#startupmom: Katie Richardson

Your family in three words:

Adventure, Freedom, Create.

How would you describe yourself as a mother?

I know I still have so much to learn when it comes to parenting. My approach is based upon true principles and providing hard work for my kids. One of the Puj values is Freedom & Independence. From a very young age my kids are given responsibilities and taught to work. Whether that is washing dishes, folding their own laundry, unloading the car after a road trip, feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs. I have noticed my kids are happier after they have done some work. It helps them to appreciate life and everything they have. The Puj Phillup is a good example of teaching kids independence. Each kid has their own color, they are responsible for their cup, and with the nub hanging on the fridge the cup has a home so they always know where it is.

We love the products you've created and it's been a joy to watch your company's success. Can you tell us more about Puj and how you got your start? 

Puj is a design and manufacturing company that is simplifying parenthood through clever solutions.

We launched our brand and first product, the Puj Tub, at the ABC Kids Expo in the fall of 2009. We had sacrificed and poured all of our income into the product development and a utility patent. Then after a failed soft launch in 2008 we went for broke. We decided to go all in and give it one last “go.” We built a smart, inexpensive but beautiful booth from scratch and really made a BIG impression. As soon as the show started our booth was PACKED and we sold product to 98% of the people we talked to. Everyone was thrilled about our invention and wanted to offer it to their customers. Things took off for us from that point on and we did our first million in sales that first year!

What inspires your work?

Inspiration can come from anywhere, I just have to keep my eyes open. The colors on a mossy rock can inspire me or the brilliant way a plant funnels water to its roots. When I see something clever I try to capture the idea in my red moleskine or with a photo. Who knows, nature may have figured out the perfect color palette for my latest project. The inspiration for the Puj Tub came from an ordinary brown paper sack. It easily stores flat and in an instant can be popped open to hold volume. There is no mechanism or parts, only a living hinge. The first Puj Tub concepts started with a sketch. Then once I had the concept and form figured out it was time to move to the third dimension. The first prototypes were figured as a scaled down paper version. With scissors and paper I could quickly see which ideas were working and which were not. This is how I figured out the folds in the tub so it would comfortably hold an infant and help them relax. Once the form was dialed in I scaled it up and cut the first prototype out of hypoallergenic foam that is soft but does not absorb water. And BAM, the Puj Tub was born. The design you see today is the result of many rounds of simplifying and asking the question "what else can be taken away from the design?" Simplification is a process. But once I have distilled an idea down to it's essence THAT is where the magic happens! POW!

Tell us about your munchkins!

Walker is 11 and just like his Dad. Thoughtful, creative, artistic, entrepreneurial, and a helpful and loving older brother. Truman is 9 and knows how to have fun. He is our comedian who is also gifted when it comes to art and drawing. He is extremely coordinated and has recently discovered he is a natural at baseball. Sterling is 7 and from a very young age we’ve called him the “Big Guy” because even though he was the youngest we never wanted him to feel inferior to his older brothers. He has always had an assurance and confidence in his abilities and is never afraid to try something new. We work hard to not label our kids and always encourage them to try new foods, learn a new art technique, or make a new friend. Liberty is 2 and she has shown us all how much fun it is to have a girl in the house. Just like Sterling, she loves trying new things and a good challenge. She has always been a consistent sleeper and a healthy eater. I think this is the secret to her constant excitement and happiness. She brings so much joy and love into our home.

What’s one thing you wish you knew but nobody told you before you had your littles?

I wish I had known from the beginning the life changing experience of natural birth and hard exercise for the entire pregnancy. With my first few pregnancies I thought I was suppose to “take it easy” and that exertion was bad for my developing baby. But with this approach I gained extra weight which caused all kinds of pains and delivery complications. I was not in control and it created a lot of fear during birth. With my last pregnancy I took the opposite approach aggressively exercising from day 1 up until 42 weeks. I opted for a home delivery and found an amazing team of midwives that helped me lead the delivery process. For the first time I felt in control and bringing her into this world naturally, the way my body was designed to perform, was so empowering and beautiful.

What’s hard about being a #startupmom?

