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You may do everything in your power to keep the children in your life healthy. But have you thought about whether or not the car seat you are driving in is bacteria free? BuckleBath executive director and founder Lauren Siclare created a service to help parents, carers, and daycare centers solve this messy problem. She sat down with Jessica Abo to share her journey and advice to other entrepreneurs.
Lauren, first of all, can you tell us what was going on in your own life when you came up with this idea for BuckleBath.com?
Lauren Siclare: At my daughter's school, one of the teachers takes her out when you drive. Our house is perfectly clean. She was dressed in a delightful pink dress; and when the teacher takes it out, crumbs fall out and I'm ashamed. I say, "How did this happen?"
I had that "aha" moment when I noticed the crumbs coming from the back of her car seat. I went online quickly looking for a service that would come to my driveway and clean my daughter's car seat and nothing came out. I thought, "How does this service not exist? There are millions of children." And when I was actually looking for a company to clean my daughter's car seat, the fact came up that child seats contain more germs than a toilet seat. That's why we specialize in cleaning these car seats and making them look like new. However, we follow car seat manufacturers' guidelines to ensure they are disinfected as well.
How does your company work?
Our appointments are made online via our website bucklebath.com. You can plan and pay for your appointment. On the day of your appointment, the cleaning attendant will send you a reminder and a delightful pink van will pull into your driveway.
We have two offers: One is our contactless service, which we are doing more of during the pandemic. You leave your gear outside. Or we can clean your car so you don't have to remove your car seat. This usually corresponds to a 40-minute service per car seat. At the end of the appointment, the cleaning worker text the person who made the appointment and says, "We're all done. We're done." In some cases, the parents come out and look around and are amazed at what a great job the team has done. In other cases, it's busy parents working inside and saying, "Thank you." And they'll check it out later.
What role did you play in this?
Let's start with buying the van. I took an Uber to the sales lot and knew the only way home was to buy a utility vehicle. I called ahead to make sure they had the car I wanted. And then I go to the Autobahn. I drive this extremely large van and think to myself, "This is it. I have to do this job. I just bought a commercial van." And I knew there would be more commercial vans after that.
I think the key piece is figuring out how. Once you have the van, you need to figure out, "How can I make sure I have a comfortable service and I have everything I need in it." At least five mechanics said to me, "No, you can't put a power source in a commercial van that lets you use three commercial vacuums at the same time. You can't do this. It won't work." So when you're starting a business or starting a service, it's very common that I hear "no" over and over again. You just have to find another way to do it.
The really fun part at first, when we started, was that I was out there with the cleaners rolling up my sleeves, cleaning other kids' vomit, and experiencing what it's like to do this day in and day out because that's how you learn. Unless you literally roll up your own sleeves and take care of "figuring out" once you hit the market, you won't learn that much.
How did you get Bucklebath.com into the market?
We decided to start at a community event where we set up a shop. Our app was ready to make appointments. And we had a number of 15 parents in the first five minutes who wanted to schedule appointments as soon as they realized what we were doing. We booked all of our appointment slots within the first five minutes of a community event. Then that same week, a mom who posted our service on a Facebook page through Bucklebath, and there were 123 comments on how needed this service was and what a brilliant idea it was. So we knew very quickly that we had to expand, expand our team and buy more vans.
What's next for you
What's next for us is the franchise and the ability to have Bucklebath for any caretaker, parent, and daycare that Bucklebath has already requested, but we're not there yet.
How do you work with day care centers?
We work with day care centers to offer our services on site in their parking lots. So think about your daughter. They take her to daycare in the morning. They would leave their car seat there. In the day care center, we can produce 30 to 50 large-scale car seats in a day. You come back to pick her up after work and you get your car seat and then you pick her up your daughter.
What is your number one piece of advice for someone out there who has an idea but hasn't started research and has no idea how they're going to implement the concept they have on their mind?
The top three things to think about when creating a new product or service are the target market. In our case, there are 20 million children under the age of five in the United States. That's a lot of messy car seats. Then think about longevity. How long can this business last? In our case, children are always born and new mothers and messy car seats. Then you want to think about what problem it solves. In our case, we're helping kids drive healthier in their car, but we also offer a service that's handy for busy parents and carers.