip-proof all-in-one placemat and plate that suctions to the surface. In this episode, we learn how she’s created a mission-driven company that leads with innovation and input from pediatric experts, how an onslaught of copies and counterfeits of her products almost derailed her focus, how defending her intellectual property almost killed her business, and how she’s built a value-based business by focusing on the tiniest of bottom lines – meeting the developmental milestones of her customers.
If you want to learn more about Lindsey and her developmentally-focused products that make mealtime less about mess and more about fun visit ezpzfun.com. Have a little one in the home? The ezpz blog has a tonne of tips and strategies to help little one meet mealtime milestones. You can follow along with Lindsey on her mission to revolutionize how we feed children on Facebook or Instagram at ezpzfun
Links from this episode
- Cost Of Goods Sold e04 An Introduction: Rebuilding a Purposeful Business Based on Values with Hip Mommies’ Jennifer Myers Chua
- The video that started it all: Introduction to ezpz Happy Mat
- Fake baby products are everywhere—here’s how to spot the difference in Today’s Parent.
- Beware: Dangerous Counterfeit Toys for Your Baby Are Being Sold on Amazon. Inc Magazine
- Ezpz’s Rebuy Program, Relove & Recycling Program in Canada
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.
[00:02:12] Jennifer Chua: It took me over 20 episodes to make this one. And I think it’s fair to say that this is the episode that you should listen to if you have a product-based business. Particularly if you’re in the impact business base or a mission-driven, but this is definitely the episode to share. If you know, anyone who is starting or building a brand.
Because starting a business is exhilarating. It’s coming up with the idea and the design and building a team. Producing something, launching, even marketing. And this is what you’ll learn from any entrepreneur’s story about building something. But not every founder is willing to tell you what you were really going to need to know.
Back in episode four, I spoke about my introduction to this world and what I had learned about the big businesses built on copying products designed by independent creators with small startups. The astonishing breadth of the counterfeit industry and the speed that it moves. And how online marketplaces and sellers are creating turmoil for small businesses and really just the realities of launching a product.
In this digital world, everything can move at the speed of light except maybe the patent office. And along with Lindsay, I also had a very, very, very uncomfortable introduction to the world of patent law, legal teams. We’ll go into all of that in, in a bit.
[00:03:34] Jennifer Myers Chua: But what we also go into in this episode, These are the things that I guarantee you’re not thinking about when you’re starting a small business. We talk about how naive we both were. How hard it was to deal with the onslaught of counterfeits and seeing our kids used in the listings for the fakes.
How Lindsay and I, if I’m being honest, found herself in a very dark and unproductive place, trying to fight them off. We also learn how she spends her energy now and what she learned to focus on in order to go forward.
And also in episode four, I told the story of how I came to find Lindsay and ezpz, which is pretty remarkable. All the way back then in 2014, we partnered and have really gone on this journey. Building two successful businesses in tandem this whole time. And if you haven’t heard that episode, go back and listen, if you want to hear more of this backstory, because we’re not going to get into that here. But it took me until now a year into this project. To figure out how to tell this story, what the most useful parts of Lindsey’s story would be to someone developing products.
And after years now of walking the trade show aisles and browsing the web, meeting the buyers and seeing everything that’s come out in the children’s product space. I can say that there really isn’t another mission-driven company like ezpz. Integrity is such a big part of ezpz that Lindsey is famously known for turning down $1 million from two different sharks in the tank because of a gut feeling or a values misalignment.
And Lindsey never thought she’d be an entrepreneur. She was following the typical path and was settled into a career in corporate America. She didn’t have dreams of starting her own business, but what she did have was toddlers. Three of them. Lindsay’s all the son was three and her twins were two. And anyone who has been through mealtime with kids this age knows what a mess it can be. Chaos is the word that Lindsay uses when she remembers this time. Over dinner, one evening after cleaning up multiple tipped-over balls and spilled food. Lindsay’s husband Brad threw up his hands and said there has gotta be a better way. We have to create something that these kids can’t tip and toss.
[00:05:44] Lindsey Laurain: Nothing really existed in terms of a placemat in plate combination. There were suction cups, plastic bowls, but they all didn’t work and were terrible. And so really quickly, I honestly, the next day I got home and I taped a bowl to a piece of paper and I was like, I’m starting a company and creating a product. If anyone can do it, I can do it. And my personality is very all or nothing. I always say it’s a blessing and a curse. And I never looked back. And so I taped that bowl to a piece of paper. And then that was really the start of the journey back in 2014.
[00:06:16] Jennifer Myers Chua: Lindsey went to Google and began searching for potential materials for information on how to start a company. She picked up an inventor’s handbook and was spending her evenings looking at supplies, requirements and thinking about building a team. Before Lindsay had anything in development, She had this idea in her head that she wanted to create a really special company culture. She wanted the team she would build to enjoy the work. She wanted them to form tight bonds. Be close friends, as well as collaborators.
