By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs
One morning, Samantha Judd was packing school lunches for her two children when a thought popped in her mind. What if she could make a different kind of lunch box for kids who like variety? That idea led to meetings with an industrial designer – and eventually, the creation of the Flip Lid Lunchbox, a six-compartment design that separates different foods and keeps them from getting squashed.
In this interview, 45-year-old Samantha – a single parent who lives in Perth, Australia — talks about her entrepreneurial journey, the advantages of a late start in business, how she overcomes setbacks and her determination to succeed.
Flip Lid started six years ago. How is your company doing these days?
It’s still a rollercoaster. While the idea for Flip Lid began six years ago, I’ve only had the product and been selling it for the last 12 months. From day one, it’s been a time of continuous learning about what works and what doesn’t.
With every challenge, I’ve thought: “Just get through this and then it’ll get easier.” That has proven to be so wrong. For instance, I used to think that once I had my product ready to sell, the hard part would be over. Now I’m involved with marketing and selling — a whole new ball game with its own obstacles and learning curves. I think it’s even harder than the design and manufacture phase.
Right now, Flip Lid’s distributors include a mix of online outlets, brick-and-mortar stores in Australia and one retailer in New Zealand. Direct sales to my own (domestic) customers are a big part of the business. I have customers overseas as well.
What role has your family played in the business? Do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I am the only one in my family with the entrepreneurial bug. My creative streak led me to start a business selling “party boxes” (with themed cups, plates, napkins, loot bags, balloons, etc. for kids’ birthday parties) years before anyone else was doing it. My children were very young at that stage and I didn’t have much dedication to the business — so I gave it up.
A few years later, I created an online scrapbooking store due to my passion for scrapbooking. But again, I wasn’t prepared to put in the time and effort that the business needed.
With the Flip Lid Lunchboxes, my kids — who are now 14 and 16 — are involved in the process. They have helped choose colors, logos, names and are my sounding board as well.
How has your life experience helped you as an entrepreneur? Do you think you could have started a business in your 20s instead of your 40s?
As I mentioned, I started two other businesses. I was in my 30s. Even at that age, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t see myself as anything other than a mum and wife and had no confidence in myself. I didn’t have the dedication or focus to really apply myself to one thing and to put total belief and faith into it.
The way I view myself and my abilities has changed dramatically since I became a single parent. I survived one of the most depressing and stressful periods in my life and that has helped me grow and understand my strengths and abilities. My attitude now is, “Why shouldn’t I?” rather than, “Should I?”
I’m no longer afraid to put myself out there as the worst thing that can happen is I get told “no.” I’ve learned not to take that as a personal rejection, which I would have in my younger years. Now, “no” just means to try again.
Work-life balance must be a challenge for you. Any time management tips to share?
I try to set a schedule and time limits for particular tasks – i.e., a half hour to answer emails, one hour for social media, etc. — and stick to that schedule as much as possible. Having a deadline works wonders for me. Without one, I can be prone to dawdling. That said, if my kids want to chat or tell me about their day, I always stop and give them my attention.
You’ve weathered some ups and downs in your business and your life. How do you keep yourself going during difficult times?
Sometimes I wonder myself but at the end of the day, no one is going to make it work for me. I have two children. If I were to crumble or give in, where would that leave them? That has been my one constant thought through all the trials and tribulations of a divorce. I had to be strong for my kids and that’s pretty much what has pulled me through so many challenging times.
I have always believed that there is a positive in every negative. Sometimes you have to look harder but it’s there. This is such a powerful thing to know. It means that — even in times of severe hardship and upheaval — if you identify that positive, it gives you hope. And hope is what keeps you moving forward.
One of your favorite sayings is, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” How does this apply to entrepreneurship?
I think it’s best summed by a situation I encountered about four years ago. I met with a large, well-established distributor here in Australia who had links to major retail chains. He was looking to become involved in my product and get it onto store shelves. I remember being uncomfortable, as he was very direct — bordering on blunt, I felt. I stammered out a couple of questions but he did most of the talking. I decided that I didn’t want to do business with him and declined his offer. I might have been inexperienced but I knew that the deal he was offering was a pittance.
Fast forward approximately 12 months, when this distributor wanted to have another meeting. This time, I was the complete opposite. I was the one who asked the questions and made my feelings clear if I felt he was being evasive in his answers.
I reflected on what had changed. Turns out it was me! I wasn’t intimidated or out of my depth because I didn’t let myself feel that way. For someone to make you feel worthless or useless, you have to think that about yourself first. So it’s simple — don’t ever think like that.
What’s next for Flip Lid? And for you?
My product is a lunchbox, which is seasonal. The busiest times are either Christmas or back-to-school. Obviously, back-to-school here in Australia falls at a different time of the year than it does in the USA or UK. I would love to find retail distributors and direct customers in those markets. My aim is to expand internationally, as it’s always back-to-school time somewhere in the world.
I recently introduced a second product, a cooler bag that has been a great addition. I’m planning to expand my product line with new lunch boxes and drink bottles.
I have also started to create weekly lunchbox planners to inspire parents looking for school lunch ideas. After I began selling Flip Lid, I received many compliments about the lunchbox’s ample space and compartments. Soon, people started asking for suggestions on how to fill all that space — so the idea for the planners was born.
Personally, as a single mum, financial stability for my little family is at the top of my list. That’s why I’m striving to grow my business. My ultimate dream is to buy a house.
Any advice for someone who wants to start a business later in life?
Forget about age! Everywhere you look, there’s another story about a successful entrepreneur who is still a teenager. I went through a stage, albeit briefly, thinking that I was too old to start, compared with all these young kids with such great ideas. Entrepreneurship doesn’t have age limits — it only has self-belief limits. Believe that you can — and you can. I say go for it.