Inventor and entrepreneur Amy Vohs received great advice and business assistance from America’s SBDC Iowa, plus expertise and the use of a 3D printer from the Iowa State University Industrial Design Department, in order to successfully manufacture her all-Iowa made product, Lil’ Sidekick.
A hard road and one less traveled by most entrepreneurs, and even less so by women, did not deter Amy Vohs from inventing a consumer product and bringing it to market. Her product solves a pesky problem for parents, plus it is completely made in Iowa.
A Polk City, Iowa resident, Amy founded her company, Lil’ Sidekick, in the summer of 2013 and introduced her first product at the premiere ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas in October of 2013 where she picked up 23 outlets. Amy has sold Lil Sidekick very successfully at a number of trade shows and, in fact, sold out at a trade show in Chicago in the spring of 2014. In August 2014, Amy applied to the Shark Tank TV show and made it into the finals.
Lil’ Sidekick is an exclusive, all-Iowa made product. It is a unique FDA-approved strap that attaches to car seats, high chairs, strollers, backpacks, purses, and luggage. It holds toys, spoons, bottles and other items that kids tend to drop or throw on the floor. The idea of the product started with Amy’s frustration with items dropped by her own child and then the frustration of trying everything already available to fix the problem. She couldn’t find anything that worked well so she decided to make it herself.
Amy came to the Mid Iowa SBDC in Des Moines in July 2013 and thus began an ongoing journey of meetings, phone calls, emails, and a trips to promote her product. The SBDC helped Amy with marketing, growth strategy, manufacturing research and issues, trade show tips, demographic research and industry trends, help in finding accounting assistance, negotiation tactics, and finding options when challenges arise. Amy worked on a basic launch plan and financial goals with the SBDC, too.
Amy is very enthusiastic in her praise for the SBDC saying, “Sherry Shafer and the Iowa SBDC associates have encouraged, guided, and supported me in every aspect of launching and running a successful business. I am so very appreciative and honored to have such a fun and knowledgeable team member that is always right by my side ready to tackle any issue or opportunity that presents!”
Lil’ Sidekick is growing according to plan. With additional assistance from the SBDC, Amy obtained funds from AEDC Investors,
a private investor, and $100,000 from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Amy has successfully gotten her product into national markets since she started her business; Lil’ Sidekick is being sold in Japan, Korea and Canada, plus at Kohls.com. Her product is also being sold in Babies R Us and she is finalizing orders with BuyBuyBaby.com and Diapers.com. Amy continues to work with the SBDC on marketing, sales margins, and product packaging.