When I started Puj it was a lot of hard work and sacrifice. In my mind I believed there was going to be a tipping point where things would get much easier and I could relax more. And while we continue to find success, it is still a lot of sacrifice and hard work. The world is constantly changing and shifting which requires constant vigilance in looking ahead and figuring out how to stay competitive and relevant. Being an entrepreneur has stretched me to step outside of my comfort zone on a daily basis. There is no road map for what I am doing. It’s like stepping into the dark every day. I’ve built a very talented team and we work together to bring simple solutions that make parenting easier.

Puj Towel

What was a time you felt like you were doing this mom thing really well?

My 3 oldest boys are all 2 years apart. There are times when life is chaotic and I feel like I am doing everything wrong. But as they are growing up and taking on more responsibility I can see the foundation they have in their life and the men they are becoming. As I watch them take care of their little sister, playing with her, bathing her, feeding her, I feel so much joy. The other day they were all in the backyard and each boy was taking 5 minutes to push her on the swing. They came up with this system on their own. It was a simple thing, but knowing they were all taking a turn and helping her have fun means to the world to me.

What does a typical day look like in your world?

I am a huge advocate of taking time for myself. In order to do that my day starts early at 5:30am. I slip out of bed and say a morning prayer. Then I nurse my baby and while she goes back to sleep at home with Dad, I head off to the gym. Exercise is so important to me and is the key to having the mental and physical energy to “do it all” as a mother and entrepreneur. I love mixing it up with biking, running, and lifting weights. I’m home by 7:30am and make a quick greens and protein shake. Then I hop in the shower and get ready for the day as the kids are getting up and ready for school. We have breakfast together and read a few verses of scripture while we talk about the day. These little moments are so important to me. We say prayers and I send the 3 oldest off to school. Liberty, my 2 year old, likes to help me with the housework and we wash dishes or do laundry together. Luckily she is a good napper and this is when I do the bulk of my Puj work! 2 days a week she plays at a friends house so I can go into the studio and catch-up with everyone on the team. While I primarily do the bulk of my work from home, it’s important that I meet with the team in person and inspire the them to focus on Puj values

Did you take time off or scale back when you had your babies? 

I was very intentional with my 4th pregnancy and stayed physically active up until the very end. Because of that I had a smooth transition and quick recovery. By 8 weeks I was back at the gym and starting my morning routine of nursing the baby before heading to the gym. Parenting and being a Mother is my top priority and sometimes that means I have to make sacrifices at work. But ultimately it’s these values that make Puj a company that people love and want to be a part of. Finding balance is not easy but by being intentional about my priorities, I have found it can be achieved. Life is constantly in flux and there is no autopilot, but with clear vision and daily intention I have been able to be a stay at home mom and lead my company to success.

What’s new and what’s next for Puj?

Puj is all about offering clever solutions for parents. We may have started in the bath category, but we are not a bath company. As a product designer and mother, I am constantly seeing opportunities to simplify in every category of parenting. That means bed time, travel, feeding, and everything related to parenting. We recently launched our first feeding product with the world’s first hangable kid cup with huge success. We call it the Puj Phillup and we can hardly keep them in stock. I am thrilled to see the response and once again Puj is simplifying parenthood.

What do you love most about being a #startupmom?

I love all of the people I have been able to connect with from around the world. I love receiving an email from a first time mother in Finland expressing her excitement and joy for the simplicity Puj has brought to bath time. As a mom myself I have been there and know the feelings and emotions she is going through. To know that I am helping to create a calm and relaxed environment so that mother can bond with her new baby brings me so much joy.

What is your favorite chartable organization or cause?

Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) They are an amazing organization that rescues kidnapped children from slavery.

You would spend your perfect day..?

Riding my bike through the French countryside with my husband Ben.

Any parting advice on first time motherhood/entrepreneurship?

There is never a “good time” to start a company. If you dream of being an entrepreneur do something TODAY that will move you closer to your goal. Draw a sketch, make a prototype, buy the domain for your future brand, get a business license, attend a trade show and talk with people in your field, create a web shop, start selling on Etsy, go ALL IN and commit in writing that you will launch your company by a certain date. Sign and Date it and put the paper on your bathroom mirror. Then work backwards to make it happen. You can do it! I believe in you!

You can link up with Katie and follow Puj for some great promos and discounts on the Puj Blog and across all of your favorite social channels @pujbaby.

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1 Comment

Grace Berios
Grace Berios

September 09, 2015

Loved this so much—can’t wait to meet Kate Richardson! Thanks for posting, you have started something really great here, Kate Marie. I’m so proud of you!

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