“For me, Futurpreneur was the resource that got the business off the ground. It was the easiest resource for a startup and it got me to the next point to move forward. As I’ve continued to grow, I got access to their Growth Accelerator that provided me with advice and new expertise that I would never have known I needed. The point is, they help entrepreneurs turn their dream into reality.”
While at home on maternity leave from her job as an engineer in the oil and gas industry in 2013, Sue-Rose Read was dissatisfied with the options around bath time for her first child, a four-month-old daughter.
Looking for a more efficient, safe, and nurturing means of transferring her newborn from the bath to a warm and comfortable embrace, she knew that a better designed towel that functioned in response to both baby’s and mom’s needs would be a boon to young parents. After conducting online research into available products, nothing fit her needs. As she points out, “Most towels were square when they should be rectangular; some were modelled as apron styles and not efficient; many had all this extra fluff which did not work for me.” As an engineer, Sue-Rose knew the importance of design and “the need to test and re-test, then revise and revise again until you solve a problem.” Armed with her mother-in-law’s sewing machine, Sue-Rose developed her first prototype for a towel that attached to the parent using a loop-and-button innovation that was responsive to both mother and baby. While the towel would evolve through many design iterations and fabric optimizations – the most important coming after the birth of her second child, a son – the simple idea to create a functional and comfortable product was the start of a new business venture that would become Oneberrie Innovations Corp. specializing in bath luxuries for babies. With the patented hands-free towel serving as the centrepiece of her business, Sue-Rose’s product line now extends to swaddles, washcloths, children’s bathrobes, and a lotion, as well as new ladies’ bath essentials.
As an engineer by training, Sue-Rose was used to finding solutions to problems and is a perpetual font of new ideas to improve products or develop new ones. She wryly, but tellingly, points out, “If you ask my husband, he will tell you that if he had a book for all the ideas I’ve had since we started dating, he would have multiple volumes by now.” But, as she recalls, “I could use my training as an engineer. Instead of selling oil and gas services as I had, I now sell baby products. The logic is the same.” With this realization, Sue-Rose took the leap into entrepreneurship and has never looked back. Five years after incorporating Oneberrie in 2016, she says, “I don’t think I could ever go to work for somebody else again. I couldn’t give up the flexibility.”
That’s not to say that the task of creating her own business was always easy. Sue-Rose is the first to acknowledge that starting a new venture is daunting and requires hard work. But she had followed a young entrepreneur whose products she liked on Instagram and who had shared information about building her business with the assistance of Futurpreneur. As Sue-Rose recalls, “I thought, I need to find out what this Futurpreneur program is.” Almost immediately, she found the organization online. “There was tons of information on the actual website. It referenced services and access to a mentor. It was a huge resource.” Within two months, Sue-Rose, armed with a refined business plan and interacting entirely online from her home in Invermere on the Lake, B.C., was approved by Futurpreneur for an initial loan and mentorship.
In retrospect, she says, “The biggest piece of it was the mentorship. I felt like I needed the mentorship piece to get inspired, educated, and challenged by somebody who has gone through that.” Matched with a mentor in the construction business, Sue-Rose’s initial reaction was, “This is crazy. I had this preconceived notion that I would get a female who was in products and we would be the same person.” In their initial Skype meeting, however, her proposed mentor challenged her with an exercise that required her to think about all aspects of her life, not just the developing business. She recounts, “It was so emotional. He made me think about so many things. It was what I needed. It made me think about getting past the life and business stressors. I’ve been working with him ever since.” Looking back at her early days, Sue-Rose now says, “Without a mentor, I don’t think I would have been able to take that growth step.”
After her launch, Sue-Rose – being the ultimate ideas person – knew she wanted to expand the business by problem-solving with other innovations in baby and child products. Having been in a retail and manufacturing business for more than two years with a successful track record, she was chosen to participate in Futurpreneur’s Growth Accelerator initiative, undertaken in conjunction with Spin Master Inc. and Vancity Community Investment Bank. The Growth Accelerator provided her with a raft of additional resources, including workshops, individualized consulting, peerto- peer support, and new networking opportunities. Using many of the resources available with the Growth Accelerator, she has continued to expand, innovate, and develop her business.
Today, Sue-Rose has created a multi-product enterprise that continues to flourish. Having established retail relationships throughout Canada, including a deal with 40 Indigo stores, and building her online retailing capacity, she is ready for the next step. This year she will embark on a strategy to develop her business in the United States, and, as she says, “ultimately working towards every baby having a Oneberrie bath.”
When probed on what she is proudest of in creating a successful business, she identifies two notable achievements: first, showing her kids that dreaming big is important and comes with hard work; and second, “building our own manufacturing by employing moms who can’t work full time so that they have the opportunity for financial freedom and flexibility.” For Sue-Rose, Futurpreneur provided the resources and backing that helped her reach those achievements. As she recalls, “In a world of ‘nos,’ they were one of the few ‘yeses’ early on.”