Becoming a mother brings so many new experiences and opportunities, and can even be the inspiration behind a business. We spoke with Liz Hilton, who used her own struggles with swaddles as inspiration for her own product.
Liz Hilton was an entrepreneur before becoming a mom. As a textile engineer, she specialized in 3D Knitting and programmed 3D Knit solutions. She started in fashion about 15 years ago and transitioned to technical textile 5 years later, where she made 3D Knit solutions for office furniture companies and worked with a supplier. But she didn’t want to stop there. In fact, Liz had goals to bring her experience and technology into other industries such as healthcare and automotive. She then decided to start her own company named KNITit, where customers paid to develop their ideas on her equipment.
Once she became a mother, she realized that she could use the same technology that she used every day to fix the problems she was having with swaddling. Two months after her first son was born, Liz started Swaddelini. With her 3D Knit escape-free swaddle, she started helping babies sleep better and more comfortably through the night.
Most swaddles restrict movement and babies can’t move, or they escape it. Mine is escape-proof, comfortable, and it helps soothe them.Liz Hilton
When the product first launched in August 2018, not a lot happened. As hard as she tried to increase sales, she kept losing money. By September 2020, she pulled the plug from retail revenue and only sold on her website, reaching a standard of about 30 units a month.
When asked about what social media has done for her business, she said, “nothing and everything.” At first, Liz thought that social media was a waste of time and only worked for big brands with a lot of money. Like so many of us, she became addicted to TikTok in December 2020 and decided to make a business account where she uploaded videos from her Instagram.
Then, everything changed.
On January 7, 2021, one of Liz’s TikTok videos went viral, leading to her selling 41 units in just one day.
“It’s been pretty great since then,” Liz recalled.
Starting her business was made easier because she already had the proper equipment and the skills to create the product. She also had won several entrepreneur contests that gave her some money to invest in her patent, which was extremely helpful. The one thing she lacked was the brand awareness, which she knew.
“I spent years building my company without any results, but I kept going and eventually when my TikTok video went viral, customers could Google it and see that I’d worked with bloggers and influencers and that I’d been around for a while.”
Hilton credits a lot of her success to her background in fashion. As a student at FIT, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Liz learned how to program complicated machines that take years to master.
“Without that foundation, I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off.”
She credits learning from her first boss in technical netting, because she was able to use her technical skills to enhance design abilities. He had told her that “it’s through great technical knowledge that great creativity is fostered.” These words have continued to inspire Liz throughout her journey.
One lesson that she has learned from building her business that she will take with her throughout life is that everything can and will go wrong, and you just have to go with it. When we asked about advice that she would give her younger self when starting on this journey, she mentioned 3 concrete mistakes that she made.
First, she recounted that before she invented her product and even became a mother, she hired employees that she was trying to train to her skill level. Looking back, she said that she should’ve waited and hired an administrator to do other tasks than what she was already capable of doing.
Next, she said not to waste time with Amazon if the product you are creating and selling is new or innovative, since people typically use Amazon to buy products they already know and trust, knowing they can get a cheap price.
Her final mistake that she mentioned was not making demands when getting into retail spaces. Even though she invested a lot of money into going to the right trade shows to get good connections, she was disappointed to find out that retail companies would charge additional fees and would not commit to volume.
“Now that I have brand awareness, I can do retail deals online and in store and demand that they order in 100-unit increments. It’s a lot less stressful now and I make more money.”
At the end of our interview, we asked Liz what message she would like to share with the AYG community. Her message was to keep going, but do more of what works and to not be afraid to pull the plug. When her own product wasn’t selling and she was forced to pull the plug on a lot of things, she still kept going and didn’t lose hope. She knew that even if nothing came after that, she would have peace because she understood the value of knowing when it’s right to step away from a business. She also never took on more risks than she was okay with losing.
“Don’t overspend and do it yourself. If you’re going to put your family at financial risk to make your dreams happen, reevaluate.”
Despite the never-ending and tiring duties of motherhood, Liz has managed to create a successful product and help mothers and babies around the world with her innovative design and technology.