Scott Schaefer and Patricia Babuka founded GrandCamp Adventuresto create resources that help grandparents and grandkids connect deeply, have fun together and generate memories that last a lifetime. The company sells books, music, games, entertainment and activities that bring grandparents and grandchildren ever closer together.
It is the first company to focus on this relationship as a unique market sub segment, the founders say. Schaefer tells BusinessNewsDaily how the company started and how it's developed over time.
BusinessNewsDaily: Did you have a formal business plan or did your business just evolve naturally?
Scott Schaefer: Once we had the concept and vision established we spent several weeks in various workshops and brainstorming sessions with grandparents, parents, child psychologists, teachers, and kids developing ideas for product themes and specific products within each theme. This led to a prioritization process and eventually to a product roadmap that formed the basis for our first business plan. Our first line of products all fit into a theme of "discovering family." The plan we created was very similar to what you'd need to pitch professional investors even though our intention from the start was to self-fund alongside friends and family angel investors. We thought the business plan building process was crucial in pushing us to make decisions around various options and trade-offs as we put more definition around the business.
BND: How close has your business stayed to what you originally envisioned it to be?
S.S.: While the vision and concept stayed the same, the actual products and timelines changed considerably due to all the things we didn't know when we started. For example, our brand stands for high quality products that are creatively designed for interaction and sharing and with materials safe for children ages three and up. Given these exacting quality standards and specific design criteria, the amount of time it took to work through prototypes with manufacturers we'd never worked with before was much longer than anticipated. Throughout the building of the business we've tried our best to stick to our fundamental vision and brand criteria while remaining flexible on specific products and product introduction timelines.
BND: How did you finance the business at the beginning or at any time you were in business?
S.S.: Initially the company was funded with sweat equity and a seed investment from the co-founders. This enabled us to complete the concepting and business-planning phase. We then presented an investment proposal to friends and family angel investors for the rest of the capital we've used up to this point.
BND: How much did you invest?
S.S.: Our initial investment was in the tens of thousands and then the angels have added several hundred thousand dollars enabling us to stand up our business infrastructure (including our web site), design, procure, and inventory our products, and promote our products via direct sales to specialty retail stores and through word of mouth and media relations efforts.
BND: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently when starting your business?
S.S.: We'd likely start with a more narrow product roadmap as one example of something we'd do differently. Coordinating all of the activities needed to bring a new book, CD, plush animal, or game to market is a significant undertaking especially if you haven't done it before. Taking a more serial approach would likely have allowed us to focus more intensely on each item, shorten the individual product development process, and shorten the overall time to market for our first line.
BND: What's your best advice for someone with a great business idea who wants to give it a shot?
S.S.: Go for it and let nothing stop you! If you are creative, conserve your cash, and persevere through adversity, your dreams can come true.