Interview with Mark Lim
Since appearing on Shark Tank and partnering with Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec, our company has grown tremendously. Lollacup has grown into Lollaland
, and we are striving to create innovative and modern infant/toddler goods that are functional and fun. Our award-winning products are BPA-/BPS-, PVC-, phthalate-free and proudly made in the USA or Germany. We are dedicated to providing safe, smart feeding choices for babies and toddlers. Discerning parents and gift-givers love that Lollaland products are focused on high design, are beautifully packaged, and ready-to-gift.
Hi Mark! Could you please tell us a bit more about Lollaland and how you grew the company out of your flagship product, Lollacup?
Hi my name is Mark Lim. I'm the co-founder and CEO of Lollaland LLC. This is our flagship product the Lala cup and it was concept it because our little one had such a hard time sucking out of a traditional sippy cup which had a nice little spill-proof valve which you think would be intuitive for a little toddler but kind of when they're not able to suck enough liquid to get to meet their hydration needs and so when Hannah concepted this cup I was getting my MBA at UCLA and I said look you know why don't we just take this to market and see what happens and so we went to our first trade show in 2010 and the rest is history.
From the sales of the Lollacup we grew to a distribution of about twelve hundred independent speciality boutiques, that's kind of where we shopped and where we had hoped our parents would find our product, obviously the landscape has changed immensely, we've now expanded to selling on Amazon direct to consumer, and our biggest store, our biggest account I should say, is Buy Buy Baby.
We're not yet really found at the mass market retail locations because I think the primary driver is our price, we are made in the USA and so it's a little bit cost prohibitive to be selling to the Targets and Wal-Marts of the world but we do value the quality of our product and we love our parents that buy our product and we're hoping to expand to a big lifestyle brand.
From idea to final prototype, how long did it take to develop the Lollacup? What was the process for developing the product?
It took us about a year to come to an idea to final prototype for this little straw sippy cup, and you know admittedly it was Hanna that really much drove the design and development of the product but I do know that she always says it all started with Google because we had no experience with passive manufacturing or injection molding, we had no knowledge of even how to get it kind of prototype or started and so she did all the research and canvassed manufacturers all over the nation, she met with graphic artist with industrial engineers with you know people with who work with CAD and just really brought a concept in her head to life, and you know I would say all in all it took about twelve months before we really were starting to kind of do our sample productions and if you know anything about manufacturing it's like imperfect science and so it was painful and then I'm getting kind of nightmares thinking about it again, but it took I think it was about one hundred fifty thousand dollar investment for seven molds here in the US which is absurd nowadays as far as the Costco, but we didn't have 3d printer readily available or even the know how on how to kind of come up with a kind of a sample model of this without going into kind of production mode, so yeah, about twelve months.
How much of your time is devoted to running the company, and how much is devoted to developing and testing new products? What does your typical work week look like?
This is an absolutely amazing question because I think when you start to be an entrepreneur you think about you know the late nights and what it takes and putting boxes or emptying trucks and you know the excitement behind bars around being a business owner and all those great things.
The answer to how much time is devoted to running the company is far too much and that's something that took us many many years to realize that we were so busy fulfilling orders from trying to make customers happy or going to trade shows all over the world, and it made it difficult for us to kind of take the discipline to step back and work on developing new products with driving the company forward and I think that's something that we're getting a lot better at, you know a typical week used to look like, you know come in, you know manage the sales, talk to the customers, fulfill the orders, get the inventory lean, work on financing issues and just pretty much running around chasing fires and think more and more we're trying to develop better work habits to say OK we're going to trust those and delegate those kind of operations rules to employees or the team members and really focus on how to push this company forward to see what's next, see what channels that are untapped or what products that we can bring to the table.
So great question. If you ever get a narrow seat please please take the opportunity to learn on how to not run the company but how to drive the company forward.
What was it like appearing on Shark Tank? How did this experience impact the business today?
Going on Shark Tank was a bit of a surreal experience as you can imagine. We stood outside of the sidewalk to get into a casting call for seven hours straight and it all kind of happened so fast because once we got through screening it was a little bit of a world win with just you know talking to producers and doing the pitch a million times and then finally getting on set and being like oh my gosh this is for real, all those doors will open and there's no cut there's no redo there's no re-say, so it was nerve-wracking to say the least, but you know it was, I think something that we would have done over and over again. It kind of put us on the map, it gave us somewhat of a legitimacy but really to tell our story and that's, you know that's I think a huge part of businesses that was mainly underrated, you want to come up with an idea and put up this facade that you're this huge business or an exciting startup, but you know really I think people connect with just your personal story, how you came up with it, who you are as a person, who are you as a company, and in my buying something from another parent or just this giant corporation that you know I have no idea who's making all the decisions and so overall it's been a great impact for us. Plus Mark and Robert who are shareholders are just you know they're solid mentors they're no-nonsense it's not warm and cozy they're not best friends kind of patch on the back kind of guys but they do push you and they do have your best interests in mind and so I'm thankful for that opportunity, I'm thankful for the trust and you know there's a kind of tenacity that we learn from our partners that they're just never-ending in terms of their work ethic, and it's something that we've kind of definitely tried to pick up on.
What's next for your work with Lollaland? What are the main projects, products and partnerships you'll be focusing on in 2019?
We're very excited for what's coming in 2019. We're really looking forward to getting back to the drawing board and developing new products, and you know we realize that it's going to be tough to do this on our own and so we have been seeking new strategic partnerships, now money is not the solver for us, we want someone to kind of help us fill in our weaknesses and our gaps because we have quite a few. We're constantly learning and we're figuring out how to run this business and to come up with new cool products like this one and just kind of appeal and market better to our audience and so we're very excited, we have a lot of cool things on tap and I wish I can share them all with you today, but maybe if you look back at this video and you'll say "Wow they actually did get running" that's that's the hope here.
So I hope everyone enjoyed the interview. Good luck in 2019 your future endeavors and feel free to reach out. Take care.