Beth Fynbo took a leap of faith back in the fall and used a line of credit and some prize money to order 50,000 of her baby mats. Then she crossed her fingers that her segment on ABC-TV's "Shark Tank" would eventually air.
After it finally did on Friday, Fynbo spent the weekend with family and friends packing 6,000 orders that came into her website. She turned down an investment offer on the show. But her company, called Busy Baby, did more sales in two days than it usually does in six weeks.
"I'm really happy with the way it turned out," Fynbo, who lives in Oronoco, just north of Rochester, said Monday.
"I feel like we're on the right track," she said. "Once these mats get out to all of the people who ordered them, and they try them and love them, then hopefully they will tell their other mommy friends about them and it will just continue to keep growing and growing."
The $24.99 silicone place mats, which she started selling in 2019, have suction cups that keep them in place on a table or high chair. They include two straps, or tethers, that keep a baby's toys within easy reach.
From conversations she has had with other entrepreneurs who have appeared on the show, she expects to continue to see a "Shark Tank" bump in sales in the weeks and months ahead.
And, no, she added, she has no regrets about not taking a deal.
Fynbo initially asked the panel of potential investors on the show for $250,000 in exchange for a 5% stake in her company. She hoped to get some partnerships out of it to help her expand into retail stores and to grow internationally.
Most of the "sharks" passed, saying they weren't interested in the baby market. But one of them, Lori Greiner, was intrigued and offered the money for a 20% stake in Busy Baby.
Fynbo countered back at 10%, then 15%, and eventually walked away when Greiner wouldn't go below 18%.
Some commenters on social media criticized Fynbo for not taking the deal. But she feels good about her decision because Greiner ultimately wanted to try to license her mats to another company, Munchkin, leaving little room for other plans and ideas she has to grow the company herself.
"We would have had to hand it over and let somebody else take complete control," said Fynbo, noting that her brother just joined her last month to work with her full time on the business. "This is the best thing we've ever done in our lives. It's just awesome to do it together."
One of the other investors, Mark Cuban, supported Fynbo's decision to turn down the deal.
"Don't sell yourself short, Beth," he said on the show. And after she rejected Greiner's offer, he said, "Good for you, Beth! I love it when an entrepreneur sticks to their guns."
Last month, Fynbo launched a new Busy Baby product, a teething spoon. A mini-mat to better fit compact high chairs is in the works to be rolled out in a few months. She may add more new products down the road.
And after receiving more than a hundred messages over the weekend from Canadians wanting to buy her product, Fynbo said she may reach out to distributors there.
A 10-year Army veteran who works as an account manager for Cardinal Health, Fynbo came up with the idea for Busy Baby in 2017 soon after her first son was born. The product was inspired by a lunch she had with friends who were distracted the whole time by their young children throwing items on the floor.
She took an entrepreneurship class at Bunker Labs in Minneapolis. She sold her car, used a big tax refund and borrowed money from her stepfather to launch the business. She also received some no-interest loans.
In 2019, she won $25,000 as a division winner for veteran-led businesses in the Minnesota Cup. And last fall, she won another $60,000 in the startup competition, which she used to help purchase more inventory in anticipation of her appearance on "Shark Tank."
She flew to Las Vegas for filming in September and was sequestered in her hotel room for an eight-day quarantine that also included taking three COVID-19 tests.
"I felt there was a really good chance I would air," she said, nodding at her decision to place the big order for mats. "And I kind of thought, if I don't air, I'll sell the stuff eventually."
In her first year of business, Busy Baby brought in $97,000 in sales. Last year, sales swelled to $900,000 as she redirected her budget for trade shows, which had been canceled because of the pandemic, to Facebook marketing.
Fynbo added that her mats have been particularly useful during the pandemic with parents looking to keep babies entertained while they take a Zoom call for work or attend to other children who may be remote schooling.
This year, as she rides the "Shark Tank" wave, she's aiming for a little more than $4 million in sales.