It's working for Tara Williams – Founder and CEO, Dreamland Baby
Overall these past few years, I've learned what I need to do to make my relationships work, and even in this brave new world, the constant is my children and my husband. They bring me the greatest joy and provide the inspiration and support I need to help me achieve my business and personal goals.
AS THE MOTHER OF FOUR, WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WISH YOU COULD OFFER YOUR FORMER, EXPECTANT SELF?
I wish I could tell myself that everything isn’t going to be perfect and doesn’t have to be. Especially in this time of social media, we tend to see others “highlight reels” and think that is how parenting should be too. Being a mother is my highest calling and greatest accomplishment, so when I have moments when I want some alone time, I feel incredibly guilty. I’m constantly reminding myself that I’m a work in progress, and that’s OK!
YOU HAVE BUILT QUITE A NAME FOR YOURSELF THROUGH THE CONCEPT AND GROWTH OF DREAMLAND BABY. IT IS NOT ONLY THE PRODUCT THAT IS LOVED, IT IS YOU TOO. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF AS YOU HAVE EVOLVED? WHAT DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE SHIFTED AND EVOLVED INTO AN INSPIRED ENTREPRENEUR?
Wow, first, thank you! I definitely do not look at myself that way, so that’s a lovely compliment. Over the last five years, I have grown in ways I never thought possible. As a leader, coworker, friend, and mom, the business has challenged me from the highest highs to the lowest lows. These challenges have helped me be more understanding and empathetic and think before I act. I am inspired by other women in business who have generously shared their insights with me. It would be an honor for me to do the same with other women just starting their entrepreneurial journey.
SO MANY WOMEN ARE TAKING THEIR TALENTS OUT OF THE CORPORATE WORLD AND CHOOSING AN ENTREPRENEURIAL PATH. WHAT WOULD YOU SHARE ARE KEY LEARNINGS OF THE EARLY DAYS OF HANGING YOUR OWN SHINGLE? IS NOW THE TIME FOR WOMEN TO JOIN OR BUILD THEIR OWN BRAND?
That’s a tricky question! Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone. While, in theory, it may seem appealing to set your own hours and have more flexibility, the reality is it’s 24/7 work. It takes a particular type of person to take on the risk and endure the challenges and uncertainty. The startling fact is that 90% of small businesses fail. If you think you have what it takes, there has been no time in history with a lower barrier to entry for women. I say, go for it, and I’ll be there to cheer you on!
TELL US ABOUT SHARK TANK? WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE AND OF COURSE, WHAT IS YOUR PARTNERSHIP WITH LORI GREINER LIKE?
Shark Tank was such an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I applied by submitting an application on the Shark Tank website. About a month later, the executive producer called to learn more about the product and my story. He was surprised wearable weighted blankets for babies didn’t already exist and immediately saw the value. He was impressed I had overcome my husband and myself being laid off in the midst of our 4th child being born. We represented the American dream, and he felt my story would resonate with the Sharks and inspire viewers. We made a deal with Lori Greiner (my dream shark!), and while we ultimately never worked with her, it was a fantastic experience that continues to pay dividends for our brand.
WHAT WERE YOUR BIGGEST EARLY START-UP LEARNINGS? HOW DID YOU HANDLE THE TRICKY CHALLENGE OF RAISING FOUR CHILDREN AND A RADICALLY NEW BUSINESS LANDSCAPE? HOW DID THIS IMPACT YOUR FRIENDSHIPS? MARRIAGE? DID YOU EVEN HAVE A MOMENT TO REST? AND, OF COURSE, WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT YOU NOW IN THIS BRAVE NEW WORLD?
I learned so many things, mostly from all my mistakes! While I didn’t have childcare when I started the business, I hired an au pair recently, which has helped me manage my time more efficiently. I work from 7-5 every day but make sure I’m present for my family in the evening and on the weekends. I need to schedule date nights with my husband and weekly outings with friends to maintain balance in my life. It’s easy as an entrepreneur to work ALL THE TIME, and that was my life for the first few years. I’m now fortunate to have a fantastic team that allows me to focus on growing the business and also allows me to carve out time for myself. Overall these past few years, I’ve learned what I need to do to make my relationships work, and even in this brave new world, the constant is my children and my husband. They bring me the greatest joy and provide the inspiration and support I need to help me achieve my business and personal goals.
THINKING BACK, WAS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS A NEW MOTHER WORKING? CAN YOU GIVE SOME FLAVOR TO THAT TIME IN YOUR LIFE? IF MOTHER WAS NOT YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE, WHAT WAS?
My biggest challenge, without a doubt, was sleep! I was so fortunate that my first three children never had sleep issues. But when Luke, my youngest, was six months old and still waking up multiple times a night, I was at my wit’s end. I was so sleep-deprived that I could not be the mom I wanted and needed to be for my children. It impacted my relationship with my husband, my work life, and my mental/physical health. I was always exhausted and was feeling completely overwhelmed. I felt like a failure as a mom, which was 100% what prompted me to find a solution. Dreamland Baby was born out of my personal experience, and I’m so happy that it has been successful so other mothers (and fathers) can get the sleep they deserve!
WHAT PRO TIPS DO YOU HAVE TO SHARE WITH OTHER NEW OR EXPECTANT MOTHERS?
Follow your gut. Only you know what is best for your baby, so block out all the noise. Having input from friends and family is valuable, but ultimately you should do what you are comfortable with and what you believe is best for your family.
YOUR UPCYCLE PROGRAM IS VERY FORWARD-THINKING AND PLACES YOU IN A LEADERSHIP POSITION WITHIN THE CATEGORY. YOUR INSTINCTS AND GOOD HAVE BROUGHT YOU A FAR WAY, WHAT DO YOU ENVISION AS THE FUTURE OF WOMEN IN THE JUVENILE PRODUCTS SPACE?
Thank you! We’re excited about our upcycle program and have made sustainability a big part of our 2023 goals. We not only started the upcycling program but also introduced bamboo fabric and new eco-conscious packaging. It’s baby steps, but we’re moving in the right direction! As for women, the juvenile product industry is a wonderful place for us. So many products were developed out of personal experiences, and I believe that women who bring these ideas to the marketplace are passionate about their products because they know they work. I’m excited to see even more female entrepreneurs enter the juvenile products space!
WHO WAS YOUR BIGGEST SOURCE OF SUPPORT IN RETURNING TO WORK AS A MOTHER? AND LATER, AS YOU LAUNCHED DREAMLAND BABY?
I worked throughout all four of my pregnancies and was so fortunate to have a supportive manager. They were excited for me, and while it would mean someone else was filling in during the three months I was out, they encouraged me to take my entire maternity leave. I’m now paying it forward to my employees. In fact, we have three pregnant women on our team right now, and I’m here to support them throughout their pregnancy and, of course, once they are ready to return to Dreamland.
WHO ARE YOUR MENTORS? WHO DO YOU MENTOR?
I’m so thankful to be a part of an all-women group of Shark Tank entrepreneurs. We have a group text chat, and we all support each other. Having such smart, thoughtful businesswomen in my life has been amazing. We bounce ideas off each other, share our concerns, and celebrate our wins together. While it’s not exactly a mentor relationship, it is close, and we all learn so much from each other’s experiences!