By Alicia Cunningham | Nov 24, 2016
Customized Baby Products
Industry: Audrey's Bear
Products: Customized Baby Products
Small business owner Rachel Quarnberg has a young daughter, Audrey. She’s also the owner of a loyal family dog named Bear. But neither Audrey nor Bear had much to do with the origins of Audrey’s Bear.
“I had Audrey and found out I was having another baby girl, Annabelle. Before she was born, I wanted to create something for her that was not a hand-me-down from Audrey. I wanted her to have a keepsake of her very own,” Quarnberg says.
She began to seek out companies that could print her own, unique design on fabric. “I found a company that allowed me to print off my own design,” Quarnberg says. This one small project turned into an online business, Audrey’s Bear.
Quarnberg continued to work with her original supplier as she grew her business. “But then they discontinued my fabric, and I had to decide if I was going to keep going or shut the entire business down. We decided to strike out on our own, and there was a lot of growing pains to overcome because we had zero experience,” she says.
Today Audrey’s Bear provides customized blankets, hats, sheets, and car seat covers. “When we receive an order, we send our customer a proof. They can change and personalize anything. We have a proofing team that will help them make changes and approve the final design. We often go back and forth to get something exactly right.” Quarnberg says.
The original venue for Audrey’s Bear was not kind to Quarnberg. She started her business in Alaska, where her husband was stationed. “Shipping our needed equipment was astronomically expensive,” Quarnberg says. Audrey’s Bear has since relocated to Orem, Utah, which has made things easier. “Utah’s definitely the place to be to grow a new business,” Quarnberg says.
Getting the needed equipment was just one of Audrey’s Bear growing pains. Quarnberg also had to find a reliable fabric source. She started with an overseas supplier, which had multiple problems. It was hard to communicate with her supplier. Wait times were long. And mistakes took longer to fix.
“We were expecting a fabric shipment in January,” Quarnberg shares, “and when it finally came, we opened it up, and it was neon orange. I thought it looked like fabric used by prisons for prisoner uniforms.”
Her thought was exactly right. Quarnberg’s shipment of soft, beautiful fabric for newborns was mixed up with a shipment of fabric heading to a prison in the United States. “I had a minor panic attack and had to find our fabric,” Quarnberg admits.
“Our old supplier left us in a pinch on more than one occasion,” Quarnberg says. In the last year, Audrey’s Bear has started to source fabric domestically. “A lot of issues resolved themselves when we started buying from suppliers in the United States. We receive orders faster. We can resolve problems faster. Mistakes are corrected with more grace,” Quarnberg says.
Challenge: Growth. Quarnberg admits that growing a new business was challenging because she didn’t know what she didn’t know. “It was a steep learning curve, but we are in a good spot now,” she says.
Opportunities: Giving back. Quarnberg developed a program called ‘Swaddle4Swaddle’ which allows her to donate a blanket to a NICU for every blanket purchased. “I look forward to the day when I walk into any NICU and see my blankets by those babies,” she says.
Needs: Space. Quarnberg is quickly outgrowing her current space. “I want to design a building that will meet our needs,” she says. “Sewing, photography, production, shipping, all in one space. A lot of our employees are stay-at-home moms that work from home. There are a lot of women out there who have a lot to offer but feel they have to choose between work or staying home. I want to provide daycare in-house so women can come to work, be creative and contribute, but still have their kids with them and close by.”