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Five Lessons Learned from Amy Vohs, Founder of Lil' Sidekick

Des Moines Startup Stories Lil' Sidekick

June 26, 2017

Amy Vohs, Founder of Lil’ Sidekick, was the speaker at the June Square One DSM Startup Stories event. The Lil’ Sidekick tether is an adaptable toy tether that keeps kids from dropping or throwing their toys away from them. Vohs talked about the process of creating Lil’ Sidekick and getting on the shelves of big box retailers.


Key Presentation Takeaways

Be Passionate About the Problem You're Solving

Vohs was on a “mommy mission” to solve a problem that she experienced and knew other parents had experienced as well. She was interested in the problem she was trying to solve rather than being focused solely on the product just as other parents were interested in the problem as well.

Reach Out to Others for Help

One of the reasons that Lil’ Sidekick was successful was because Vohs asked for help. She didn’t have much prior knowledge when it came to designing or marketing her product, but she made connections that helped her with it along the way. Listening to the feedback received and making the changes was also important. One example was when Buy Buy Baby critiqued the packaging for Lil’ Sidekick at a trade show early on in the process. Vohs updated the packaging and Lil’ Sidekick is now sold in many Buy Buy Baby stores.

Figure Out Your Customer Base

Asked recently if she would consider making a similar product for a different market, for example a tool tether, Vohs voiced her commitment to stay in the baby/kid industry.  She based this on her established relationships with customers and buyers. Marketing to everyone is not always the best option. Vohs recognized her customer base is parents of small children.

Hire the Right Consultants

Hiring consultants who are invested in and excited about the product is necessary in Vohs’s opinion. She has utilized experienced consultants who were not invested in her product and thus were not very helpful. Vohs now hires some consultants who only make money when the product sells so they are incented to care about what happens to Lil’ Sidekick. Vohs still encourages business owners to have a hands-on approach in the process and to know what is going on even if they have good consultants.

Get Used to the Hiccups

There will always be bumps in the road and obstacles to overcome, so Vohs advises getting used to them. “You won’t always have confidence; but still, be driven,” she said. Vohs did not get all of the features she wanted when it came to her product, but she got other things she did not set out for. She didn’t intend for Lil’ Sidekick to be a teether or for it to be liked so widely by the kids using it. Embracing the hurdles has allowed Lil’ Sidekick to evolve and grow to where it is now.

Don’t miss the next Startup Stories event with speaker, Bill Bernardo. Learn more.

Mike Colwell

As executive director of entrepreneurial initiatives of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Mike Colwell leads works with startups to build their business model, financial model, marketing strategies and capitalization plan. He is also co-manager of Plains Angels, a group of Iowa-based Midwest angel investors. Mike spends his days coaching, mentoring, consulting and asking tough questions to help entrepreneurs reach their full potential. Mike assists with business strategy, business planning, business plan execution, business model development and capital acquisition strategies.