And only two weeks after the mealtime mess led Lindsay to think about creating a product. She reached out to her two best friends from middle school. Both were on maternity leave at the time and both agreed to help Lindsay start this business. Neither returned to their full-time jobs. Lindsey hired a creative lead and a speech-language pathologist and feeding therapist. And now seven years later, this team is still together. Having all been there since the beginning.
[00:07:12] Lindsey Laurain: I realized that I wanted to work with people I loved. If you enjoy the people you work with, it really doesn’t feel like work. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. If it’s work you love, if you don’t like, if you love the people you work with and the energy, it, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. And so at the very initial onset of ezpz, I was like, if I create a company, I want to have a great company culture and I want to work with my best friends.
[00:07:38] Jennifer Myers Chua: I asked Lindsay, what qualities she thinks that she has, that has led her to build such a successful company. She said that she’s always been competitive and driven and determined and passionate and positive. All traits that lend well to entrepreneurship. But beyond that, she’s honest, optimistic, a dreamer, a big thinker. And determined to use her life to create positive change.
[00:08:00] Lindsey Laurain: When I started, I was researching all of the materials available and just realized I fell in love with silicone really early on because it’s high quality, it’s built to last, so it doesn’t fade or deteriorate, it’s sustainable. You can literally pass it on to kids. And it’s safe, it’s inert and so mould or fungus doesn’t grow on it and you can put it in high temperatures and cold temperatures and it’s flexible. I just, I love silicone as a material. And so it was very important at the beginning to make products that were high quality and safe.
But then I realized really early on that unfortunately, not a lot of other companies do this I mean, they don’t pay attention to, whether, it’s the material, you know, there’s so much plastic out there, or just the design, the actual design and aesthetic people weren’t paying as much attention to. I knew there had to be a better way and it’s been a mission really, since we started off creating high-quality innovative products for kiddos.
[00:09:02] Jennifer Myers Chua: I assume a lot of this really developed after you met miss Dawn, but do you remember was it meeting Dawn that helped you become interested in developmental milestones and feeding or, or what is the moment that stands out in your mind?
[00:09:16] Lindsey Laurain: So Dawn is a speech language pathologist who has 25 plus years experience dealing with kiddos with all sorts of disabilities. So, a kiddo with autism or down syndrome or cerebral palsy. And so Dawn actually reached out to ezpz. We launched on Kickstarter. And at that time we just had the happy mat. So we had created the happy mat. Our mission is making safe products, but also at that time, it’s like less mess -more fun. I’m a mom of three boys. How can I simplify my life? Make a product that the kids aren’t going to toss and throw the bowl I can take the mat to the sink. It just is all about making life easier for mom and dad. So Dawn reaches out to us when we’re on Kickstarter. And at that time had said, I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I duct tape bowls to the table right now. This mat is going to change so many people’s lives. And I had no idea. Again, we created the mat because of our three messy neuro-typical boys.
And so getting that feedback early on, that the mats and the way they suctioned function or self seal to the table can have this benefit. Kiddos with cerebral palsy are eating for the first time. I mean life-changing effects not only for these kids, but for me a creator. I mean, to be able to touch people’s lives in that way. And the messages we got from parents about changing kids’ life. I mean, it was, and, you know, cause you were part of the journey at the beginning. It was so heartwarming and something I didn’t anticipate with ezpz. So at the beginning, again, that was more about making a difference in people’s lives.
How can we create a safer environment and these kiddos that have never been independent eaters now are able to eat somewhat independently. That was huge. Then quickly realizing when you start your company. Or when I started my company or anyone starts a company, you start to learn about the industry and how products are created.
And I realized very early on that people don’t focus on the design aspects of products. So I assumed as a mom, if you go into a store or if you’re shopping online, everyone has a speech language pathologist on their team. That’s developing products for kids in the feeding area. And I assumed, right? If you’re going into a store, like everyone’s thought about the size of the spoon head and how the cup size should be the perfect size for an infant. And I quickly realized that does not happen. No one’s paying attention, right? The spoons being sold at your big box store, that you go, or your grocery store. If you look at a spoon head, it’s huge and it’s being marketed towards six month olds. And so really quickly. And again, Dawn’s influence right note saying this isn’t appropriate. I quickly realized. Like this doesn’t exist and we deserve better. Parents deserve better. Kiddos deserve better. Like we need to be creating and giving tools to kiddos and families that can help these kids reach developmental milestones and be the appropriate size. It’s almost like you’re setting people up for failure, right? When you’re not paying attention to these designs. And no one is everyone just cares about making money, producing the cheapest thing, the most quantity you can sell and how much can you make? And so Dawn was a huge driver in that, but then also being a mom. And just realizing that this isn’t part of the normal design process for companies.
