Success Story: Bittylab
Necessity, as the saying goes, is the mother of invention. With her newborn baby having trouble taking a bottle because too much air was getting in his stomach, Priska Diaz was desperate to find a solution to help her baby get the nutrition he needed. But, despite searching online and throughout retail stores, she couldn’t find anything to remedy the issue. So, the new mom leveraged her background in packaging design to create a prototype of a brand-new bottle.
Priska’s design, which she based on the same concept as the air-free hypodermic needle, worked and her baby was able to properly feed. She immediately knew she had an idea for a business that could help other mothers struggling with bottle feeding, and launched Bittylab, the maker of Bare® air-free baby bottles. Shortly after, a friend connected Priska with a buyer at Babies R Us who saw a winning product in the prototype bottle and told her to come back when she had found a way to produce it.
After self-funding the initial production of the bottle and kicking off sales through her own website, she went back to Babies R Us, and they agreed to carry Bare® in 185 of their retail locations, as well as online. While Priska knew this was the type of opportunity that could accelerate her business, she was also daunted by the additional capital needed to finance production at the scale that Babies R Us and other large distributors were demanding.
After speaking with an array of banks and community organizations to find the financing she needed, she was eventually guided to New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC), an alternative lender and provider of SBA-guaranteed financing. “We met with a bunch of banks – at least one that we’ve worked with for years – and no one was able to invest that much in a startup,” says Priska. However, NYBDC really looked at what we could do in the future and helped us access the ongoing financing we needed.”
“Obtaining traditional bank financing for an early stage business with limited historic revenue is a challenge; even when the business has great potential for growth,” says Tamara Underwood, vice president at NYBDC. “Empire State Development’s Capital Access Program is designed to address this type of gap in the financing market and was an excellent fit for Bittylab. I am so pleased that we were able to play a role in assisting the business to build its inventory and fulfill its Babies R Us and future orders.”
The loan allowed Bitty Lab to grow and increase inventory to the point where sales to other big box retailers, in addition to Babies R Us, are now possible. Most importantly, Priska has been able to fulfill the growing Babies R Us order without a problem. “We had a good idea and a good product but if it wasn’t for NYBDC and Tamara’s ability to see where we were going, we might not have been able to make it. Now, we can pick and choose where we are going to sell and none of it might have been able to happen if it wasn’t for NYBDC helping us through the tough times.”