Joni Hilton came up with the idea for a safe, environmentally friendly cleaner when she was under her sink. There, she saw "$70 worth of expensive stuff that doesn't do what it promises," says Hilton, 50, who founded Sacramento, California-based Holy Cow Products in 2003. "I thought, 'Someone should invent one product that will do it all and do it safely.'"
So in 2001, the mother of four had a chemist concoct a safe, effective cleaner that would work on any surface. The final product made her whisper, "Holy cow!" in disbelief after it took out a tough carpet stain.
Identifying a problem that moms have and then solving it is a great way for a mom to start a business. But solving the problem is only half the battle. You also have to tell other moms you've solved their problem in a way that makes them want to buy your product over the competition's.
"Just because you, as a mom, think a product will be terrific doesn't mean your market will [agree]," says Stephanie Azzarone, president of Child's Play Communications, a publicity and marketing communications firm that specializes in marketing to moms.
To convince moms, Hilton started with the product itself--available in three colors with cute cow packaging. But Hilton took her marketing a step further by doing frequent in-store demonstrations at some of the thousands of stores where Holy Cow is sold, including Ace Hardware, Sam's Club and Wal-Mart locations. "I talk to thousands of moms this way," says Hilton, whose annual sales exceed $1 million.
That message appeals to moms of all types--as does the price, at less than $4 for a 32-ounce bottle. But Hilton also reaches out to specific groups at her demonstrations. For example, working moms are often interested to hear that their kids can help with the cleaning because Holy Cow is free of toxins. Stay- and work-at-home moms like hearing that Holy Cow won't overpower them with the kind of toxic fumes they would inhale from a typical cleaner. Yoga moms like that they're using an organic product. Soccer moms like knowing Holy Cow can get out tough grass stains. And all these moms carry on Hilton's message through positive word-of-mouth.
Today's moms are also online, researching, shopping and networking. A 2006 eMarketer report shows that in 2005, 32.2 million U.S. moms were online. Azzarone advises generating visibility for your product or service on mommy websites, blogs and other online spaces where moms gather.
Above all, remember that today's moms want to be recognized for being the women--not just the moms--that they are. "Pay attention to her roles," says Azzarone. "She wants to be appreciated."
Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance writer in Southern California specializing in small business and education.