As moms, we have all felt the weight of the car seat handle digging into our arm as we hurry from point to another. After the car seat is set down, the red indentation on our arm lingers to remind us how quickly our baby is growing, as well as how heavy baby plus car seat can be! Well, our next Smarty mom took notice like the rest of us, but then turned around and created and patented a product to solve the problem. I would like to introduce you to Smarty mom Lily Winnail, creator of Padalily. When I first met Lily, she was so sweet, humble, and kind. I had no idea how successful she actually is. And I expect Lily will continue to be her sweet, kind self as Padalily continues to reach even greater heights. Smarties, I know you will enjoy meeting Lily as much as I did!
Smarty Mom: Lily Winnail
Married to: Shaun – married 18 yrs. We met in college – his dad was my biology professor and he was the T.A. 🙂
Children: Annaliese 14, Emmaline, 11; and Blake 8
Years in Charlotte: Going on 10 years.
Originally from: Quebec, Canada
College: Ambassador University in Big Sandy TX
Your company is very successful here in the US and now internationally. Tell us about Padalily and your journey:
I had an entrepreneurial spirit even as a little girl. Whether it was a lemonade stand, collecting recyclable bottles for cash, or putting on a play for the neighbors – I loved seeing that I could make a difference and make people happy. As an adult, that same spirit was alive and well but I got sidetracked with life.
I graduated from college and had no idea what to do with my degree. I decided to start my own business right away. I started a business importing Dead Sea Salts from the Dead Sea. I had lived in Jordan and had a few connections. It failed rather quickly when I realized I was a very tiny fish in a very much ALIVE and BIG Sea. I was young and naive and proceeded to get sucked into an MLM that took every penny I had left. The pyramid scheme I got involved with preyed on people like me who wanted to work for themselves and make a difference in the world. I worked hard at following their system, but again I did not feel I was working for myself, and in the end all I had left was a stockpile of health products in the garage…well, that and some good earned wisdom from the school of hard knocks.
It seemed all my friends graduated and went to work at entry-level positions for large corporations, so I followed suit. I found myself living for all the things I wanted to do outside of work. Life wasn’t meant to be lived like that! So I quit. With no money and still a relatively recent college grad, I decided to become a flight attendant. My college friend had an aunt who had been flying with Delta for years, and she sent me an application. Eight weeks of intensive training ensued and in 1997, I became a flight attendant on flights to Paris and Zurich. All my years of going to French school in Canada allowed me to get an international route as a French speaker. This career opened me up to a whole new world, literally. There are not many jobs where you can work 8-12 days a month and fly for free anywhere in the world on your off days! My husband and I took advantage of this to the fullest! We have wonderful memories of our travels together. Then 9/11 happened. The airline business changed forever. I took a 5 year leave to start a family.
My desire to run my own business was still alive and well as was my love for sewing and creating. I started sewing window treatments and decorative pillows for clients in my neighborhood. My time in Paris had developed my taste for beautiful home decor. Their fabric district would blow your mind! I loved being able to work from home and this experience was preparing me for Padalily, although I didn’t know it at the time. By the time my third child came along, I was so inspired by all the mom-inspired ideas on the market. I felt like I was primed and ready for an idea of my own! Then on one of our first outings, as I was carrying him in his car seat, the idea struck. The handle was digging into my arm, and I needed to create a cushion to help ease that pain! I went home, made a prototype and fell in love!
Padalily was born out my own need for it, but also fell right within my skill set. A match made in heaven! The journey has been a roller coaster ride, and the ups and downs have all worked together for my good. The ups giving me hope to keep going, and the downs to teach me important life lessons: My faith and my family must always come first, and everything else will fall into place. There was so much to learn about the baby and gift industry and the learning curve was steep. There were days that I wanted to give up, especially when I started getting knocked-off by Etsy moms then large companies. It’s hard to stay focused when the trials come, but that’s where I learned to persevere and learn new ways to stay original and set apart from the rest. Business is always changing, so I learned I must never stay stagnant. I must be flexible and grow with the changes.
I was humbled when I got a call from Huggies and they offered me a grant for Padalily, or when Bed, Bath and Beyond called asking to carry Padalily in their BuyBuyBaby stores, or walking into the Babies R Us in Union Square, NYC and seeing a beautiful display of Padalilys. There have been countless stories like that, where I have been amazed. Padalily started out as just a girl with a sewing machine, but with hard work and determination a mom-invented product has a permanent home in the marketplace. One person can make a big difference. I took the kids to see Tomorrowland this week and what struck me most about the movie was all it takes is one person with hope. One person with the drive and determination not to give up on a dream. There will times you have a team of people around you who believe in you and work hard with you, and other times when you feel like you are all there is. It’s important to have a great team, and to support a great team as your business grows but I always keep in mind it’s that hope and that light in me that will inspire my team to want to make a difference.
What is the hardest part about having your own business? Managing my time well. There are not enough hours in a day to complete all the things I could be doing for the business. It’s like an insatiable giant that could eat all day long if you fed it and it would still be hungry. I am not a structured person, but I have learned that I need to be in order to maximize my time.
Is your family involved? My husband has always been so supportive and right there with me to help with anything I need. It is so much a part of our family, that when my son Blake was first learning our names, he thought mine was “Padalily”
Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs trying to launch a business? Do something you love! If you launch a product, really believe in it. Your belief in it will inspire others!
If you could meet someone famous, who would it be? Sir Richard Branson inspires me. I love that he shares helpful advice to all his fellow entrepreneurs and I have gleaned a lot from his experience.
What’s your favorite family vacation? We love our summers in Canada. My children get to spend time on the homestead I grew up on and play in the same spots I used to play. It is so special to me. I know these times won’t last forever, so I cherish the time they get to spend with my parents and all the little cousins.
You are into fitness and healthy eating, but what is your guilty pleasure? I have Hashimoto’s disease, which is an auto-immune disorder that attacks the thyroid. I have to be so strict about what I eat in order to feel good every day. But I do have two things that I find very hard to resist: Chicago Mix and Poutine.
How has your own mom influenced your life? My mom is amazing! She is so resourceful. She taught me how to sew. She used to make our clothes, quilts, and curtains. We were 5 kids, and money was tight but she always found a way to stretch every dollar. She also has a very joyful spirit – I knew every morning when I woke up I would be greeted by a cheerful mom who was happy to see me. She was always fun and lively and you were never sure what fun adventure you might embark on that day. I strive to have that same impact on my children every day. Seeing her interact this same way with my children is a true delight!
Tell us about the organizations you support through Padalily. One organization i love to sponsor every year is the PureReligion 5k which takes place in Charlotte. I was shocked when I first read the statistics about human trafficking of young girls right here in the US. This race raises awareness and funds to help free these girls from the sex slave trade.
How can our readers shop for Padalily? padalily. com – use code CSP for 25% off!