In 2018, we featured Beth Fynbo, a military veteran, a member of the Minneapolis Bunker Labs’ chapter Launch Lab Cohort (a precursor to Veterans in Residence), and maker of the Busy Baby Mat.
Less than three years later, the Busy Baby Mat appeared on Shark Tank on March 5, 2021 where the sharks were impressed by her military background, her pivot from selling via trade expos to selling via social media ads when the pandemic hit a year ago, and her subsequent sales growth from $97,000 in 2019 to almost $900,000 in 2020.
Busy Baby Mat Origins
Before revealing the Shark Tank outcome, first, here’s what we wrote when Beth’s company was itself in its infancy:
… Beth was at a restaurant with her friends whose babies were throwing toys on the floor throughout the entire meal. The babies were cute but distracting. It was the moment that sparked Beth’s entrepreneurial idea, the Busy Baby Mat.
First, however, Beth went to Amazon to see if a product existed that could stop babies from throwing everything onto the floor during meals. There was nothing. In lieu of an existing product, Beth decided to make her own.
Her first MVP was a place mat that she made by filling a baking pan with silicone caulk. For her next iteration, she ordered a silicone placemat designed to keep pet food bowls in place and glued on suction cups and fishing tethers tied to toys, and she continued to iterate from there. After five versions, she had a mat she could give to friends to test on their children, and it worked.
… Through Launch Lab Cohort, Beth validated that her idea and product had value outside of her circle of friends and family. Knowing that she had a product-market fit gave her the confidence to pursue more the financially risky next steps of scaling her product.
Along the way, Beth encountered numerous challenges including patenting her Busy Baby Mat, finding a team of product developers that could understand and execute her vision, and finding retailers to carry her product once it launches. Throughout, she’s leaned on a mantra she learned in the military: Adapt and overcome.
Pitch Competition Winner
After Beth won a Minneapolis Bunker Lab’s pitch competition in 2018, she won $25,000 as the best veteran-led startup in the MN Cup pitch competition in 2019. She won multiple awards at the 2020 MN Cup, including first place in the general division category and best woman-led startup, taking home $60,000 in seed funding altogether.
Busy Baby Mat Growth in 2020
Busy Baby grew 900 percent in 2020 and Fynbo’s brother, Eric Fynbo, a U.S. Army veteran, joined the company in February 2021. The team has expanded inventory to 47,000 mats to prepare for the potential Shark Tank-induced demand. In addition to the original product, Busy Baby Mat, Beth recently added a new invention, the Busy Baby Teething Spoon. The Busy Baby company has started to serve as a retailer for other baby products as well.
Shark Tank Outcome
Beth had originally offered terms of $250,000 in investment for five percent equity. Shark Lori Greiner (known as the “Queen of QVC”) offered to invest $250,000 for 20 percent equity in Busy Baby. Ultimately, the two were unable to settle on a deal, and Beth walked away.
It was an exciting episode, and the Sharks clearly admired Beth’s product, entrepreneurial success, and vision—watch the full episode on Hulu to see the pitch and negotiations in action! Or skip the pitch and go to the negotiations and see if Lori can “negotiate herself down to 15%.”
Veterans in Residence Program
Launch Lab Cohort was a precursor to Veterans in Residence which is a partnership of WeWork and Bunker Labs. It is an incubator and leadership program that provides entrepreneurial community, business connections, and co-working space to help military veteran and military family members launch and grow their businesses.
Cohorts meet twice a year starting in January and July. Applications are open several months before each cohort starts. Learn more about the Veterans in Residence program.