I trust and believe that people will do their best, work with integrity and perform well when given the opportunity to do so.
Kim Walls is an activist for women, health, and the environment and the founder of Best Ever Baby. She was named one of the “9 Wonder Women of the Natural Industry” by New Hope Media, and is a nationally recognized natural products expert. As a second-generation natural products expert, fourth generation entrepreneur, and mom of two boys, Walls created Best Ever Baby to help share the passion and products of credible experts with new and growing families. For over 15 years, leading child health advocacy groups and national media have relied on Walls’ clinical expertise to help parents navigate the often-confusing world of natural products. She also shares her experience internationally in the medical community and with childbirth and postpartum professionals and parents; underscoring the relationship between optimum health and a natural lifestyle. She is currently the Global General Manager at Lime Crime, a socially conscious Vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics brand based in Los Angeles.
With the help of a National Natural Health Grant, as well as trusted partners and the medical community, Best Ever Baby (BEB) provides resources to new moms and the health care providers who support them. BEB’s perspective is decidedly natural, and entirely evidence based.
With timely, regularly updated scientific data, BEB o ffers the most reliable birth planning guidance available anywhere. Best Ever Baby provides education, content curation and a clear understanding of the risks and benefits of each birth plan choice, with an inclination toward natural choices.
BEB’s services include a free Birth Plan + Hospital bag checklist for new moms – updated yearly! For hospitals, birthing centers, and home birth midwives, the organization provides Best Ever Resource Kits to be given freely to the new moms in their care. These kits are loaded with top tips and product samples that are approved by BEB’s medical review committee, compliant with the mother-baby friendly hospital initiative, and absolutely free of harsh chemicals.
Best Ever Baby is the online destination to find a modern community of trusted, naturally-minded experts, brands and advisors who offer the very best tools and resources to support birth and birth planning. BEB wants every mom to walk into her birth wholly confident that she has the information she needs to make the choices that are best for her and her family.
Where did the idea for Best Ever Baby come from?
You might say that the ‘idea’ for Best Ever Baby is really from the slow burn of a steady ember, vs. a spark of inspiration. In 2009, after several years of running the natural skincare company I’d founded, I noticed a pattern: after getting more exposure to parenting and having time to seek out more information, many moms started switching from what often were cheap chemical products (like those with untested synthetic fragrances added) to more natural and organic products. Thus, our customers were mostly 2nd (or more) time moms. Often, by the time moms found us, and other products like ours, they felt guilty about their prior choices. They were really hard on themselves and wished they had known better. For moms who don’t believe in the health benefits of a natural lifestyle, there is no issue. But for those who do, the discoveries they make about the products they used at first can be surprisingly traumatizing for them.
Watching well-meaning parents use products with known harmful chemicals was deeply upsetting. Seeing them then feel inadequate and bad about themselves later was even worse. I felt that Moms’ inexperience, trust, and lack of confidence, were being taken advantage of by a barrage of mainstream advertising, and I wanted to do something about it. It occurred to me that if I could help educate women during their first pregnancy, they might be empowered to make product choices aligned with their personal value systems from day one.
So, I wrote an eBook called The Ultimate Labor Bag Checklist. It was a very simple, focused eBook about what choices and types of products help protect both mom and baby from harsh chemicals immediately before and after this highly vulnerable time – birth. I already knew enough about business to know that, in a vacuum, this effort wasn’t going to be a growth engine for our baby skincare business, but that wasn’t my primary motivation. I wanted new moms to have better access to a broader spectrum of evidence-based information, to be confident in their decisions and to combat the marketing trends that were convincing them of a false need to buy more gear, tech and products than any one baby could ever benefit from. My personal agenda is as devoted to creating positive change in peoples’ lives as it is to growing successful businesses.
