No. I just gave them to the toy testing standard people. Sophie had already passed all the EU standards which are more stringent than Canada and the U.S. standards, so I knew it wouldn’t be a problem. I wouldn’t touch food or anything like that because it’s just too difficult with restrictions and expiry dates. We’ll look at anything else as long as it’s been approved.
How did you get the Globe and Mail story back in 2006?
I already had got Sophie into a few stores – that’s how the reporter found us. The reporter’s mother bought a Sophie in London, Ont. I wasn’t interviewed at all for that story. From there, lots of little shops and individuals started coming to us to buy Sophie. We know from being a distribution company, that on average, it takes about three years for a product to start being looked for by the consumer. It took less than that for Sophie, probably solely because of that Globe and Mail story. It was lucky.
Was it hard to get into Toy “R” Us and the other big chains?
No. Because people were asking for Sophie all over the place, most of the nationals actually came to us which made it significantly easier to negotiate with them. If you’re going to them, it’s pretty much on their terms, but if they’re coming to you, you have some play with payment terms. Toys “R” Us came looking for Sophie. We didn’t have to pound pavement for the nationals at all.
When things exploded, it got a little crazy. I used to get my mom and friends to help us pack once we started getting larger Toys “R” Us orders. Our house turned into a packing shop. We had a big house in Rockwood with a barn that we ended up converting into the Rug in a Bug headquarters before moving to Milton.
Where did Bug in the Rug name come from?
There was a line out of Australia call Snug as a Bug – it’s sort of a baby wrap thing. But since that name was already gone in Canada, when the company started importing it into North America, they called it Bug in a Rug. When I moved to Canada, they asked if I would take over from their Canadian distributor to distribute Bug in a Rug in Canada. I said sure, and that combined with Sophie ended up being my online website – so that’s where the name came from.
Is Sophie most of your business?
The whole Vulli line makes up most of our business. But I realized a few years into starting my business that 98 per cent of my revenue came from Sophie herself, not even the spinoff, because at that time there were fewer products available. I thought that if something happened to Sophie, my whole business would be gone. That was three or four years ago and it’s taken me this long to get to the stage where Sophie and its related products are probably 70 per cent of my income.
Did the financial meltdown of 2008/09 hurt you?
Orders were typically a bit smaller but mothers find money to buy stuff for their babies no matter what the situation is economically – probably much to their husband’s chagrin. We didn’t really suffer.
What’s your biggest challenge?
With the growth we’ve had, it’s just cash flow and trying to hold it all together. The bills get bigger, the invoices get bigger coming in and it’s all about the timing. You’ve got to make sure you have enough from Peter to pay Paul in time. That is a huge ongoing challenge. The company’s grown so much that my bank manager keeps saying that I need to slow down the growth. Isn’t that kind of like an oxymoron for your bank manager to be telling you that? But our debt to equity ratio is very healthy because relatively, I have very little debt compared to my sales figures.