Interview with Richelle Nassos of Me4Kidz conducted and edited by Jeremy DiPaolo, SVA Masters In Branding 2011
JD: Thanks for taking the time. What inspired you to create your products?
RN: I'm a mom, and at the time we had one child'we have three boys now'but our oldest was always afraid of first aid and the concept of the first aid kit. And I thought to myself why don't they make something in the market that's more kid-friendly? Kids get hurt. That's inevitable. The point was to figure out a way to take that fear and anxiety away for my child and for me, to keep mom and dad calm and to offer something organized, readily available and easily accessed. That's how we came up with it. The first product was the MediBag which was shaped like a doctor's bag'the initial design was red with bright, fun colors with kid-friendly items inside, so it took the fear away from the process.
JD: If there's one message that you'd like your consumers to know when they see your products on-shelf, what is it?
RN: Making first aid fun. That was our whole concept coming into it. Not that getting hurt is ever fun, but to make that process fun for kids so you could take the focus away from fear.
JD: In a recent discussion with NextBigDesign, you spoke briefly about design helping your company level the playing field, about "small" being able to take on "big." Can you elaborate on that? How critical is design to your products' success?
RN: Well, first and foremost, we wouldn't be here if wasn't for "the man upstairs" and a lot of hard work. My husband and I work extremely well. We complement each other in a million ways. All that aside, the most important things are having a good partner and leader. It's the trickle down theory'when you have a good manager in a company, everything else falls in place.
We're going on six and a half years now. We should have redesigned and repackaged a long time ago'we had done the packaging ourselves from the very beginning. Finding Flood and their unique ability to design and offer what the mass wants was just incredible. Me4Kidz resides on-shelf next to some of the biggest names in the industry: Johnson & Johnson, American Red Cross, The First Years, the largest guys in the business. We're small compared to them by a long shot.
The way the economy changed a couple years ago, the big box stores and mass retailers were cutting SKUs. We knew that we had to do something to stand out next to these big guys because it was tough competition. My husband and I realized that it was packaging. So we repackaged, and by the grace of God we found a company that was just a super, super match for us and it kept us in the game. It's grown our business substantially. So packaging is key. We're able, still, to not compromise our values: we still employ the disabled, we still use recycled plastic, we still use latex-free items. We're USA manufactured. We do all the things that matter to us that make a difference, but we're still sitting next to all the big guys. It's kind of a cool story, actually.
JD: Social media has also turned these ideas of big and small on their heads. How do you use this to your advantage?
RN: I definitely could do a lot more on Facebook and Twitter. We just don't have the manpower. My husband and I manage 10 countries now and over 4,000 stores and we have three young boys that we raise who are extremely active. We're both volunteering and coaching and at church and doing homework and running a business. That being said, we're limited in terms of how many arms and how many hours there are in a day. We focus on making sure everything gets out on time and that we're managing the company in all the other ways.
In regards to blogs and all the things that moms talk about on the internet, we're very active on that. You can go onto our website and see what's been done and said about us and it's just phenomenal. We're humbled beyond words. We've been on the Today Show, Rachael Ray and Good Morning America and we we've worked with the Oprah Winfrey Foundation. They've been so incredibly supportive. So if you refer to social media that way, that's just done mountains for us. It's humbling.
JD: Me4Kidz is a "family owned and operated business." You are a wife and mother of three "little bees." Do you feel that keeping your family in focus when telling your brand story lends your products more authenticity than some of your competitors?
RN: Oh, absolutely. People listen to our story. There's a million stories out there, there's a million products. Not only do we offer a unique concept, but our story is very heartfelt. For us, it's about making a difference. I think a lot of people brand their product to get it out there and say, "we're giving back" but how many are really giving back? Peter and I could make a lot more money if we were making our stuff overseas and not doing what we're doing. We're being rewarded, I truly believe, because of our journey to be different and to give back. When you do the right things in life, you're rewarded. Maybe not when you think it's your time, but it definitely comes around. I'm passionate about it. It's my story. They're my babies. It's my product. It's our invention. Yeah. That absolutely lends credence to it. Absolutely.