And again, there, there has to be a better way. So then switching our mission really from like less mess and let’s make people’s lives easier to, how can we make better products that are developmentally appropriate and really tailored for specific age ranges. And so it’s all about, I mean, it’s our whole mission of our company. Creating these innovative products to reach very specific developmental milestones.
[00:13:13] Jennifer Myers Chua: I’ve had the unique opportunity of learning more about your process and watching you launch new products over years now.
And I’ve learned to look at products in the store in a very different way because of your influence. Thank you. But could you tell me about the day that you realized that conventional feeding products may be less than ideal? Or why does the design of something like a spoon and that bowl size? Why does that really matter?
[00:13:38] Lindsey Laurain: Going back to being a mom and my assumption before I started ezpz that every product that is created is so thoughtfully designed and is tailored for what it’s marketing for. And so for feeding specifically, there are so many developmental milestones from a feeding and speech standpoint.
So I’m going to give you just a few. So from a feeding perspective, It’s a developmental milestone that kids can learn how to drink from an open cup. So you can’t see me but I’m bringing my hand to my mouth. Like you would drink from an open cup. That’s a developmental milestone.
Learning how to scoop with the spoon is a developmental milestone for young kids. Learning how to Pierce is a developmental milestone with a fork. Kids learn how to Pierce. Picking up stuff is a developmental milestone. And so you have all these developmental milestones that kids should be making, right? It’s just the natural progression as kids grow. And the tools that are available they’re not created to achieve those developmental milestones. So right. You have a huge spoon head. You have a long spoon handle and you give it to a kid. They can’t scoop with that and dip with that and Pierce with that. And so we realized just how important it is to create these tools. So kids and adults, the adults can give the kids the tools to meet these milestones from a feeding and a speech standpoint.
So another example is the sippy cup. With our boys, I was taught to go off the bottle and get your kids on a sippy cup. That’s literally what the pediatrician told me, you know, at your 12 months, you get off the bottle and you’ve gone to a sippy cup. After meeting Dawn I quickly realized that’s not the proper recommendation. And again, you’re probably thinking, well, that’s from a pediatrician. But these pediatricians they’re general health practitioners, right? They’re not feeding experts. They’re not swallowing experts. Their scope of knowledge is very general.
So I think once you start meeting with speech language pathologists and other therapists, you realize that no people hate sippy cups. Again, sippy cups were developed because of a convenience. I’m totally all for convenience, but it became the norm. You give a kid, a sippy cup, they can walk around and drink it great they’re not spilling it. That’s awesome. Then you realize like, this is not good from a speech standpoint. You’re going from a bottle to a sippy cup. They’re not using their mouth in different ways. There is an opportunity here for open mouth or open cup drinking. The tiny cup, right. And you’re using just different parts of your mouth or the babies mouth. Versus a sippy cup. And the parts of the mouth that are being used drinking from an open cup help with speech. And so you’re working on different vowels and consonants, all this stuff that I had no idea I never even thought about. I just, I didn’t. And so I, now it gets me so excited thinking about like having a product for all of these developmental milestones.
We’ve made the tiny line now for first feeder, so right. Four to six months we’ve got the tiny cup and the tiny spoon and the tiny bowl. Now, then we have the mini line, which is advancing to nine to 12 months olds, but now we’re looking at products that are for pre feeding. And so how can we again give the right tools to set up these kids for success?
[00:16:59] Jennifer Myers Chua: And I think the last time that I had a sippy cup in this house, it’s been a couple of years now. But at that time, we were also going through this thing in the industry where people were finding mold in the little crevices of sippy cups and those water bottles that were plastic. And I’ve noticed that your products tailored to this age group are a hundred percent silicone. And I’d like to talk a little bit more about why you’ve chosen silicone in terms of health and safety, and then also the environmental impact of silicone. Can you give me some insight into your silicone obsession and why you chose silicone?
[00:17:38] Lindsey Laurain: I am a huge fan of silicone I will say this what, before I even started ezpz and we were looking at materials. I mean, you think about silicone breast implants, right? People have been implanting silicone into themselves for years. I mean, just from a safety perspective, like logically, okay. That’s like a safe material. This is again, seven years ago when I started researching. And then once I started researching all the different materials available, I just, again, fell in love with silicone because it’s safe. Very high quality. We still have the happy mats we used when the boys were two eating, and the bowls and they don’t fade, they don’t deteriorate. A product that you buy is going to look the same for years. So it is sustainable and it’s high quality. And it’s inert. So it’s also resistant to high temperatures and low temperatures. So you can heat the silicone. you can also freeze it.
