I'd like to introduce you to Puj (pronounced, “Pudge”), an internet retailer and maker of toddler and baby products. Since 2008, Ben and Katie Richardson (husband and wife) have been simplifying parenthood through great product design. If you haven't had the opportunity to check them out, you can find them at https://puj.com/. True to their singular goal, the company consistently produces new and innovative products that provide solutions to problems, and offer that extra wow factor we're all looking for.
Business relationships aren't that different from personal relationships; they take time and work, but they're oh so rewarding. Last week I had the unique opportunity to interview Katie Richardson, Founder and Creative Director of Puj. Not only did Katie agree to share a little more about herself and the history of her company, but she's also agreed to partner with Babysprouts and Company to give away one of their latest products, the Easy Seat Toilet Trainer for potty training - of course we're happy to throw in a few select items from Babysprouts & Company too! I invite you to get to know Katie and learn a little more about her company Puj.
1. In 2008 you took a big leap of faith and started Puj. Aside from your goal to simplify parenthood through great product design, what was the catalyst for getting into the business of baby products?
K: I am a mother and a designer and as such I truly care about what is best for parents and their kids. I looked at the products available on the market and I knew I could design a better solution that made bath time easy for parents and safe for babies. What people see at Puj is clever design and innovation but what lies even deeper is a desire to help parents and children connect on a greater level. We live in a world of distractions. With Puj I am pushing away the clutter so parents can focus on what matters most, their baby or their Puj. I believe being present minded and in the moment creates a bond so deep that nothing can break it. It’s this moment of connection that I seek to create through good design.
2.Family could easily be argued as the single most important secret to success. How has your family influenced who you are today and who you will be tomorrow?
K: Creating Puj and growing it to the huge success that it is today would not be possible without the love and support of my family. I have a lot of drive and creativity, but any business owner will tell you it’s never a smooth road. There is always opposition. So often it looks like a dead end, but really there is ALWAYS a way to break through. It’s in those moments of fear and doubt that my kids, my husband, my parents, my in-laws, etc. they believe in me. They listen and love me but most of all they encourage me to keep going, to find a way, and to make it happen. So in those moments of darkness and doubt, when I don’t believe in myself, I have to lean on them and push through. I could never do this on my own. It takes the whole family.
3. Puj – what a fun and interesting name. How was the name developed and does it stand for something special?
K: Puj is about clearing away the clutter so you can focus on what matters most, your Puj (pronounce like baby pudge) These moments we have with our little ones are so fleeting. They grow up too fast. My oldest is almost 13 years old and my baby just turned 3. So I know full well how fleeting these moments we are gifted are. My products work so well that in a way they disappear and you can focus on your little one, your Puj.
4. Puj is a relatively young brand, but like any business you’ve probably faced your share of ups and downs. What are some of Puj’s biggest accomplishments and some of the hardest obstacles you’ve had to face over the last 9 years?
K: Puj has been blessed with many big accomplishments. In our first year of business we were featured on the Rachael Ray Show, the Ellen DeGeneres Show, named Product of the Year by Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine, and did over $1MM in revenue. The year before nobody had heard of us and then suddenly we were everywhere! It wasn’t long before we were in 2,000 US stores and over 25 different countries. It felt like we were rock stars! And then all of the sudden it was all being taken from me. I can’t go into the details but I was faced with the reality that Puj was being taken from me and there was nothing I could do about it. I had to dive really deep and ask myself the hard questions. Who am I without this company? Where do I go from here? How did I get into this situation? This was the time when I discovered this company is not about me building a baby products empire. It is about a mom, a dad, and a baby. It is about new life and how to give that life the best possible start. It is about family and being together. It is about joy and how to find it. It is about love. I obviously made it past that extremely hard obstacle and today I am truly grateful for that experience and the way it opened my eyes to what I want most in life.
5. What would you do if you if you weren’t the Owner/Creative Director of Puj? Could you see yourself doing any other job.
