Beall found a need and filled it with her eco-friendly stroller-cleaning business, Tot Squad (formerly known as CleanBeeBaby). Now she’s cash-flow positive and gaining a following of grateful, devoted moms
4/20/2012 - Editor’s note: In this new monthly series, the Kellogg School shines a spotlight on young Kellogg graduates who are bringing bold new entrepreneurial visions to life.
Creating a stroller-cleaning business was hardly a lifelong goal for Jennifer Beall ’10, owner of the expanding startup Tot Squad (formerly known as CleanBeeBaby).
“I never thought I’d grow up to clean baby poop,” jokes Beall, a former management consultant and Austin, Texas native who once aspired to entrepreneurial dreams more akin to those of computer legend Michael Dell.
But fate intervened. At Kellogg, Beall began searching for viable ideas to start a company that could help meet the growing demand for work-life balance, a priority among fellow Generation Y consumers.
It wasn’t until she interned for Kellogg MBA Mary Liz Lehman ’06, owner of the Perchance upscale clothing boutiques in Chicago, that Beall spotted the need and began to incubate her idea.
“One of the customers was talking about how the baby had thrown up in the car seat and she couldn’t get the smell out and she couldn’t find anyone to clean it,” says Beall, 29. “I thought, hmmm.”
Today L.A.-based Tot Squad is going strong, with a presence at some 25 West Coast children’s boutiques and a soon-to-launch pilot program in Westfield Shopping Malls. The service, which offers packages priced from $19.99 to $79.99, cleans and repairs strollers and car seats while customers wait, creating a captive audience for retailers.
“We literally set up right in front of the door in the parking lot or on the sidewalk,” she says. “We steam-clean everything right there, and then at the end of the day, we clean up our mess.”
Launched in March 2011, Tot Squad was cash-flow positive within four months.
To get there, Beall leveraged every available Kellogg resource. She refined her business plan in Clinical Professor James Shein’s Entrepreneurship and New Venture Formulation class, immersed herself in Assistant Professor Yael Hochberg’s Venture Lab and learned valuable lessons about keeping customers happy in Lecturer Richard Honack’s Services Marketing and Management course.
She ate, slept and breathed her idea, winning the prestigious Kellogg Cup in 2010, a business plan competition that gave her the street cred to raise more than her targeted $50,000 in startup funding.
“Car seats and strollers aren’t going away,” Beall says, part of her line of defense against naysayers who criticized her concept for being too niche.
Not a mom yet herself, she learned everything she could about the mommy set, joining blogs and listserv groups, subscribing to Working Mother magazine and generally immersing herself in all things parental. She even spent a week in Kankakee, Ill., to receive safety training at a police station.
She also picked the brain of every small business guru who visited the Kellogg campus. She pushed for contacts in the alumni network to land informational interviews with key sources such as Target’s senior buyer of baby products.
Shein cites this tenacity as central to Beall’s progress.
“I don’t think anything is going to stand in Jen’s way,” he says. “Execution and implementation are what set successful entrepreneurs apart from anyone else.”
True to her reputation, Beall isn’t resting on her laurels. She is pushing ahead with plans to franchise the business and form strategic partnerships, including a pending deal with Bugaboo Strollers to create their authorized service program.
“I’m constantly putting myself out there,” she says. “I’m persistent.”
UPDATE: Since November 1, 2014, CleanBeeBaby is now known as Tot Squad. The company wanted the brand to encompass more than just being a cleaning service, but also to have a special emphasis on health, safety and repair.
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