And then it’s also flexible. So from an eating perspective, we like kids using utensils in the sensory aspects with the silicone. It’s a great sensory aspect. So if you’re using this, those utensils or the cup, but also when you use the mats and you’re just using your hand on the mats there’s a good sensory aspect. But then the flexibility of the material allows a kid to what we call raking. So you can like grab the food out and the mat will kind of flex the bowl part of the mat. And we do a lot of quality testing on a yearly basis. So that that’s really why we chose silicone? We’re now starting to get into other materials and look at other materials. And so, but that’s kind of the next evolution of ezpz
[00:19:16] Jennifer Myers Chua: And I think that a lot of people as consumers don’t understand the difference between consumer product safety and developmental appropriateness. So we automatically assume that if something has come into our country, especially legally. So if something has come into our country, it has been tested to be safe.
We all know that there is some sort of regulatory body making sure things are quote, safe, unsafe, but I think what people are not thinking in terms, especially of baby products, if a child is using something that is not appropriately designed for them and the stage they’re in, it can lead to problems later. So the safety isn’t maybe immediate that they’re not choking or whatnot , but that these decisions have long-term benefits for the children or the people buying the products in the future.
[00:20:01] Lindsey Laurain: Totally. I mean, I just had no idea . Our tiny cup, like designing something and getting kids off of a sippy club, it’s going to help with speech development. I mean, it’s so much more even than just like feeding. There’s a speech development. And then just what, what are the normal developmental milestones for feeding? Right? I definitely didn’t know that much as a parent, outside of going to the pediatrician and saying like, your kids should be able to pinch the Cheerio. That’s like the one I remember.
We want to improve our messaging and giving parents the tools to understand how each product is tailored. Especially as we develop out the feeding line up until older kids. and some of that innovation. But absolutely not. I mean, I think there’s a safety component, which again, there are regulations in place, but lots of people don’t follow them or they’re not really you know, you can still sell products getting by those regulations.
Unfortunately. I mean, I tell this all the time. On Amazon it’s the wild, wild west. It’s really important to buy from companies that you can trust. Just because they’re being sold on Amazon or quite frankly in a store doesn’t mean they’re necessarily doing all the quality testing. And So we spend a great deal of not only money, but resources on quality and compliance testing from a product safety standpoint. And also our manufacturer goes through quality audits as well. And then yeah, the design process absolutely is super
[00:21:26] Jennifer Myers Chua: So when you began to look at conventional children’s products was there anything else that surprised you about the industry as a whole?
[00:21:32] Lindsey Laurain: So when we started seven years ago, there wasn’t a lot of just stylish baby goods. So everything was more primary colors, reds, bright reds, yellow, blues. No gray, not a lot of pastels, not a lot of like beautiful design. And so at the beginning, that was surprising to me, I think just not as much focus on like aesthetics and aesthetically pleasing products for children. Now, seven years later, there are so many pastels and so many grays. But at the time there was just like lack of innovation and design aesthetics at that time.
And I realized that the industry was just very antiquated. The heads of these bigger companies were people that have been doing this for a lot of years. They’re not following all those style and the latest colors and all of that. So more of an industry that needed some innovation, young energy. So I think my advice to anyone listening too. There is opportunity for companies to be created and innovative products to be made. So I think that was a surprise at the beginning, just like the lack of innovation. And then I think the counterfeits and the copies and all of that. Absolutely. I just, I was naive. And I’m sure lots of people that have been in industries knew those problems existed, but I was naive to all of those problems.
[00:22:51] Jennifer Myers Chua: And Your products are manufactured responsibly, and you have a really unique relationship with your manufacturing partners. I will never forget that you brought your manufacturing partners to the world industry trade show, which surprised everybody. Transparency. What does it mean to manufacture responsibly? Or what does that look like? And how can you be sure that the people making your goods are being treated well?
[00:23:16] Lindsey Laurain: I think, gosh, that question and having an answer is now more important than ever. Like the fast fashion, the craze in the manufacturing facilities, in some of these industries that are just like horrific, not only the quality of the facilities, but how they treat their workers And so our manufacturer we’ve been with the same manufacturer since we launched ezpz. So over seven years which I think is very unique and I found them through a referral. I didn’t just find them randomly online. I got a referral which was really nice at the beginning, looking for manufacturers. And then we have absolutely created, a family relationship, like, like you said, you met them.
They used to come to, when we had in person trade shows, they’ve come to a lot of trade shows with us. So they came to Vegas to the ABC kids expo, and then every year in Germany, they meet us in Germany every year for Kind & Jugen, and hang out at our booth with us and meet, our international partners. And so, I’ve been over to the factory. Other folks on the team have been over to the factory to make sure that they’re manufacturing to our standards. And then in addition to just me feeling good about them, right. And having a great relationship that we absolutely trust each other we also go through or they go through quality audits.
And so, there’s a few different types of quality and compliance audits you can do on a manufacturer. And not only do we have audits that make sure the manufacturing facilities are safe and, high standards there, there’s also like social compliance audits that are making sure they’re taking care of their employees. And so the manufacturer again, has to provide all of that information to the third-party audit. So we do our best. And I feel so grateful and fortunate to have such a wonderful partner. That’s really grown with us over the last seven years. So it’s been fun. And two of them have had babies. And then it’s fun seeing their kids use ezpz products. We’re very grateful.
