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Munchables business targets teething

Coquitlam mom sells baby-safe necklaces


JUNE 11, 2014 12:00 AM 

Munchables owner Laura May of Coquitlam has made a home business selling baby-safe silicone jewelry that helps kids with teething. You've got a cranky, drooling baby with endless teething pains and a bad habit of clawing at your hair and skin when he nurses.

You find the ideal solution: a necklace of chewy, stylish silicone beads you toss on in the morning and have with you every time he needs to soothe his gums. Or keep his hands busy. But it costs $40, more than even you - the wife in a professional couple, with a good downtown desk job - is willing to pay.

What to do? If you're Laura May, a 30-year-old Coquitlam mom with a business degree in your back pocket and a husband who's a professional programmer, you track down the Asian manufacturer of the necklace, set up a company to market the jewelry locally and online, build yourself a website and go into business from home.

May says the idea for her Munchables empire came along at just the right time. She was on maternity leave from her job as a mining analyst and "really wanted to stay home" with baby Aiden rather than resume the Vancouver commute.

While his teething hadn't been as bad as some friends' children were going through, it was bad enough that the group had tried all kinds of solutions, including hours spent sewing long tubes of fabric into necklaces filled with wooden beads so that a remedy was always close at hand.

Then one of her friends appeared with a bright silicone necklace made of chewy, separately knotted, easy-toclean beads, she says.

"I thought it was brilliant. There was no doubt in my mind I needed one. But I was shocked at the retail price. It was $40.

"I thought I could do it cheaper. I have a business degree, so I put it to use."

Six months later, she's selling her own necklaces and pendants that range from $10 to $23.

May admits that getting the company together was trickier than an average citizen with no business or tech skills could master easily. She started with safety research on the beads, she says, and confirmed the information she was given with the independent labs that did the research. She sorted through federal and provincial health and safety regulations, tax issues, insurance requirements and incorporation procedures - information that would have come at a hefty price had she paid someone for it.

After investigating a turnkey-website provider whose sites weren't complex enough for the merchandise and sales functions she needed, May says husband Nigel built a site for her. The 200 or so hours he put in would have cost thousands of dollars had he charged for them, she says.

And then there was the debate on what to name the company.

"It was a hard thing," May says. "It took a couple of weeks just to decide on a name and find a version that was acceptable to the provincial registry of businesses. "I can't remember exactly what we first thought up. I think Chewy Monkey was our first idea." was launched Feb. 19 at a Cloverdale swap meet after a very late night spent ensuring every detail of the website was perfect.

May says she has been able to branch out from the original designs the manufacturer offered to bracelets and necklaces she has designed herself.

She's added a children's line as some moms discovered their kids liked them and others found them therapeutic for children with things like sensory processing disorders or autism - kids who chew restlessly to soothe themselves. With operations established and a new line of "designs for boys, in boy colours" on the horizon, May's success appears to rest now on her ability to spread the word.

But the sales pitch seems to come naturally. She interrupts an explanation of her upcoming move to tap the Amazon marketplace with an enthusiastic list of product virtues: "a convenient toy that's always in reach, great to chew during mommy cuddles, it minimizes hair-pulling during nursing, it's safe."

But she's equally up front about the fact a home business isn't for everyone. Even with the couple's experience, startup costs were about $10,000 for product and another $10,000 for business expenses and fees. In her second month, May spent another $5,000 on product and was about to lay out $2,000 for professional photographs for the Amazon offerings. The jewelry has been well received but revenue from the company is "purely supplemental" for the family for now, May says.

"We'll see where it goes. "I can hope," she laughs.

© Tri-Cities Now

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