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Small Business

Small-Business Success Story: This Mother-Daughter Combo Patented a Barrette

This entrepreneurial duo created a business and forged a family partnership.

GaBBY Bows' Rozalynn Goodwin, right, with her daughter and cofounder Gabrielle Goodwin. Photo by Ian Curcio

Kiplinger's spoke with Rozalynn Goodwin (pictured left), 39, cofounder of GaBBY Bows, a Columbia, S.C.-based hair accessories company, about how she and her young daughter started their own business together. Here's an excerpt from our interview:

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What was your inspiration? I loved to style Gabby’s hair with pigtails, braids or twists. I'd secure the ends with barrettes, and she'd come home without them. The barrettes fell off and were lost, and I had to buy new ones every two weeks. I complained in social media and got a lot of sympathetic responses from other mothers. My pastor saw the discussion and said, "This sounds like a market you need to break into." A few days later, I was styling Gabby's hair and mumbling about making a bow that would work. Gabby jumped up and asked, "Are we going to make a bow?”

How did you develop your barrette? We studied and compared barrettes. We needed one that wouldn't fall off and that showed the design on both sides. We call it "double-face, double-snap." You twist the end of a braid around the center bar, then snap each side into place.

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What was your plan? I thought we would sell our idea to a company and put aside the money for college. I approached a major hair-accessory company, which considered our idea but declined. I asked my contact there for help, and he referred us to an engineering firm. It made a prototype and prepared design drawings and models to send to manufacturers for bids. We wanted to make the bows in the U.S., but it wasn't cost effective for a small initial number. The engineering firm had a relationship with a manufacturer in Taiwan that agreed to make 500 packs as a favor. That firm is still our manufacturer.

How did you begin selling? Our patent attorney encouraged us to publicize our bows while we waited for our design patent, and a friend suggested that we produce a video to show how our barrette works. So we created our website and added the video. We expected to sell the samples to family and friends, and then to try the hair-accessory company again. But online orders came in from all over.

How have you grown? Since we launched in 2014, we've filled online orders from 47 states and eight countries. We've sold more than 11,000 packs of GaBBY Bows [$3.99 for a pack of five], and we're on track to double our sales this year over 2015. About 25 stores carry our bows. We're working to get our costs down and our volume up so that we can provide the profit margin that retailers need.

How did you finance your start-up? I borrowed about $40,000 from my 401(k), and I'm paying the loan back with every paycheck over five years. I'm still employed as a vice president with the South Carolina Hospital Association. Gabby and I plan to finance production of two new designs through Kickstarter.

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You worked with SCORE? Yes. We worked with volunteer advisors well-versed in financing and manufacturing from our local SCORE chapter and used SCORE templates to build out our business plan and financial projections. In March 2016 we were named a 2016 American Small Business Champion by SCORE and Sam’s Club.

What's Gabby's role? She's the self-proclaimed CEO and president, but my husband and I made it clear to her that those titles aren't just cute. She inspects the barrettes, takes inventory, fills orders, writes thank-you notes to our online customers and acts as our lead salesperson at trade shows. We’re building an inheritance of entrepreneurship. Gabby says she plans to run this business with her daughter.

See Also: 6 Surprisingly Simple Ideas That Made Millions