[00:25:18] Jennifer Myers Chua: And I think in terms of consumer behavior, when people want to make sure that they’re supporting a company that is manufacturing ethically, one of the things that people automatically gravitate towards is looking for north American made products. But I think that a lot of people don’t understand that manufacturing overseas can be responsible, but also the challenges of producing something like a silicone product in the United States, how that can be hugely significant, those challenges. Can you speak a little bit towards why you chose China and why you were comfortable with that decision?
[00:25:53] Lindsey Laurain: When we started and we’ve explored us manufacturers, continuously throughout the last seven years, I wanted to make this in the United States. And thought that would be a great idea. Quickly realizing that just the cost of raw material is so much more expensive in the United States, silicone specifically you know, our happy mat, right? It’s a retail price point of 24 99. That’s expensive. And the cost of goods are very expensive behind that. And it’s a lot of silicone we’ve trimmed it down a little bit, but when we launched it was a pound and a half of silicone. And so, I very quickly realized just the price of raw materials and labor. It was going to be cost prohibitive to start in the United States. Since we’ve evolved and made smaller products, such as the tiny cup there’s more of a possibility that we could be sourcing some of these products from the United States. But then it just goes to supply chain issues And figuring out how to do all of that logistically. So it’s never worked out, but I’m not saying that eventually we wouldn’t love to have a backup manufacturer producing at least some of our units in the United States.
[00:27:04] Jennifer Myers Chua: And are there any other ways that your products help families reduce waste? Like I’m immediately thinking of the lids to help food spoilage, but are there any other ways that your products help reduce waste?
[00:27:15] Lindsey Laurain: I think I would say our products versus any product, but like getting rid of disposable, right? Paper products. And plastic products. I think that alone, but then the fact that the products are so high quality and don’t fade or deteriorate over their life that you can really not only keep and reuse these products, but then pass them down to future kiddos. And so hopefully you’re buying less products, right? You only need a few mats and a few cups and those products will last they’re built to last really. And so, hopefully that that reduces waste. And then to your point we’re very excited about the new lids. So if you have a meal and your kiddo, didn’t finish it. You can put a lid on it and put it in the fridge to reuse that.
[00:28:02] Jennifer Myers Chua: We have an ezpz recycling program actually in Canada through Hip Mommies. So we are taking back some of the ezpz products who have managed to hit the end of their life cycle, and we do recycle those properly with Terra cycle. Also really interesting to note that a silicone can be recycled and it looks like trending that it will be something that will be repurposed and recycling, more conventionally going forward, which is really good news.
[00:28:30] Lindsey Laurain: Yes, that’s awesome. We love you.
[00:28:34] Jennifer Myers Chua: Something that we have gone through together a lot over the last couple of years is learning about the counterfeit industry. And personally, I’ve been mostly surprised about what kind of products are counterfeited especially children’s products. When I thought counterfeits before I thought of things like handbags being sold out of the back of cars and had no idea, just the breadth of the counterfeit industry.
If I’m a regular customer and I’m a consumer in a store and I’m looking for something for my child, and I see two things that look the same, but one might be more affordable in one case. Why do I need to be concerned about counterfeit children’s products? What’s the issue with counterfeits?
[00:29:17] Lindsey Laurain: To your point. I just, I had no idea kind of the counterfeit and copy worlds that existed. I absolutely thought that, you see the handbags and that those types of products and when we started ezpz, I’ll never forget, you know, people saying like, oh, people are going to copy this. And I swear to God, I believed this. I said, I’m a mom. No, one’s going to copy me. No one I’m a mom. Like, I don’t know why I thought being a mom gave me super powers, but just I was just so naive that people would copy. And that quickly, I quickly quickly learned. I mean, we had copies so quick with ezpz. There’s a lot of copies and counterfeits. With ezpz and our mats, because the technology was so novel and new, it was out of control. The copies and counterfeits. Back in 2015 and 16, it was so overwhelming and terrible. I hated that time. Because almost every day, I mean, it was like daily. It was just everyday, every week. Images of people sending mats whether it’s on Alibaba or Amazon, and not only terrible to see your product, being copied, but our kids being used in the photos was the worst part for me at the beginning. And it was worse actually for me, seeing other kids being used. So, right. It sucked when Chase and Drew and Brody were on everything at the beginning. But then as we started using other people’s kids for photos, right? Like, so Edie and Christie’s daughter and Tammy’s and you see those photos being, placed all over, I just felt really responsible and terrible. It was just a terrible feeling.
There was a very emotional component of that. It was just really emotionally wearing on me. It was very negative, you know, and trying to deal with that and find a legal team and lawyers in a team to be able to manage this was a huge part of our business back in really 2016 and 2017. I kind of had to take away my focus from innovation and growing the company to how do we protect this company, right? I mean, how do we protect what we’ve built and make sure consumers are aware of what’s going on? It was not only a big part of hiring lawyers and enforcement team and all of that, but then messaging to consumers.