The Ultimate Labor Bag Checklist did its job. It became a top Google search result – organically – for “labor bag” and “birth plan” and stayed there for years. Notably, those search terms are not tied to the natural movement, so we were reaching mainstream readers vs. a niche audience. It was immensely gratifying for me to know that we had penetrated the mainstream with brand agnostic health and product information. To this day we update the eBook yearly with new evidence-based directives around birth as they are released. We’ve tracked and written about nearly every major change in the birthing culture over the past 8 years, from putting a focus on skin to skin time, delayed cord clamping and even the emergence of a type of birth called ‘gentle’ cesarean. A big emphasis in our eBooks has always been evidence-based education in support of a natural and organic lifestyle. We show all kinds of different brands and products in our eBooks, but they don’t pay to be there. We include products as examples of use-cases (such as how to deal with diaper rash) and examples of brands that meet the criteria we outline in the eBook – such as 3rd party verification for safety, organic content and adherence to baby friendly standards.
After selling my skincare company in 2014, Best Ever Baby (BEB) was officially born, building on the hundreds of articles and several eBooks that I’d written over the years. With a bit of time on my hands I started expanding educational efforts to find new and more ways to reach first time moms.
The first stage of spurring growth was linking together responsible companies with clear and transparent principles – those run by founders and employees who authentically wanted the best for families and who made social responsibility an equally important bottom line metric in their business. The brands and people in our collaboration are the innovators who have helped bring natural products to the forefront of our daily lives; reducing BPA and artificial estrogens in our blood and breast tissue and working to eliminate plastic, fillers and useless ingredients from our food.
We created a collaborative co-op, combining educational materials and relevant trial-size sample products into kits that are distributed in hospitals for new moms. Though inclusion in the BEB program is a decision made by committee, we only partner with brands that I personally believe have moms’ and babies’ best interests at the core of their business philosophy.
BEB is an NGO bridging between the healthcare community and the business community for the benefit of families. We are a social enterprise that reinvests 100% of profit into the creation of new tools and services that address evolving needs such as breastfeeding support, gestational diabetes and free parenting education.
Our goal is to continue increasing the number of families we service by a minimum of 10% year-over-year. We do this by providing specialized kits that are distributed through hospitals along with complimentary specialized educational materials available online as eBooks, articles and content within the kits themselves. We measure our success by how many lives we touch.
Today we distribute over 100,000 kits to new moms in hospitals and birthing centers as well as produce regular content about either rarely or inadequately covered topics like cord blood banking and preemie babies. We’ve also launched the BEB Baby Journal app this year, which is both ad-free and available for free download on iOS and Android. We emphasize baby-friendly practices and focus on the most vulnerable populations, like Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) babies, presenting their parents with healthy options so they can make choices from an informed and empowered place.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days vary greatly from one to the next, but my priorities stay the same. Family first, then primary job – I’m the Global GM of a vegan, cruelty free cosmetics brand called Lime Crime. I absolutely love this work as Lime Crime (LC) is a socially conscious company with a brand DNA that is invested in women’s empowerment. Work at LC is highly aligned with my entrepreneurial skill-set in that I’ve been able to focus on putting a business infrastructure in place, opening new pathways for growth and even engaging in emotionally rewarding activities like shepherding significant non-profit donations to empowerment groups like HOLA and Girls Inc.
I’m an introvert, but I work with people constantly every day. My work days are robust – anywhere from 8 to 14 hours p/day, with lots of weekend work too. When I’m not working, I’m reading or spending time with my husband and our two sons.
To keep some balance, I wake up early and spend time alone – having coffee, going for a long walk while listening to a podcast like the ‘How I Built This’ series. Almost every episode inspires me with the greatness of people, and what individuals and great teams can accomplish together. Then, at least during the school year, my beautiful boys wake up – they are 14 and 11 – and the absolute joys of my life. My husband and I chat with each other and with the boys while we make them breakfast and lunch. It is actually my husband who runs the daily activities of Best Ever Baby, not me. So sometimes we talk about that. Mostly though, he fills me in on the world events and politics that he knows I’ll care about. On most days I prefer not to watch the news so he filters out the hype for me and we talk about the pertinent details while we begin our days. I love this time together most of all.