K: I love making things and I love people. Really I could have gone any number of directions in life. But for me what matters most is that I am raising my kids and teaching them to see their own potential. We all have greatness within us. The problem is we hide it or cover it up with stories. Stories we tell ourselves or stories others tell us about how we’re not good enough and that we would never “make it” But what I’ve learned on this entrepreneurial journey is those stories are not true. And because we’ve made them up we can create a new story. A story where we dream big and go after it. This is what I want my kids and everyone else out there to know. You can do it, and I believe in you!
6. You recently published a short video entitled, “A Day in the Life of Katie Richardson;” what is it like working with your husband and knowing your single most important goal is to simplify parenthood?
K: People often ask what it’s like to work so closely with your spouse. From the beginning Ben has always been my closest and most trusted adviser. It just seemed natural to work together. Yes, there are times when it’s difficult. But we have both learned you have to take your emotions out of the equation when it comes to business. We both want what’s best for the company and our family. It’s a journey and we’re both still learning and growing so much. I feel I am one of the fortunate ones who gets to share this journey fully with the one I love the most.
7. How would you define the value proposition of Puj?
K: Because we are parents and designers we truly understand the needs of kids and parents. With the design of each new product I first set out to truly solve a problem. Then and only then do I look at the beauty or aesthetic of the design. I want people to use my products and say out loud, “Wow, this is brilliant!” Once we reach that “brilliant” stage then we focus on the look. The interesting thing is so often the products naturally have a beauty about them.
8. It’s one thing to place an order and receive it in the mail a few days later – but what actually goes on behind the scenes? Walk us through the life of an order from design, to available for sale and finally in the hands a Customer.
K: There is so much that goes into getting a finished product into a customer's hands. The Puj Tub was 2 years of testing, prototyping, testing, prototyping, sourcing, refining, patents...etc. When I see a problem I start to create solutions in my mind. Then these ideas are manifest in reality through a sketch or a paper prototype. The design is refined and tested both on Moms (my friends and sisters) and kids (my own kids and focus groups) It begins to become clear what people LOVE and what’s not speaking to them. The design is refined some more and then prototyped at production level. We test it some more and then take it to the trade shows or throw it on Kickstarter like we did with our hangable kid cups. It can be a bit scary to place the final order with the factory because the volume is so large. We put it online and in stores and “launch” the product. The past year of development, sourcing, and testing comes down to one thing. Will people buy it? The best day is when you see the organic photos on Instagram or Facebook where a mom is gushing about how much she loves her baby and there in the the photo is a kid in the bath with our bath tub treads and spout cover making sure that baby is safe and having fun. It’s the best feeling in the world to see my creations playing a role in people's lives. In a way when you buy a Puj product you have a little piece of my heart in your home.
9. The Puj Tub, Puj Hug and Puj Pad are all innovative, simple and extremely useful. Recently you announced the Easy Seat Toilet Trainer for potty training. Tell us a little more about the product.
K: Puj is known for our high quality non-toxic foam. So it was natural to grow with our customers and offer a training seat that is soft and comfortable. And because the material naturally is non-absorbent it’s perfect for this application. You can easily rinse it off or wipe it clean if need be. We first tested it out with my daughter. She was 2 and not a fan of diapers any more. She was SO excited to be a big girl and sit comfortably on the toilet. Our solution eliminates the headaches you get with other toilet trainers. Plus it's warm and soft so kids are loving it! I made sure to test it out with little boys as well because we all know it’s not the same. The Puj Easy Seat holds strong for all kids. I think this one is a home run and we are so excited to finally be able to share it with parents of toddlers!
ENTER to win the new Puj Easy Seat Toiler Trainer, Puj Tub, Hug and Pads (Kneeler & Arm Rest) PLUS a Babysprouts & Company Jogger Sweats Outfit, Changing Mat, Burp Cloth and Baby Bib:
Total ARV of prize pack: $252.90