So to go back to the consumer piece, I mean, I just had no idea that counterfeits and copies were all over Amazon. And so we spent, we don’t message as much about it. But at that time, I mean, it was a big part of our messaging how to buy safe products, pay attention to where you’re buying from. I would say now I’m a very educated consumer because of what I do, but I still have a lot of trouble identifying copies and counterfeits when I’m shopping for Amazon. I’m not a big online shopper. So you know, my advice to anyone, whether you’re buying a kid’s product or any product for that matter is to just pay attention.
It’s very easy to tell once you start looking for kind of clues of fake products but there’s some really good copyists that we’ve gotten packages that look just like ours and unless it’s, there’s like two words that are misspelled, we would have never known. Right. I mean, it’s kind of crazy. It has been part of the learning process, and now I’m much more equipped from an emotional standpoint to handle it. And from a legal standpoint and we filed a lot of intellectual property. So again, that was a pretty long answer.
[00:32:48] Jennifer Myers Chua: And I think when I went through this with you, I was completely shocked to understand the counterfeit industry. Like I really thought people were just copying products to make a quick buck. I didn’t realize how large it is, like $300 billion a year or whatnot. I didn’t realize what products even sunscreens and toothpastes are being counterfeited.
And I didn’t realize that counterfeiting, the industry is funding things like organized crime and that they’re using child labor and that the materials may not be sufficient. They’ve definitely not done safety testing because as you’ve mentioned, safety testing is super expensive. And I didn’t realize that these things could actually be dangerous. In my mind, I’m just thinking, oh, this handbag will end up falling apart. Maybe the quality isn’t as nice. I didn’t realize that that there’s potentially toxic chemicals on these products. There is concerns for our health and safety if we purchase these. And I think that for me was incredibly surprising.
[00:33:54] Lindsey Laurain: Absolutely. I think I mean, going back to safety is, should be any company’s priority, but they are making not safe products. And so when we were going through all of this, I started buying products and I was trying to get them quality tested to find out. And then eventually I’m like, what the hell am I doing?
I’m spending all of my energy. And like, what kind of good does that do? I mean, I want to tell everyone, right. I was so passionate about, like, everyone needs to know this. There’s so many copies and they’re not safe and they’re going to fail. And then that’s not just the best use of my resources. Right. I mean, I was spending every minute trying to like. Again, looking at all these products and order them and send into factories and tell Amazon that they’re being sold without the proper labeling. And then versus more turning internally and saying, we can only focus on us. Of course, it’s important to message this to consumers. I mean, now there’s much more messaging about this, but and how can we make sure we’re making the safe products, passing all our quality tests, and focusing internally right on the high quality products is, is the only thing we can do. But it’s disturbing. And hopefully, as more awareness comes about this problem, like there will be more quality testing requirements. I will say Amazon is starting to do more quality testing.
That was a big one of my issues and I went to the white house and talked about like an anti-counterfeiting. I was at a round table at the white house and Amazon was there and we talked about the quality testing the requirements that they did. And over the years, I will say they are starting to implement more quality testing. But up until this last year, it’s been really the wild, wild west from a quality standpoint. And you can sell anything online, you know, pretty easily
[00:35:36] Jennifer Myers Chua: And so if you’ve made it past the counterfeits, you’re not shopping on Alibaba, Ali express, where you expect that 99% of things are counterfeits. You’ve made it past Amazon. You mentioned copies before, and I assume that by that you mean a already established business that is replicating your product.
And I know the ezpz has gone through a lot in terms of patents, but do you want to talk a little bit about your experience about copying? Because I think that, again, this is something that definitely a consumer wouldn’t know, but if someone is looking at getting into a product based business, I think this could be useful for them as well. What’s the deal with copies?
[00:36:17] Lindsey Laurain: We’ve had every kind of copy and counterfeit available, but probably one of the hardest for us from just a like, “taking away market share and products” is when a big baby company or another big company copies you. So I’ll say, the folks that are selling on Alibaba and quite frankly, some on Amazon, those companies, right?
They’re not brands. They are just a product that someone’s trying to sell to make a quick buck. But when you have an established company. So you can think of every industry has established companies, right. That are the leaders of the industry. When you have an established company, copy you, or, my fellow mom, entrepreneurs, or dad, entrepreneurs, whoever, and they copy the product.
It’s more impactful in a negative way because these big companies have distribution already set up in place. When you’re starting your business, right, we didn’t have one retailer when we started. So we launched on Kickstarter. Started building our customer base. And then it is hard work to meet all these retailers, get in with retailers, not only do you need to meet them and get in with them, you have to set up it’s called EDI and how you transfer data back and forth.
