Story and photo by Daniel Friedman
The recession was rough on many people. Stephanie Lee, of Chandler, got laid off while working for a manufacturing company in Michigan. She was working at her father’s company, though he was not the one to lay her off. Stephanie laid herself off. After looking at the financials she realized the company needed to trim the workforce to stay afloat.
Lee is applying her hard-nosed approach to business to Bébé EcoPosh, her online store selling what she describes as “stylish, good looking products that are eco-friendly for baby.” She is also working on her MBA at the WP Carey School of Business at ASU. In 2011 she was an ASU Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative winner, for which she received a grant to build her business. The grant provides funding and business support, including office space at Skysong, the ASU business center in Scottsdale supporting entrepreneurship and innovation.
Her space at Skysong is a desk with a computer in a sprawling, open office area surrounded by other entrepreneurs. It gives Lee a place to work where she can concentrate on Bébé EcoPosh when she isn’t caring for her daughter Sophia (17 months), working her fulltime job at Limelight Networks in account development or taking MBA classes. Her husband, Jason, takes care of Sophia when Stephanie puts in some late-night hours in at Skysong researching products and building up her customer base.
She has big plans for the business in 2012, her “year of achievement” as she calls it, to increase marketing to make her website more visible. Up to this point her efforts have been focused on finding the right product mix, of sometimes obscure, but always unique, interesting products made with organic and/or eco friendly process and materials.
One product she sells is the Finn+Emma Play Gym made from 100 percent birch wood with a non-toxic stain, all natural untreated sheesham wood, phthalate-free rattles and hand-knit organic cotton. It sells for $135. Definitely eco and posh, aimed at consumers who want and can afford interesting, chemical-free toys for their kids. The dolls that come with the play gym can be detached and played with separately.
She chose eco-friendly as a focus because “our children are depending on us and we need to make every effort, especially as parents, to make sure we are instilling in them the values of saving their planet, giving them the principles and lifestyle changes that we have to go through, even in the products we buy, to help their future.” Lee also likes the “posh” aspect because so many people equate organic with brown and bland Lee says but eco can be stylish. “The word organic scares people off, but saying safe and free of chemicals, which is the same thing” works better, according to Lee.
Because her store is only online, Lee says customer service is paramount: “giving them as personable a customer experience as possible.” She puts personal touches in the boxes when she makes a sale. Some free samples, attractive but still eco-friendly packaging and eventually product demonstration videos for each product to enhance the customer experience.
Lee’s experience at her father’s business taught her to keep a keen eye on the where her money is and what she is buying. To save money she created her own website and designed her logo. Her garage is the warehouse for the products she sells until the business outgrows the space.
Much of the research and preparation for her store has come during her undergraduate business classes and will continue during her MBA studies. Lee says she will “use my education to build a stronger backbone for the business.”
Lee has big plans beyond increasing sales on her online stores, including a catalogue and brick-and-mortar stores.
Learn more about Bébé EcoPosh.