Q&A with MightyNest founder and CEO Chris Conn
MightyNest is an ecommerce site that offers environmentally safe products for homes and families. The Evanston, Illinois-based company was founded in 2009.
SUB: Please briefly describe what MightyNest offers.
Conn: MightyNest is an online store, resource center and community that helps parents create a healthy, safe home for their family. Our team of experts selects products for babies, kids and adults made with high-quality materials by reputable manufacturers. We carefully screen each product to ensure all are free of BPA, lead, flame-retardants, PVC, phthalates and other chemicals and heavy metals increasingly tied to health concerns. Supporting the MightyNest store, our blog, learn section and Facebook page serve our community of passionate families, enabling them to share ideas, research important issues and find safer product alternatives.
SUB: What is the primary value proposition you offer MightyNest customers?
Conn: MightyNest is the fastest route to peace-of-mind for busy parents. Peace-of-mind comes from knowing that every product we sell is thoroughly screened to make sure it is healthy, safe and non-toxic (see our pledge). Speed and ease come from our curated breadth of products. Our selection of products for the home includes kitchenware, baby and kid gear, reusable lunch gear, water bottles and coffee mugs, skincare, and more. In each category, we only select the best items, cutting through the clutter and making it easier for families to shop.
SUB: What companies do you consider to be your primary competition?
Conn: Given our product breadth, we compete with a variety of different businesses. Like any online retailer, we compete at some level with Amazon and online big box retailers. We also have product overlap with green sites (Babyearth) and niche sites that focus on one category (like toys or feeding). That said, our combination of product breadth and exclusive focus on helping parents create a healthy, safe home for their family sets us apart.
SUB: How did the idea for MightyNest come about? Was there one specific “aha” moment?
Conn: The idea first came about five years ago. It all started when my wife and co-founder, Kristen, and I had our first child. The reality that our decisions impacted another human being forced us to take a closer look at the products we were using in our home. We were startled to find that many of the products we used every day contained potentially harmful chemicals and had unnecessary risks associated with them. We became determined to find out all we could about bottles, toys, mattresses, cleaning supplies, dishware…you name it. Unfortunately, the process of scouring the web and separating fact from fiction was frustrating, discouraging and nearly impossible between diaper changes and midnight feedings. After years of doing our own research, we agreed there had to be a better way; a way to help people who don’t have the time to dedicate to research, but who care just as deeply for their health and their family’s health; a place where parents can go to research and buy safe, healthy products all in one place. MightyNest was born!
SUB: What were the first steps you took to founding the company? For example, did you secure financing first, did you assemble a team, build a prototype of the service, etc.?
Conn: First, we focused on shaping the idea and getting feedback from potential customers. We created a brand vision, designs and a logo and then shared it with as many people who we thought could be potential customers as we could find. The learning was fantastic. It helped us shape our vision and confirmed that there was a need.
SUB: Have you accepted outside financing, and/or do you plan to in the near future?
Conn: We just closed our only round of outside investment from a phenomenal group of angel investors.
SUB: How are you marketing MightyNest?
Conn: We focus almost exclusively on digital marketing. We are very active in search, paid and organic, social media (primarily Facebook), newsletters and with our affiliates. One of the areas that has led to success in engaging our customers is the way we combine content and Facebook. Between our blog and learn sections, we have an abundant amount of unique and useful content. We share this content with our Facebook community of 21,000, and it has been a great way to build a relationship with current and new customers. We just focus on being as helpful as possible and connecting with our users. It has been a great way to build awareness and learn.
SUB: Where do you see MightyNest in a year from now? What are your plans for the future?
Conn: A year from now our goal is for MightyNest to triple in size from where we are pacing right now. In the future, we want to be a nationally recognized brand with a thriving Internet business. At that point, we will also likely be evaluating an extension into a catalog business and select store locations.
SUB: Finally, a question I always ask—as an entrepreneur who has weathered the recent financial crisis, what advice do you have for those just starting a business now?
Conn: First, regardless of what is happening in the overall market, make sure you know who your customers are and verify that they actually need your product before spending too much money building anything. Second, if you are launching an Internet business, do everything you can to take advantage of inexpensive ways to get to market and test your product fit. Use open source for the product, drive awareness through social media, crowd source or use consultants to keep the cost of building your initial product low. All of those things can help you validate or evolve your idea.
MightyNest – www.mightynest.com