For Mary Jo Bass, developing a big idea for a new business venture was for other people, not her.
“I just thought that’s what other people with experience did,” said Bass, who started CoverTots from her Henderson home. “I never thought I could have my own business.”
But when she couldn’t find a stroller cover to shield her newborn from the elements, Bass changed her mind and decided to create her own startup company, making CoverTots, a stroller canopy accessory.
“I kept looking online and couldn’t find what I had in my head,” she said. “So I decided I was going to make it. I can’t believe someone hasn’t thought of this before.”
More than two years later, Bass’ home-based business, CoverTots, was named No. 18 in the top 100 companies for StartupNation’s Business Contest.
“The 2012 ranking reveals that home business is serious business — more relevant than ever,” said Rich Sloan, the co-founder of StartupNation.com. “It’s a natural response to the loss of job opportunities, the need for supplemental income and the sheer passion for blazing your own trail and running your show.”
Bass worked for an airline the majority of her career.
After the birth of her daughter, she decided to become a full-time mom.
On many occasions, she would put her daughter in the stroller and walk through the neighborhood or various parks, all the while worried about her daughter’s exposure to the harsh sun.
“I saw moms throwing blankets over their child’s stroller,” she said. “But it would always get tangled in the wheels or fall off and get dirty.”
After scouring the Internet for some sort of stroller canopy, her search came up empty. With an idea in her head and a sewing machine at her fingertips, Bass decided to try her hand at sewing.
“I didn’t know how to sew,” she said. “I figured I’d try.”
Her first cover took her about a month to create.
The device caught her friends’ eyes.
“People would ask me to make one for them,” she said.
It started out for a friend’s baby shower. It kept snowballing and friends of friends and strangers were asking her to make more.
She shaved time off her sewing from months to a couple of days, working in between her daughter’s naps.
“I was getting asked to turn these around too quickly,” she said.
She was hesitant about turning it into a business.
“But then I realized I can work here and there and whenever I have time,” she said.
Timid at first, she would call to ask people questions about starting a business or seeking a manufacturer, which she later found in California.
“So I don’t do the sewing anymore,” Bass said.
Now she buys hundreds of yards of fabric and sends it off. Bass tells the manufacturer what kind of designs she wants, whether it’s owls or various shapes.
She gets about 20 orders per month, all locally. Other than a couple of boutiques in California and the Henderson maternity store Nine and a Half Months, 10880 S. Eastern Ave., most of the business is done online through word of mouth.
Bass started entering contests to promote her product, never imagining it would really go anywhere.
She was surprised when StartupNation recognized it as one of the top home-based businesses. She was informed in January.
“Home-based businesses are the biggest block of all businesses in existence, and we expect numbers to grow,” Sloan said.
Bass hopes the recognition comes with further exposure to help the business grow.
“It has helped to boost my confidence,” she said.
She continues to enter competitions. Her big goal is to be featured on Shark Tank, a reality television show where entrepreneurs pitch business ideas.
“I sent in a pitch (to be on the show),” she said. “I’d be floored if they chose me. I would be really nervous.”
Even if she was chosen and didn’t win, being on national television would help promote CoverTots.
“I’ve read stories of people who didn’t win,” she said. “They all said their businesses quadrupled since being on the show.”
Bass plans to look at partnering with other businesses as well to help the company expand.
Her daughter is past the stroller stage and attending school, giving Bass more time to run her business from home.
She still is amazed that a simple idea to help her baby has transformed into a startup company.
“It was the ‘aha’ moment that this hadn’t been done,” she said. “I’m glad I thought of it first.”
For more information, visit coverTots.com.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5201.