The commute to LC is long, an hour each way, and I try to use that time wisely, listening to podcasts or participating in conference calls (hands free of course). I arrive at the office around 10:30 – generally finishing the conference call with colleagues in person. Then work-work-work at a dead run until about 6:30. Activities might range from working through contracts, developing new business opportunities, team meetings, staff reviews, hiring, financial reviews – the range of things that I do each day can seem dizzying sometimes. By the time I get home my lovely husband has often made dinner so we get to sit as a family and talk about our days. Then the boys settle in for a show – usually something funny like “Community” or “Brooklyn 99” and that is usually when my mind focuses in on any number of business challenges or opportunities. I read the latest research in the birthing community, check out new baby, pregnancy products, skincare and cosmetic products, and just generally think quietly.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Maybe a decade ago or so, I realized that what it really takes to bring an idea to life is strong execution. Planning, process, understanding what resources are needed and bringing those to bear, measuring results, hard work, patience, ability to react quickly and effectively change tactics are critical. Execution is everything. I’m maniacal about time management, prioritization and hitting deadlines. I set up projects for myself and others that have measurable results so I know when a job is complete or not. I think very carefully about what projects I will accept and commit the necessary time and resources to complete them. More importantly, I surround myself with reliable, accountable people who hold themselves to a high personal standard. If there is scope creep, I break it off into separate projects or delegate to someone else so I can finish what I’ve started. Ideas are easy but don’t amount to anything without good execution.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m over the moon that discussions around equality are getting more airtime and more mainstream. One of the equality issues particularly important to me is gender equality. It is super exciting that feminism doesn’t seem to be a dirty word anymore as illustrated by the prolific use of terms like ‘Girl Boss’, ‘Nasty Woman’, ‘WAHM’. We’re the people who want equal pay for equal work, to be judged fairly for our assertiveness, for work at home to be valued on par with work for pay, and so on. The conversation is alive and well, and that makes me happy. I took my 14 year old son to Washington DC for the Women’s March. It was his idea. He said “Mom, we’re going. I want to be the kind of person who DOES something about what I believe in.” It was our second march together. The first was for our environment. The gender equality part of the conversation is just one piece. The bigger idea is activism. People are standing up, joining forces, and taking action about the things that are important to them. I might not agree with everyone, and they might not agree with me, but fundamentally we are seeing a more engaged population and more engaged youth. We are seeing people who understand their potential and the importance of their voices.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I trust and believe that people will do their best, work with integrity and perform well when given the opportunity to do so. My habit is to seek out opportunities to set up highly accountable people for self-sufficiency, and then delegate to them without trying to micromanage. I don’t have time for most of my own ideas and tasks, so learning to embrace the habit of delegating has been critical for any ideas that I want to survive. I think Richard Branson is the king of this habit. He’s definitely got it figured out. People tend to sink or swim pretty quickly in that kind of environment, and when they swim, they can become awesome work partners for life. I have 3 employees and several agencies who’ve been with me through 3 or 4 different companies. I love each of them dearly, would do anything for them, and have no idea what I would do without them at this point. They have truly become family. Today, for Best Ever Baby, I delegate all business operations; however, I stay engaged around strategy and vision.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Focus more on what you are good at, and do more of it. Delegate more.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Children shouldn’t be sheltered, except when it comes to their safety. They should be protected from damage, but not insulated from the realities of life (especially emotionally) that will strengthen their character and build their potential to live confidently in an unpredictable world. Honesty breeds empowerment. White lies do children a disservice. E.g., “Mom, are you sad?” (Mom is indeed sad.) Typical untruthful answer: “No, I’m just tired.” An answer I can get behind: “Yes. It is okay to be sad though. I need to be sad right now, but I’ll be okay. Thank you for noticing.” The first answer is confusing because the child then thinks they have misinterpreted a situation, when in fact, they haven’t. They learn not to trust their judgment and instincts in the face of that kind of white lie. Lying to children can be easier because we don’t want to hurt their feelings or upset them, but it isn’t the right choice. It is selfish. And we miss opportunities to help them grow.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Prioritize rigorously and often. Always focus on the highest priorities.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Focus on a goal. Without focus it seems like nothing ever gets done. I’m always super clear with myself, and try to be with others, about what the focus point is at any given time. With a clear goal and laser focus on hitting that goal, it becomes really hard to miss the mark.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In my first business, which was well over 20 years ago when I was still attending UCSB, I saw an opportunity for innovation at truck stops (yes, truck stops) and jumped in full force. Within 6 months we had fully developed the offer, acquired inventory and secured distribution in about 15 Flying J Truck Stops. While that business lasted less than a year and cost over $20,000, it was highly validating and provided a great lesson. Fundamentally, the problem with that business was that other existing, competitive companies had better distribution and field teams, so they saw my idea and picked it up. They were able to do the same thing, but better and faster than I could. There were no barriers to entry for competitors who were more equipped than me to execute on an idea that couldn’t be protected.
