Meghan Khaitan is the founder of MyBuckleMate, an invention and family business formed to keep kids safe and provide a better driving experience for families. Her company is based in Ashburn, Virginia. Meghan runs her family business with her husband, Anurag Khaitan, and three children, Indy, Haley, and Jack (ages 13, 10 and 7). MyBuckleMate is an award-winning seat belt buckle holder that keeps floppy back seat buckles propped up, so that kids in booster seats and older can buckle up by themselves. When contacting her for this story, I felt as though I was talking to another mom, and not a CEO, with a passion and a cause. She shared her secrets to success:
Don't fear integrating family and business life.
Meghan's children were the inspiration for the product. Anurag made a comment out of frustration after returning home with their kids one day, "They can’t buckle themselves!'"
All three children are now the couple's go-to product testers and models for lifestyle images in promotional materials. Meghan shared, "We want our kids to see and experience how hard work and smart risk-taking is part of life’s great adventure. We strongly feel that they should know that life’s opportunities are limited only by their imagination and willingness to take risks."
She doesn't claim that it's easy, making it important to learn how to manage conflict when it arises. And it will. "We celebrate our successes together, small and big. And just like everyone else’s children, ours are very creative and often make us look at things in ways we wouldn’t have thought beforehand. Their faces and hands can be found throughout our collateral and website."
It's okay to embrace a social cause.
I've counseled some entrepreneurs who have struggled with the idea that a for-profit venture can have a social mission. Meghan understands the link between business and improving the quality of life for others. She shared, "We are a mission-driven business. We think that it is important to teach healthy and safe habits to our kids early in life. We make every decision for our business to ensure our product is available and accessible to every family who needs it."
Her product makes a difference in the lives of children with disabilities and motor planning difficulties, as well as adults with arthritis.
Collaborate with other family businesses.
Meghan and Anurag work with local, family owned and operated businesses to deliver their product. Their family business partners offer advice, encouragement and share in their success.
"It is comforting to know that they are watching out for us and that we are building a long-term relationship," Meghan shared. She admits that there are challenges, such as higher costs. There's also a smaller pool of partners to work with. Despite those challenges Meghan says, "We have chosen to work with partners who are family-owned and share our vision, work ethic and goals."
Take advantage of your ability to be agile.
A smaller family business can move quickly, unlike its larger competitors. "We often have to make quick decisions without the luxury of time for in-depth analysis. We get to work on the fly, but we also own the outcome of our decisions," Meghan explained.
Some family business owners fear failure and run away from making decisions. Larger businesses face difficulty making quick changes. A family business has the ability to learn, adapt and recover quickly.
Offer a highly personalized service.
Meghan connects to prospects and customers on a personal level. She understands the demands of running a busy family life, and her product addresses that challenge.
Word-of-mouth marketing and referrals are key to growing her family business. She explained, "Our personal interaction with families helped to spread the word to customers and prospects. Often, the best part of the business is communicating with customers directly."
Meghan advises others to go into family business. "It is not for everyone, but you learn so much about running a business and about yourself. There is also a level of excitement that the entire family can feed off of, when you take on an unknown."