Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about yourself, where you are based and your background experience?
Jill: My name is Jill Leech and I am first and foremost a wife and mother of three and I live in Southern California with my family. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a teaching credential in Social Sciences. I have always loved working with children and being creative.
Tara: Please can you explain what the Potty Tots Potty Training Program is and what gave you the idea?
Jill: The Potty Tots Potty Training program is my latest creation. The Potty Tots Program is the most fun children will have learning to go potty. It was designed to motivate , educate and entertain toddlers during the potty training process. It was also designed to take the power struggle out of potty training by making it fun for toddlers and stress free for parents. The program revolves around 10 pint sized preschoolers known as The Potty Tots. Each Potty Tot is unique and children identify with their favorite character in the story book, animated DVD and online. The program comes in boy and girl versions. Each kit contains: a storybook, animated DVD of the storybook with bonus music videos (Potty Song, Potty Rock and Potty Stomp) an illustrated 6-step potty chart and a fun football inspired progress chart with clings called the “Toilet Bowl”.
The Potty Tots program was born of necessity. When my husband and I adopted our third child from China, she had some challenges with potty training. I researched the best methods and looked for an illustrated potty chart to show my daughter what was expected of her. I couldn’t find anything like that anywhere. With my background in psychology and teaching I new there had to be a better way. So I drew my own little potty chart with the 6 steps of potty training. I made the little girl on the chart look just like my daughter. She loved that idea. She also loved the independence she felt when she could look at the chart and follow the steps. When she proclaimed, “I can do it, all by myself”, I knew this was a great way to motivate toddlers to go potty. Children need motivation to learn anything. And making it FUN would take the “power struggle” out of potty training for all of us. This was the real “Aha!” moment for me.
Tara: What were the first steps you took after having your idea?
Jill: As my daughter progressed through the potty training process, I added to the program. I made a little story book and 10 characters called the Potty Tots. She immediately identified with the little girl who was afraid to go potty and rejoiced in her triumph when she mastered the steps of potty training. She loved the “potty humor” in the book. As an educator, I always used various learning styles in creating lesson plans so I knew we should incorporate music. Then my older daughter helped me to write a song that put the 6 steps of potty training to music. My younger daughter loved that she could sing the steps to remember them in order. This is when I knew we could create a comprehensive program to teach toddlers the steps of potty training, foster independence and help them build confidence and self esteem in this first little task in taking care of themselves.
I set about hiring an artist that could create a company logo and the characters. Jennifer Carlson Ware (illustrator extraordinaire) captured the personalities of the Potty Tots perfectly. She illustrated the book and designed the website. Then I hired a wonderful animator named Linda Spain. She helped to bring the Potty Tots to life . The musical mastery of Greg Wilson helped the Potty Tots to ” rock the potty”.
Not only did I create a new product, I decided that I would create a company and formed Potty Tots, LLC in 2008.
Tara: Did you look at ways of protecting your ideas via design patents, trademarks etc or seek legal advice at all?
Jill: I had the storybook copyrighted and I trademarked the Potty Tots name and logo. I registered the music with BMI. I was very fortunate to find a great attorney who has been advising me on everything from contracts to copyrights, partnerships and licensing agreements.
Tara: Did you look into licensing your Potty Tots Potty Training Program or was your intention to always manufacture and sell your products yourself?
Jill: It was always my intention to manufacture and sell the product myself. However, since the initial product launch, we have continued to develop and create new products to add to the Potty Tots line. These products have great potential for licensing with other companies.
Tara: How did you go about getting your product manufactured and did you self fund production?
Jill: I looked on Alibaba.com and found a manufacturer in China that printed books and packaging. My husband travels to China on business and made the trip to meet with this manufacturer in person. We funded our production ourselves. Truly “boot strapping”. We paid for the initial order, the illustration, animation, music, legal fees, website design and construction etc… It wasn’t easy, but we didn’t want to take out any loans upfront.
Tara: How did you initially go about promoting the Potty Tots Potty Training Program and has this changed to what you do now?
Jill: Initially, we promoted the Potty Tots by launching at a national trade show in Las Vegas. We also went to other shows and Baby Fairs to promote the Potty Tots. Knowing that our target market was mothers and that many of them buy these types of products online, we decided to build our brand and credibility through the online reviews of real moms who were “in the trenches” of potty training. So we spent a great deal of time finding the right mom bloggers to use the product and write an honest review of the program. We also are involved in social networking sites such as FaceBook, Twitter and Linked In. We are now shifting our efforts to more direct advertising and optimizing our website for SEO. We place our first national ad with Parents Magazine in April 2010. We are also looking into partnerships with online retailers and retail stores.
Tara: How long has it taken from your initial idea to where you are now and how has the product developed?
Jill: The initial idea for Potty Tots was in late 2007. By August of 2008, what started as a small potty chart for my daughter, became a full fledged company. Our sales have doubled each year and we are now able to pursue other projects such as the Potty Tots Dolls which are in the beginning phases. I am thrilled every time I see a YouTube video with a toddler singing a long to our Potty Tots songs!
Tara: Is there anything you learned developing the Potty Tots Potty Training Program that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?
Jill: I knew when we were developing the program that I wanted it to be top quality. And I have no regrets about that. First and foremost you have to have a quality product. We put a lot of money into the development of the product, the initial order and the website. If I had to do it all over again I would probably buy a winning lotto ticket to have the money to do a national ad campaign to get the product into every home in America! All joking aside, I wouldn’t change much. We have a great product that appeals to toddlers and parents who desperately need help with this challenge. Looking back I see that the old adage is still true, “anything worth having is worth working for!” We were not an overnight success by any means. We are still working hard to get Potty Tots to be a recognizable household name. And I wouldn’t lose the enthusiasm I had at the beginning. That is what keeps me going. As Walt Disney used to say, “if you can dream it, you can do it”.
Tara: What are your future hopes and plans for Potty Tots Potty Training Program?
Jill: I have so many plans for the expansion of our product line. We have been getting some interest from companies that would like to partner with us on various new projects that are in the works. I am very excited about our future!
Tara: What advice would you give any aspiring inventor or someone with an idea?
Jill: The major piece of advice I would give anyone starting a business is to know that you have to have a lot more money up front than you think and you need to have just as much money to be able to launch and sustain a advertising campaign to get the word out about your product. Definitely do your homework on your market, pricing and packaging. Make sure to get the best possible price from your manufacturer so that you have the potential to sell wholesale to retailers.
Tara: Where can Potty Tots Potty Training Program be purchased from
Jill: Currently the Potty Tots Potty Training Program can be purchased from our website www.pottytots.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com and unbeatablesale.com along with many small independent baby retailers.
Tara: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Jill: If you believe in your product, never give up! You will be told no many times. But you have to believe in yourself enough to get right back up and knock on the next door. As our Potty Tots motto says, “I Can Do It!”
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