The most important outcome of that particular business, from an entrepreneurial growth perspective, is that the competitors validated my idea. It was good. I was right. It was an innovation that made the Franklin Mint (remember them?) a lot of money while transforming the product landscape of one of their sectors. Being right is confidence boosting. That failure helped give me the confidence to start more businesses, and I can honestly say that I never make the same mistake twice.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Swimmy Cup! Every year I go to the beach in North Carolina with my immediate and extended family. We laze around the beach and spend hours on end in the water. When trying to hydrate with waves lapping at (and often over) our heads and occasionally ripping water bottles right out of our hands, my sister and I did what any enterprising pair would do… we started creating a product: the perfect cup for drinking while in the ocean. It has a wrist strap, a self-sealing straw, gyration balancer, insulation and is just exactly the right diameter to grip comfortably. I own the domain swimmycup.com and would gladly give it to anyone who wants to take on the idea. Here is why I haven’t done it myself: the emotional and financial expenses of protecting patents and fending off counterfeit producers are not battles I want to fight, assuming a successful product. (Listen to the How I Built This podcast about TRX before taking this one on.)
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I’m not much of a spender. Shopping takes too much time and I don’t need much. When it comes to the normal stuff, I shop almost exclusively online and pretty much only by necessity. When I do spend more money, it is almost always on experiences. Recently, I was visiting my aunt and uncle in San Francisco; they are incredibly inspiring and I take every chance I can to see them. On this last occasion, I’d planned for a 2 night stay, but then my uncle had box seats to “La Boheme” and invited me to go with him. The cost of changing my flight to stay an extra night was almost exactly $100. It was great. I got to spend more time with my family and had special one-on-one time with my uncle. We talked, laughed, appreciated each other and shared a meaningful experience that I’ll always remember – my first opera.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Google. I read and research like crazy. I’m burningly curious about almost everything and devote huge amounts of time to mastering subjects that interest me. As a child, I have this very distinct memory of a giant, hard cover Websters dictionary that I kept in my hang-out spot in the attic. Anytime I didn’t understand something, and would ask my mother what it meant, she would indignantly say “look it up yourself!” Starting at about age 4 I would run (literally) back and forth to that attic so often that the dictionary became delightfully tattered and worn after no time. I still have that dictionary and have gone one step further to now collecting old dictionaries.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, by Kim Scott.
I make a diligent practice out of educating myself regularly, and particularly love reading business books. I’m super excited about Radical Candor because it offers a very straightforward “how to” framework to be a better boss with lessons taken from the author’s time leading in the top tier of both Apple and Google. I believe that people are the most important part of any business, so Scott’s methodology is totally aligned with how I think, and she provides an actionable framework to put her ideas into practice. My own mantra for growing and aligning teams is this: “Hire great people, put them in the right seats, empower them, set goals, measure results. Rinse. Repeat.” By following the Radical Candor method, which aligns with my own beliefs and systems, I believe I’ll be a better boss, which means I can better support my teams’ performance as we all keep learning and growing together. I think absolutely everyone should read this wonderfully insightful book, whether they are in a leadership role or not.
What is your favorite quote?
“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein (Really, almost EVERY quote from Albert Einstein is a favorite quote.)
Best Ever Baby on Facebook:
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.