And so you need systems in place to be able to do this, all of this costs money. It’s a process. And so these big companies that come, they have lots of products and they’ll create a copy product and it’s so easy for them to immediately have distribution, right? They have the relationships with all the big box stores. They can copy a product very easily by watching the market and seeing what’s selling well and go into a trade show and seeing where everyone’s at at the booths and what everyone’s talking about. Right. It’s really easy to look at that from afar. Say, I’m going to copy that. Quickly copying it. And then these big companies have distribution that they can instantly get into these big box stores.
So that to me and we’ve dealt and we, and we’ve, filed intellectual property. We filed design patents and a utility patent on our self sealing functionality of the mat. And despite having IP filed, we had a big competitor copy us on our mats and get distribution into some of those larger big box stores.
And so we’ve been in a litigation since 2016. So for five years the majority of my energy is focused, unfortunately on a lot of legal challenges and dealing with litigation. And so we are fighting for our intellectual property that we believe that. That we got over the years. We just went to a trial on this litigation specifically, but I would say that that’s been a, a bigger, negative impact because the bigger company has distribution and they’re stealing market share. Like they’re selling their mats in the targets and the Walmarts. And so we’re not selling mats. Again, when, when a lot of those copies came out, those years were very, very challenging in 2017 and 18, our mat sales were steady, but they were starting to decline. We had all these copies come out that are stealing market share.
And so it goes back to protecting what we’ve built and being able to stand up to some of these folks which ezpz is in a fortunate position. That we’ve had the legal resources to do that and the financing to do that. And I can say at points, we were on the verge of bankruptcy and not in good places financially, but we’ve gotten through a lot of those tough times. But a lot of these smaller other companies can’t do what we’ve done.
And so that’s kind of crushed me seeing a lot of these other moms. And I guess I should say dads that started when ezpz started. Right? So back in 2014 and they just, they can’t, they, they havn’t made it. So a lot of companies that started haven’t made it because they get knocked off the products that gets copied, goes into the big box store And then, you’re strapped trying to be scrappy. So I, I think we’re in a good position. But it has not been ezpz, no pun intended.
[00:40:20] Jennifer Myers Chua: And you are a family owned business and you work with your very best friends. So they’re your family as well. I’d love to chat about those costs as well. What have the costs been to your family life? Like your mental health? Like you said how challenging this was, but how tough has building this business really been in terms of, of those costs to your personal life?
[00:40:40] Lindsey Laurain: Gosh. I mean, I’ll start by saying I wouldn’t change anything and I would do it all over again. And I think actually once I kind of changed my mindset… this is just part of our journey, the copies, the counterfeits, the lawsuit we’re in, it’s what we’re supposed to be doing now and not have this victim mentality. Like, I feel bad for myself sometimes. Right? I’m like this sucks. This isn’t fair. I don’t deserve this. And That’s just not a good place to be in mentally versus it is what it is. I don’t like it, but it’s our journey and I’m not going to feel bad for myself. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing. And it’s what we’re doing.
And so having that mindset for me personally, has made a lot of a difference versus like I wanted to quit so bad those years. I really did. During those really hard times, it didn’t feel fair. Like I said, I just, we didn’t have a ton of money. We couldn’t get money because we were in lawsuits. So no one wanted to lend us money. I mean, it was just this like terrible, kind of feeling versus coming out of that. And just again, being scrappy and figuring out how to finance the litigation and. Again, I’m now able to talk about it a little bit easier cause we’re out of it. Right. And we got money and we’re not broke now..
But during those times that was challenging. I would say, not only for me, but I would say the lawsuit and all of that has probably been more harder on Brad, my husband. And probably my kids in, in the sense of like, it’s just pulled me away from them more. I just got off this trial. I was gone for this trial for two weeks. So 14 days I was away. Brad’s home with his kids and that’s a lot to ask of a family and then my kids, just having to see me, deal with Legal stuff and copies is hard. I also say, I’ll say again, the silver lining with that is, these kids know how it feels to be copied and have a bully come after you.
That I am grateful for the, like the life lessons they’re learning through all of this, but you know, it’s, it’s like I work alot and a lot of it is the kind of not fun work, that is the legal stuff. But I, I’ve got a great support network. And the team is great.
I would say, going through all kinds of the challenges, I carry those a lot. So I don’t want my team to know, all the bullshit I’m dealing with all the time, but they go and they continue doing their job just it’s unbelievable. I mean, even this year specifically going to trial and prepping for a two-week trial. I it’s all I was doing, before and after. And I mean, how much innovations coming out and we just haven’t missed a beat. And so, our team is just awesome.
[00:43:18] Jennifer Myers Chua: Could you give me some insight into some of the ways that ezpz gives back?
