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Why In the World Would Someone Make a BittyMug™?

Plastic Free Teacups for Kids Don't Have to Be Ugly

I get the same questions all the time from customers, friends and family.  "How did you get into this?"  And as I explain, several people have shared that they too have an idea, but they've never acted on it.  If that happens to be you, perhaps reading this will be your first step to getting started.  Be inspired.  Be creative.  Get going.

What made you want to create the BittyMug™?

When my daughter turned about 2-years old, I started researching the hype that was going on around BPA. I investigated multiple articles about plastics and found several sources that said essentially “Even if the plastic is BPA-Free or biodegradable, it’s still made with petrochemicals that will leach into your food and BPA-FREE plastic is still bad for you.”  No matter what the marketing says on your water bottle, scientists repeatedly say they personally stopped eating out of plastic, and so should you.

We removed all the melamine & plastic dishware from our drawer of kid dishes, and we replaced most of them with ramekins and mason jars or small glasses. The challenge became serving hot drinks like tea and hot chocolate. I needed something that would fit in her hands, was microwave safe, and ceramic seemed to be the best. All I could find in her size were tourist mugs that said “Washington” with a cheesy picture plastered on the boring white mug. I bought 6 of them and then the store stopped carrying them. And that’s when I thought “This is something other parents could use, and I know I can make a better product”.

Example of Tourist 4oz Ceramic Mugs

What is with the TM by the name BittyMug™?

I consider the name BittyMug a trademark of this product.  I have to use the TM wherever possible to establish the fact that this is my concept, my idea.  It gets in the way sometimes, and I'm not crazy about it either - but I'm doing what the lawyers tell me so I can keep using the name. 

Was this project inspired by anyone in particular?

A good friend of mine (thank you Heather F) turned me onto this book The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth by James Altucher. Essentially he tells you to set aside dedicated time every day and write down 10 ideas. It’s incredible how I'd sit down and have absolutely nothing to write, and then out of nowhere and idea would come to mind, and then another. Where do they all come from?  It’s been almost 2 years now and although I haven’t sustained 10 ideas EVERY day, I’ve definitely had hundreds of them - some good, some ridiculous. I’ve filled 4 journals with diagrams, lists, and sub-lists of ideas. BittyMugs was one of those ideas.

Heather's Journals and Altucher's Book Cover

Then, I discovered little bits of time throughout my day that I could use more productively without changing my schedule.  15 or 20 minutes here and there that I could listen to Audiobooks in my car, while walking the dog, or after dropping kids off at school.  I call it my “mobile classroom”.  Amazingly, with a small adjustment in mindset, I'm now able to churn through 2-4 books/month!  I look forward to running errands now, because that's when I get to learn cool stuff.

During any downtime, I’m listening to a book on personal or business development. With every book comes at handful of new ideas and guidelines that have put me on this track. I’ve just recently passed 100 days of doing The Miracle Morning - a concept I learned from author Hal Elrod, and with an extra hour of focus doing the SAVERS every morning, I’ve become more productive and more organized than ever before.

The Miracle Morning Routine (SAVERS)

I have to mention mentorship in this section. I’ve made a point of seeking out people that know more than I do. I was fortunate to find a phenomenal coach that meets with me once/month by phone.  We cover topics like addressing difficult conversations, pitching products, interpersonal relationships and time management. I subscribe to Darren Daily, which is a daily mentor chat with Darren Hardy, one of my favorite, inspiring authors. Bellingham has an incredible resource with the NW Innovation Resource Center, which is a non-profit created to help entrepreneurs succeed in the Pacific Northwest. And finally, I’ve paired up with a mentor from SCORE, another local resource with retired professional business owners and entrepreneurs.

My husband, parents, neighbors and friends have been a huge inspiration with positive and critical feedback every step of the way, which is paramount in keeping one foot moving in front of the other.

How did you get started?

I was first inspired by Tim Ferris’ book The 4-Hour Work Week, which got me moving in the right direction of finding a manufacturer and realizing this whole idea was within reach. From there, I whipped up a mockup in Photoshop, wrote a description of what I wanted and put my project out to manufacturers for bids.

