Meghan Khaitan - Founder of MyBuckleMate

I listen, admit my mistakes, and move on. I also give referrals as often as possible and thank those who have given me a hand up.

Meghan Khaitan is the founder of MyBuckleMate. A must-have for road trips and carpools, MyBuckleMate keeps back seat buckles propped up and easy to reach so buckling up is always a snap! No more buckles flopping around, falling into seat pockets, or getting wedged under booster seats–buckles always stay where you can easily reach them. It is the perfect seat belt solution for kids in booster seats, those with special needs or motor planning difficulties, and adults with limited mobility and Arthritis.

Where did the idea for MyBuckleMate come from?

It started as one of those cliché ‘aha’ moments – but it wasn’t a revelation in the shower. It happened in the car. My husband, Anurag, returned home one day with our three kids saying: ‘They can’t buckle themselves!’ The fact was, we couldn’t do it any better than they could. That’s what got us thinking – could we design a seat belt buckle holder that kept floppy buckles propped up so kids could buckle up by themselves? I designed MyBuckleMate to make it easy for anyone to buckle up in the backseat with one hand (just like you do in the driver’s seat). Whether you’re a child, a senior, or live with limited mobility, motor planning difficulties, or Arthritis, buckling up is important because it saves lives.

What does your typical day look like?

Our business is run by my husband, one part-time employee, and I, so every day we have our hands in every aspect of day-to-day operations, sales, and strategy. Some days it’s easy to get mired in immediate requirements, so we set aside at least one hour a day to focus on long-term goals and objectives and commit to completing at least one thing a week that is specific to achieving those goals. This helps us maintain perspective and better prioritize and assess how productively we are spending our time.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We constantly ask ourselves ‘What if we . . .?’ or ‘Why not?’ and ask our customers ‘What do you like about what we’re doing and what could we do differently?’ Sometimes we’ll start wresting with ideas to fix a problem we’ve identified, and find that when we look at it with input from our customers and vendors, it takes us down a completely different path. We were dissatisfied with our initial custom packaging, for example, which we had spent a great deal of money developing and manufacturing. We knew we needed to make a change and our focus was initially on simply improving the durability and quality of the existing design. By bringing our manufacturer, warehouser, distributor and customers into the discussion, however, we ended up creating entirely new packaging that is not only more durable, but also more cost-effective, eco-friendlier, easier to ship, much more appealing to retailers, and better communicates the benefits of our product and brand.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The explosive growth of women-owned businesses and the hundreds of nationwide networks of women entrepreneurs that have popped to support them are extremely exciting to me. Our business would not be on the map without the knowledge, shared expertise, and candid exchange of ideas and lessons learned that these organizations offered to foster entrepreneurship. Early on, I joined the women-owned business group Her Corner in DC (now national), and that’s how we found most of our trusted partners and vendors who have been integral to our growth and success.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I clock out for an hour or two when my kids arrive home from school and for dinner every night. One of the reasons I started my business rather than work for a corporation was to give me the flexibility to spend time with my family. I’m not always able to make good on this (it takes a deliberate, committed effort to stick to it on most days), but by making it a priority, I’m able to plan my day so I get the most out of it.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Waitressing! It demanded way too much multitasking while maintaining composure for me. I’ve worked other tough jobs, like swing shifts in a paper mill driving a forklift and cutting wires off of paper bails, and I still think waitressing was the hardest. I am at my best in environments that allow me to focus and think things through rather than have to react on the fly.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I’d do everything faster and not overanalyze every major decision or investment. Hindsight is fun to entertain, but it has its limitations. The mistakes I’ve made in the past year have helped me make better decisions in recent months, but in all likelihood, my next venture will be entirely different than a new product launch like MyBuckleMate. What I have definitely learned is that if you put your mind to it, you can take on something you’ve never done before and navigate uncertainty with the right experts at your side and design your own success.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I listen, admit my mistakes, and move on. I also give referrals as often as possible and thank those who have given me a hand up.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Within a couple of months of our product launch, we established a relationship with a national flash-site retailer and it’s been a game-changer for us. Working with them has given us national exposure and the credibility to approach large brick and mortar retailers without the hefty marketing budget and resources that new brands typically need to invest to compete on a national level. This has been critical since MyBuckleMate isn’t just a new brand, it’s an entirely new product category as well.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We were recently courted by a customer who promised us large orders and substantial marketing support in exchange for an exclusive regional partnership. After they placed their first order, they began competing aggressively with our established customers and put us at risk of eroding our brand and the trust of our core customers that we’d spent months building and earning. We will no longer supply this new customer and, more importantly, be oversold by future prospects. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is – like an apple better left uneaten. Solid customer relationships really are founded on trust and profits alone are rarely the only measure of shared success. Recommitting ourselves to our core customer base is how we overcame this one.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

How about: www.bestfreightrate.com. A huge variable cost in our business and all product businesses is freight shipment. Shipping costs vary so widely among carriers (sometimes by 400% or more), and they change from day to day, so finding the best rate with a quality carrier is time consuming. I would love to see an online auction site for small to medium freight shipments where participating carriers could optimize their capacity and businesses like mine would be able to find the best deal within an agreeable timeframe. It would be like Priceline for your goods.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I am 100% introverted!

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We operate almost entirely on the cloud so we are able to seamlessly manage our business from just about anywhere. We rely on two providers in particular: Shopify is our e-commerce site provider. Once set up, it’s reliable, easy to use, and can be customized to suit your business needs. I never realized that we could set-up our storefront online with simply a $30/month subscription and start selling our products. Frankly, it was more difficult to open our business bank account.

We also use the free version of Wave Accounting. While we’ve now grown beyond its capabilities and are looking at alternatives,, Wave has been a good fit for a small start-up. It’s user friendly, lets you accomplish most anything you need to run your books, and our customers like its invoicing platform (we never expected people to compliment us on how they get billed)!

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Creative Confidence‘ by Tom Kelly and David Kelly, the brothers who are the partner and founder of Ideo. It’s full of inspiration, real-world case studies, and mindful exercises to get your head out of an infinite loop when needed. I keep it on my nightstand and find myself picking it up again and again when I feel like my business is in a rut.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Beyond my close friends and the advisors whom I’ve met as a result of founding MyBuckleMate, I still revisit what I learned in business school at Chicago Booth. Professor James Schrager, a pioneer in new venture strategy since the 1990’s, offers some of the best concrete, execution-oriented thinking on how to build a successful business around a sound strategy of anyone I know. His writing is widely available online.

Connect:

http://www.mybucklemate.com/
MyBuckleMate on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mybucklemate
MyBuckleMate on Twitter: @MyBucklemate