Tara Williams of Dreamland Baby: 5 Important Business Lessons I Learned While Being On Shark Tank

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Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a deal! Of course, this is why we all go on, hoping to land a deal with our dream Shark, but you still are exposed to millions of viewers who wouldn’t have otherwise heard of your product.

Have fun! Being on Shark Tank is such a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I remember saying to my husband over and over I can’t believe we are here! I was trying to soak in and remember every moment.

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tara Williams, Founder and CEO of Dreamland Baby. After her fourth son, Luke, struggled to sleep through the night at six months, Tara created a wearable sleep sack for babies and has dedicated herself and her company to promoting safe sleep for healthy and happy families. Prior to founding Dreamland Baby, Tara worked in the medical device industry and graduated from Bentley University with a B.S. in Finance. Tara is a proud wife and mom to her four beautiful children and lives in the Bay Area.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit of the backstory about how you grew up?

I had a pretty typical upbringing outside of being the oldest of five children. I was expected to take initiative for myself and help my younger siblings a lot. When I was in second grade, I was responsible for setting my alarm clock and getting myself onto the bus and to school. This led me to assume natural leadership roles. In high school, I was the captain of a couple of different sports teams. I started my first business when I was 16; cleaning houses for friends and family. My hard work and willingness to do what needs to be done (cleaning toilets!) are two attributes that I believe make me well poised to run a business. My favorite classes in high school were business-related. Understanding numbers and finances came really easy to me. I majored in finance in college. I think my leadership and finance understanding are two things that have helped me run a profitable business today.

Can you share with us the story of the “aha moment” that gave you the idea to start your company?

At almost six months old, our son Luke was still waking up every hour and a half. Like so many other new parents we were desperate for sleep. One night we placed him under a heavy throw blanket while sitting on our couch. I noticed as soon as the weight was on his body, he instantly calmed down. My “aha moment” came at that moment when I realized: he needs a weighted blanket! I called my mother-in-law to sew my idea; a lightly weighted blanket. The first night wearing our prototype Luke slept 12 hours! We couldn’t believe how immediately his sleep was improved. Word quickly spread and I was flooded with requests from family and friends. The idea to bring Dreamland Baby to families everywhere was born.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Being on Shark Tank was the most interesting thing that happened since starting the business. After we aired, I was still doing phone support for customers' questions. A lot of the people who called in after seeing the brand on the show recognized my voice. They would say things like, “I am talking to a TV star or celebrity!”

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

My first round of production came in about 4 inches too short. There was a miscommunication between my factory and I converting from cm to inches. All of our prototypes were in inches and then the final they sent with the dimensions in cm. I signed off without doing the conversion and realized someone has written the wrong number. At the time it was devastating, and I thought the business was over. It was a huge lesson learned in communication. You can never assume anything in business!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have so many exciting things in the works. I started this company to help my son sleep and it has morphed into a sleep revolution. