What started with a mom seeking safe and effective hair products for her infant son quickly became a children’s style sensation. Scouted for ABC’s Shark Tank within the first year of business, Hot Tot Creator Megan Gage gained the support of billionaire investor Mark Cuban. The brand has since played a critical role in kid’s trendsetting, styling campaigns, editorials, and even a few celeb-u-tots. Read on to see how this mom's entrepreneurial journey began.
Tell us a little bit about Hot Tot and how you got started.
My company was born shortly after my son, as I used to mix lotion and pomade to give him a simple curl on his head as an infant. After being stopped many times by strangers to inquire about his stylish hairdo, I jokingly told my husband that someone would be brilliant to create a hair product for infants (with no intention of being that “someone”). He saw potential in the idea and strongly encouraged me to pursue it. Around the same time, I came across an article that outlined the toxins commonly found in mainstream baby products. Completely shocked, I became passionate about creating products for babies and children that were safe, effective, and luxurious.
What did you do before launching your own business?
I have a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work and spent the bulk of my career (before Hot Tot) working in the mental health arena. I have done everything from case management to therapy. I enjoy working with people and always thrived in any position that offered a real opportunity to make a positive impact on another life.
You were recently on hit TV show, Shark Tank, tell us a little bit about that.
Appearing on Shark Tank was one of the most terrifying experiences I have ever survived, though it has brought more good than I could have possibly imagined. It gave much-needed exposure to my little business and enabled me to gain billionaire Mark Cuban as an investor. I feel very lucky to have a mentor who has achieved such a high level of success and am taking full advantage of the expertise he brings.
How would you rate your success from 0 – 10?
Five. My company is almost three years old, and I am finally feeling secure in my ability as a leader. I trust my inner voice though it has taken some time to feel confident in doing so. I also realize that I have a long road ahead and there are still many lessons to be learned.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
I am not very good at balance and have surrendered to the concept of perfection. I am doing the best that I can, and that is enough for me. My house isn’t as clean as I would like. I wear sweatpants and omit makeup far more often than I did before. Time is precious, and I have ranked my priorities (family and business). Things like exercise and housework have fallen by the wayside and will be there when my schedule is a bit less chaotic. I believe you can have it all, though not at the same time.
What has been your biggest business struggle?
My goal is for Hot Tot to become the first professional children’s line to have an established place in the salon world, much like men-specific hair products earned shelf space in the 90’s. I realize my dream is large by any standard and have struggled to orient an entire industry to a new and unproven concept. It is difficult to get the right people to listen since I am still building my brand. Even with huge advantages like a TV feature and respected investor it is very, very difficult.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
1. You must love your concept when others won’t.
2. Possess a passion that most will perceive as insanity, as you will need it to get through the trying times (which are a right of passage).
3. Hang in there. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
4. Trust your inner voice.
5. Anything is possible.
Thanks Megan for sharing your story!
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