First Mockup Sent to Manufacturers of Mugs with Animals on Them

Refining the Rhinoceros Decal

Examples of Mug Samples

It took several months of back and forth with the manufacturers to get the decals corrected, draw and re-draw (and re-draw) the animals, find the right glaze colors, refine the shape of the mug and settle on a thickness for the mug handle. As I waited through many delays in shipping, Chinese holidays and even a monsoon, I continued refining my website, packaging and marketing materials.

  Examples of Packaging Styles

My site was set up to take pre-orders and I connected with Kids Northwest, a local children’s store, to display the mug samples as a mini market research project. Fortunately when people saw the mugs, feedback was 99% positive and several wanted to buy them.  This led to a handful of pre-orders, so I was encouraged and confident they would sell once we got them in stock.  Finally 14 months from the day I started, I placed my final order with the manufacturer in August 2016.

Little did I know it would still take another 100 days to actually receive the shipment. It was an agonizing wait, and sadly I missed Christmas, which was disappointing to several of my pre-order customers. Fortunately most people are understanding and I was only asked to refund a few dollars in shipping expenses, which seemed reasonable to me.

In the final stages, I had several more expenses thrown at me, which definitely sent the stress level soaring.  I swallowed fees for inspection, cadmium & lead testing (which we passed!), cross-border duty, ISF bonds, taxes, power of attorney, and even an extra $100 for a friggin' lift truck.  I begged and pleaded to unload the boxes myself to save the $100, but safety policies made that impossible.  

Examples of Inspection and Customs Documents & Photos

Just breathe.  One Step at a time.  Eventually, on January 3, the freight truck rounded the corner and I was completely overcome with excitement.  Christmas morning was no match for this delivery truck and I could have kissed the driver a million times (I didn't).  He unloaded the plalette of mugs right into the garage, and after ripping open the boxes, we found everything in-tact and deliciously perfect.  Success!!  It was a beautiful day.

Shipment of Mugs Arriving in Freight Truck

Looking in the Boxes at the Mugs for the First Time

What are the 3 most important lessons you’ve learned so far?

  1. Be intentional about what you read & how you spend your time
    • Choose books that will lead you to your goal
    • Queue up a reading list so you always have something ‘on-deck’
    • Mix how-to books (like Book Launch) with inspirational books (Like Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster or anything by Jim Rohn)
    • Stop watching TV
    • Replace time spent consuming news with audio books related to your goal
    • Find people that support your goal & make a point to meet with them
    • Eliminate people that bring negativity into your life
    • Write key takeaways from your books in your journal
  2. Do ONE thing every day towards your goal or project
    • Every day think of one thing you can do that will take you a step closer. Buy that book you’ve been thinking about, find that email address, write the letter, do a search, make a list. Even if it seems trivial, tiny things add up to big things over time.
  3. Dedicate at least 30 minutes/day to focus
    • Scrutinize your schedule and find 30 minutes somewhere. I’ve found that if I wake up before everyone else in the house, I can get up to two hours before there are any distractions.
    • Make yourself a cup of tea, sit with the dog, and just sit in silence with your journal for 30 minutes for 10 days in a row.
    • Write down every single idea that comes to mind.
    • Get a planner and look at the week ahead to schedule out your ONE thing for each of the 7 days.
    • Structure makes this possible. Check out The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.
    • Read The One Thing by Gary Keller

What message would you give to anyone else that has an idea for a product?

Take the first step TODAY and do ONE thing every day from now on. Almost every entrepreneur and author I’ve read gives the same piece of advice: "Just get started". It’s relatively easy to come up with ideas, but it is taking action that makes a difference.

If you don’t know what the first step is, start with one of the books described in this article, and write everything down. As long as you’re taking one step a day, you’ll start to see through new lenses and new questions will come up, and in a few months, you’ll be in a completely new paradigm. And in case it wasn’t clear, tomorrow isn’t good enough. Take that first step NOW. Right now.

Don’t let excuses in. If you don’t have a journal, use paper from the recycling bin. If you don't have the right tea, drink water. If you haven’t read The Miracle Morning, just look at this graphic. There are no excuses for not starting.

Heather is the founder of Wildini™, a zero waste company dedicated to supporting animal conservation through eco-friendly products for kids. "As a kid I always wanted to help save wild animals and Wildini is a vehicle to living that dream." says Heather. Heather writes about minimizing waste, animal conservation successes and clever products at Wildini.com.

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