So, I know I’ve pasted it all over this website, but we went viral last week and this is huge for us. I think our story is pretty remarkable and I’d like to share the excitement we have. For those of you that don’t know much about our story, let me tell you a bit more. In January of this year (yes, that’s 2017), I saw a news story about a new American Chemical Society study that showed all major plastic teethers were tested and had things like BPA, parabens & antimicrobials even when they were labeled free of these things. I freaked out and next thing I knew, my husband, Jon, had made a wooden teether shaped like brass knuckles. His brother in law had just handed him down an ancient bandsaw (like so old he couldn’t even find blades for it at first!) and Jon was experimenting with woodworking. It was amazing- he had this talent I never even knew about. He casually asked if I thought any friends on Facebook would want to buy one. I thought they would, so I posted it on some local B/S/T groups. Right away 10 people wanted one, then 50 people wanted them and we started realizing we had something. Jon made a rattle shaped like a baseball diamond and a friend suggested we make a heart which turned out to be equally popular. I was dropping them off all over the county. One day, I went to mail one out and the guy at the UPS store saw the return address and asked if this was one of those teethers shaped like brass knuckles everyone was talking about on the internet. What? Us?! I was in shock. I literally felt famous!
One night about a week into it, I told Jon of tow local children’s stores, The Luxe Baby, and Little Birdy Lane where I would try to get us into if we ever really got going. To my amazement, that very same night, the owner of The Luxe Baby messaged me on Facebook asking to carry our teethers. The next day, a woman came to pick up a teether and said she worked at Little Birdy Lane and could help us get in there if we wanted. I was blown away. I met the owner of The Luxe Baby and she said we had something really unique and high quality. It was a good fit, so we started consigning there and she became my mentor. I quickly taught myself how to design a website, an Etsy store, a Facebook business page, and started marketing our teethers left and right.
I posted on Facebook again asking if anyone I knew could design us a logo and my brother, Matthew Burke, came to the rescue right away. He worked with one of his friends at Marnetta Cards to design us a logo and took some kick ass professional shots of our teethers to make us look legit. Knowing nothing about business (I majored in psychology and have worked mainly in behavior modification with kids with developmental disabilities), I signed up for a 14 week entrepreneurial crash course at WEV (Women’s Economic Ventures and if you’ve never heard of this, you’ve got to check it out). The class conveniently started right away, so I was off. Someone posted in one of the Facebook groups looking for vendors for a roller derby event and a woman in my WEV class was a member of the roller derby league (coincidence? I think not!). This opened up the so far successful avenue of vendor fairs for us. We got lots of good feedback about our beautifully made toys and started selling steadily. A local La Leche League leader contacted me and offered to feature us at their Live, Love, Latch over the summer with over 300 people expected to attend. We gobbled it all up.
My plan was to finish my 14 week business course and then really work on marketing Tough Love Teethers. Well, as soon as I finished the class, I emailed the editors of the super cool site for all things dad, Fatherly, requesting info on how to get on their site. Right away, they took me up on it and wrote a little piece about us in their gear section. They then offered to make a video for us. Of course we jumped at the opportunity- this site has over 2 million followers on Facebook, including many of my coolest guy friends. They didn’t ask for money, just some more footage. They released the video on June 8 (super inconveniently while we were in Northern California for my brother’s wedding- aye!) and it literally went viral. I was sneaking to the bathroom during my brother’s rehearsal dinner to answer chats from our website! I was wondering how we were going to get all this done. I awoke early the next morning to almost 100 orders. Before the article and video, we had steadily been selling about one teether a day, which we were happy with. I had just told my mom long term goal was to be able to pay our monthly mortgage with Tough Love Teethers’ income, but that that was a long, long way off. Now, we’ve had over 600K views and hundreds of orders in just over a week. We earned enough to pay our mortgage payment in under 24 hours. It’s been nuts.
Our big video debut!
We are pinching ourselves and thanking our lucky stars. We are currently working our butts off, recruiting our 18 & 19 year old nieces, our parents, sisters and brothers to help us make teethers in their free time. We hand sand all of our teethers, hand cut our tags and handle all the packaging and distribution while parenting our 4 year old who never stops and our almost one year old who started it all. Needless to say, it’s a lot, but it’s a blessing for sure.All along this adventure, things have just come to us so coincidentally that we feel like this was meant to be. Jon and I have had a hard road the last few years not just financially, but personally- in our marriage and with our children so to have this opportunity come knocking at our door and be so successful without really meaning to feels like a true gift from the universe. We never even intended to make a business out of this. What started out as a fun toy for our son has turned into a real fledgling business and has opened up doors we never dreamt of. I feel like we’re the little family that could. We cannot believe that only six months ago, we made our first teether, finished it in our kitchen with our kids and now over half a million people know about us. So, thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone of you for making this possible. We are riding this wave of success and we hope you’ll ride the tide right along with us!