Little did Alicia Overby know that a product she created for her colicky infant nearly 10 years ago would launch an international business that helps to support her family and other local working moms. However, within days of launching Baby Elephant Ears roughly six years ago, the product was selling worldwide.
“I have to honestly say that I never intended to be an owner of a worldwide business,” Overby said, noting that when her family started the business, she felt that simply being validated in her idea would be enough.
Although the business was only launched a little more than six years ago, the product behind its success was created by Overby nearly 10 years ago. Her son Finn was a colicky baby who needed extra support for weak neck muscles. Nothing Overby found at retail outlets fit Finn’s needs, so she decided to create something on her own.
Borrowing a neighbor’s sewing machine, Overby created a pillow that looked like baby elephant ears and supported Finn’s head and neck muscles just right.
a business is born
It was not until six months after the birth of her fourth child that Overby and her husband, Scott, decided to launch a business with the product. A little more than nine months later, Baby Elephant Ears was born.
The Overbys launched a retail website and wholesale business simultaneously, exhibiting at a trade show in Las Vegas. “We began very quickly growing and became a worldwide business within days of launch,” Overby said. “As our business grew, we added distribution to sales channels, and then last year we added a retail storefront.”
Currently, the product is sold by more than 1,500 retailers nationwide and in 16 countries. “Our retailers are all strictly independent retailers,” Overby said.
As the business has grown, Overby has made sure it is mom-friendly. “We like to say that we hold ‘mom hours’ around the office,” Overby said, noting the local business is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“The family is a passion of mine, and the mother is typically a major part of holding that family unit together,” Overby added. “We pride ourselves in being able to offer an environment that is not only fun and enjoyable, but also challenging and helps us strive to learn and grow. I think that our employees would say that being employed by a small business also offers a sense of authenticity and flexibility.”
As interest in Overby’s product grew, she found she enjoyed the challenges, and downright hardships, of running a one-woman show. “Of course, I’m no longer running the business myself, but the challenges are still there. The joy of bouncing ideas and stories off others is fantastic,” she said.
Owning a small business has added facets to her life she otherwise would not have enjoyed, such as world travel, friendships, and the ability to inspire other women and “mompreneurs,” she noted.
Owning her own business has allowed Overby to set her own hours while supporting her family and home-schooling her children – Lilly, 11; Finn, 10; Sylvi, 9; and Pearl, 7. In fact, she uses her new-found business experience in helping her children learn.
Recently, her children had the idea to start their own business, so Overby deviated from their regular lesson plans to assist them in that goal. “We took what I know and learned about all kinds of things and even started by writing a business plan,” she said. “I feel proud that they are learning from my experiences and seeing how things can work out in real life and real time.”
Overby and Scott grew up in Isanti County, and she attended Anoka Ramsey Community College her junior and senior years of high school as part of the Postsecondary Enrollment Option (PSEO). That was the end of her formal education, Overby said, “but my informal education has taught me so many lessons.”