[00:43:24] Lindsey Laurain: We love giving back. I just love giving gifts, not only to our team, but giving back to our community and I love it. So when we started ezpz and I mentioned this again, a big focus at the beginning was like, how can we get these mats in as many kiddos hands that really, really need them. So kiddos with cerebral palsy or down syndrome, all of these you know, kiddos with disabilities, how can we get mats in their hands to make their life better? And so at the beginning, a lot of our giving back was to the special needs community through different organizations and get mats into people’s hands.
We had done the changing the face of beauty campaign, which was a huge part of at the beginning, which was awesome using kiddos with disabilities in our advertising. And then over the years we’ve just really maintained that. And so we still pick different charities if anyone’s listening and you have a charity that could use mats or you think there’s a good cause we absolutely love donating product. And so we highlight all of the charities and organizations that we donate to. It’s recently kiddos with cleft palates and just all different kinds of stuff. So it’s a big part of our heart of the community of just kind of giving back and making sure we’re doing our
[00:44:41] Jennifer Myers Chua: I have admired so much all of these choices that you have made over the last couple of years. And I’ve watched you change your approach several times and in terms of giving back and sustainable materials and making better choices with your packaging, I know it’s been really difficult to go ahead, to head really with these larger established brands that have tried to capitalize on your innovations let’s say. I know that’s been really challenging, but also in terms of what I’ve seen with consumer behavior over that period of time, I can only think that they cannot compete with you because you’ve made those choices that are resonating with customers. So I was wondering if you could talk about the modern parent and why is ezpz such a phenomenon? How are you resonating with your consumers?
[00:45:34] Lindsey Laurain: You know, I think the consumer today is much more aware. When I started as a mom. So 10 years ago, I didn’t have any really online support or just, you know, all of the online community was just starting. I think that the consumer has changed over the life of ezpz. And the average consumer, the modern day, mom or dad is just more highly aware. So I think they’re more aware because they’ve had access to the internet. There’s more information that’s available to these consumers. They’re looking for safe products, they’re looking for the best products available.
There’s so much information now on different feeding methods for kiddos, whether it’s baby led weaning or the puree method. And so, again, just having more educated, aware, consumers I’m hoping lends itself well to us because we have a good story, right? We have a good mission. We believe in that. We’re very authentic, in what we do.
And hopefully just as time passes, more and more people that becomes important too, as well. So not only are they aware of companies that are doing and not doing this, it’s actually important to them. I definitely, as a consumer. I read people’s stories, that’s the first place I go to is the story page. I love stories.
[00:46:55] Jennifer Myers Chua: What about our children or your customers’ children? What about the adults of the future? How do you think that the work that you’re doing, the hard work that you’re doing with this brand, how do you think this is impacting them?
[00:47:08] Lindsey Laurain: I hope it’s impacting them in a positive way. A big part, I think of what drives us at ezpz is doing what’s right. I am hopeful that not only kids, but adults, anyone that looks and sees what we’re doing at ezpz appreciates what we’re doing. When we started ezpz, It really was about less mess and more fun. And as we’ve evolved, we’ve really tried to hone in our mission of creating safe, developmentally appropriate innovative products, and because money isn’t our driver at ezpz, we’re driven by doing what’s right, making high quality, thoughtfully designed products.
I’m I can only hope that people recognize that and continue to support us. Again, like I said, when I started seven years ago, I just quickly realized that for so many people, it’s about just making money and producing. And that’s just not what we’re about at ezpz. We’re about making thoughtfully designed high quality products. And so I really, really hope that continues to be important to families and our kids can see that it’s it’s life is much more. It’s about making great products and creating a company culture that is awesome. We all love what we do every day. The days aren’t easy and some of the work is terrible, but if you enjoy the people you work with, you can be doing the worst work and it still is enjoyable.
We’re almost done making sure we have a feeding product for pre feeding all the way up to school-aged kids, which is including my kids who are now 9 and 11. So I think by the end of 2022, we’ll have all of that built out and then it’s expanding into different product categories. And keeping that same mission of making products that are thoughtfully designed that are innovative and that the products serve a mission, right. They’re developmentally appropriate and we’re not just producing products to produce products. We’re very strategic with what we’re doing. And so I hope in five years, our ezpz community has continued to grow and more ezpz products are in family’s hands. So their mealtime can be a little bit easier and more enjoyable. And then, hopefully our team has expanded and we’re still having fun and smiling and loving what we’re doing.
So I just, I’m very grateful. I’m grateful. You’re on the team. I know you guys know this, but you and Joey and Hip Mommies for anyone listening, they were our first distributor and just our very special people and partners in our life.
[00:49:45] Jennifer Myers Chua: If you want to learn more about Lindsay and her developmentally focused products that make mealtime less about mess and more about fun, visit ezpzfun.com. Have a little one in the home? The ezpz blog has a ton of tips and strategies to help little one meet mealtime milestones. You can follow along with Lindsay on her mission to revolutionize how we feed our children on Facebook or Instagram @ezpzfun