If necessity is indeed the mother of invention, when you have a team of mothers working towards a common goal, it’s almost inevitable that you create success.
That’s what is happening for Eleanor Lee and Angel Kho, twin sisters from Richmond, who, along with their seven-person team of employees — who are all moms themselves — run Loulou Lollipop, a designer and producer of high-quality baby goods, teething jewelry and toys.
Since starting the business full time two years ago, the pair of 38-year-olds, who came to Richmond from Hong Kong with their parents 20 years ago, have their products in more than 150 stores across North America and carried by stockists in Taiwan and Europe.
But while their days are now filled with meeting deadlines to ship orders to waiting customers, things before the company got off the ground weren’t always that rosy.
A few years ago, Lee, an interior designer by training, was working for a residential construction company in Vancouver that went bankrupt while she was eight months pregnant with daughter, Kinsley.
Her upcoming maternity leave from work was now going to be permanent if she couldn’t find another job to help raise her daughter.
“It was a double whammy,” she told the News. “It was just before Christmas and they called the 20 or so of us into a meeting to say the company was closing down. It was brutal news.”
So, faced with the prospect of no job she drew on her skills, interests and needs to spark a business idea.
“I love wearing accessories, but I knew I couldn’t wear them when I had a baby who could play with them and possibly swallow something,” Lee said. “So, I started to do some research on the Internet and found there really wasn’t anything out there that was stylish or didn’t come in anything but neon colours.
“I wanted something that looked nice and had a nicer palette that used pastel colours,” she said.
That’s how Loulou Lollipops was conceived as Lee enlisted her sister’s help to get the ball rolling on designing and marketing their products that this year earned them a top-five finish in marketing category for the B.C. Small Business Awards.
“Angel was working as a database manager for a mining company and I convinced her to start this business with me,” Lee said. “And now she’s full-time here.”
The benefits of working with her sister are twofold. First, they share a common design sense. And second, the fact they are twins provides some unique efficiencies.
“A lot of the time we don’t even need to talk to one another — we know what the other one is thinking,” Lee said.
Currently, all of the design and manufacturing is done in their east Richmond facility where four workers produce the food-grade silicone products and two others handle the shipping.
“All of them are moms,” Lee said. “And we even have a grandma in there working with us.”
Since there are patents pending on their designs, copycats have been quick to try and tap into the twins’ success by making knockoffs.
Most noticeable were copies of their signature silicone, donut teether that features a mint blue-coloured donut ring with raised sprinkles that are designed to help ease teething discomfort.
“At first, it was upsetting to see that,” Lee said. “But then, we started to see how that was really a big compliment, as well, since they (counterfeiters) had taken their time to try and replicate exactly what we had created.
“But it’s like other goods that are ripped off, people usually end up going back to the real thing because the quality is much better,” she added. “Plus, there really is more than enough room out there in the marketplace for pretty much everyone.”