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Small Business Interview with Kimberley Stewart from OnBoard Outfitters

March 10th, 2010 | Featured,Interviews,Online & Small Business Resources,shopping,Small Business,Small Business Tips | 2 Comments »

Kimberley Stewart with OnBoard Outfitters took some time to share some small business tips with us including her thoughts on website development, corporate vision, getting venture capital funding, and Matthew McConaughey (what else!).  Onboard Outfitters specializes in making comfortable baby carriers that can be used in water or on land.

Tell us about OnBoard Outfitters and who you focus on serving?

OnBoard Outfitters designs products and accessories for the active lifestyle so you can get onboard with life!  We use performance fabrics to innovate and enhance the use of products that individuals and families use in their active, everyday lives.  We also develop fitness programs that utilize some of our products, to encourage families to be fit and active together, and to teach kids to love fitness at an early age.  Our products are made for all ages, in various markets such as juvenile products, sports/athletics, outdoor recreation, travel, health/fitness, and medical/therapeutic.

Our first product is the innovative SportsBabyTM infant carrier, the only dual water-land carrier on the market, made for active moms and dads who live life “on the go” and want to take baby everywhere with them:  in the pool, to the beach, camping and hiking, in the snow and rain, or just a walk in the park.  Moms swear to us that their babies don’t want to get out of the carrier – it’s so soft and comfortable.  And several parents tell us that it is their preferred carrier.  Dads love it because of its “engineered” design – “It’s not just a piece of cotton with shoulder straps.”  

How did you get your started selling online?

When I joined OnBoard in 2008, we created a new LLC and decided to sell the remaining inventory of our SportsBaby infant carrier (from my partner’s former LLC), while we prepared a business plan to obtain funding.  So, we needed a website to sell the carriers.  We have also reached out to several other online retailers who now also sell the SportsBaby.  OnBoard will not be a retailer to the public going forward.  We will sell via retail partners, such as small, independent retailers and boutiques, and larger mass merchandisers.  We will also have a limited B2B division to sell directly to practitioners.

Where will OnBoard Outfitters focus most of its energy in 2010?

Getting funding!  And developing our launch products and fitness programs.  We will also focus on building consumer awareness, sales, and brand loyalty.

If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

1.  Spend the money to get a good website.  We went with a woman who did “websites for small businesses” but she really wasn’t experienced in sites with a retail/shopping cart component.  So, the site looked okay on the surface, but I later learned that she had used very amateur programming on the back end, making it enormously difficult for another web programmer to make changes.  This also limited our SEO.  And she chose archaic shopping cart software, which also limits us in being able to calculate international shipping, for example.

2.  Have a reliable customer service and fulfillment system in place.  You have to be able to ship within 24 hours of receiving the order.  With a new company and product, you can’t afford to alienate any customers with bad service.  Once, a woman from Ohio called me, wanting to buy a carrier for her daughter.  She said she had tried to apply a promotional discount to her order online but couldn’t get it to work, so I gave her our Friends and Family discount, which was a greater discount.  I didn’t have the capability to process her order and credit card over the phone, so I trusted her word that she would mail me a check that day, and I shipped the carrier to her.  I did whatever was required to give her a positive shopping experience with OnBoard Outfitters and the SportsBaby carrier.

As 2009 closes, what do you see as 2 new trends in your business this year?

We haven’t been in business long enough, or had enough sales, to see a trend, but we are now finding other sites that focus on active parents and outdoor living with kids, so we are gaining a lot of attention with these sites, and finding people who “catch our vision” of sporty, fun products for infants and parents.

Overall, the fitness/health industry and the juvenile products industry have remained strong in spite of the weak economy, so we think this will help us be competitive and see some growth in the next few years.

If your business/store could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

Let’s see . . . If OnBoard Outfitters were a movie, we’d be a cross between “Baby Boom” (Diane Keaton) and “Gracie.”  “Baby Boom” is, at the highest level, about a woman (we’re two women) who saw a need in the baby market and created a solution.  “Gracie” is a film about a young girl who loves to play soccer, and pushes to get other girls involved in the game.  Both films also express the theme of not letting anyone tell you that you can’t do something – anything is possible with some effort and vision! 

OnBoard’s underlying goal is to help combat childhood obesity by getting kids involved in fitness at a young age – even as infants – and to exercise with their parents so family fitness becomes a way of life and a fun way to spend time together.

If OnBoard Outfitters could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

Based on our current SportsBaby product, our dream MALE spokesperson would be Matthew McConaughey.  He is the epitome of a cool sports-loving dad, who lives on Malibu beach and sports his baby around.

Our dream FEMALE spokesperson would be Kathy Ireland.  She is an amazingly successful female entrepreneur, mom, and a dedicated spokesperson for families and family fitness.

How do the folks at OnBoard Outfitters let loose after a busy day working?

My business partner, Lisa LaBelle, is the fitness expert, so she’ll do something like run a marathon.  I eat chocolate.  All day long.

Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

Starting a business is hard work, and requires a clear vision and plan of how to move from point A to point B to point C.  Get good, seasoned advisors on your team to guide you and also open doors for you.  Spend time at your local Small Business Community Development Center for free advice (or for a nominal fee) on all aspects of business development.  And network like crazy!

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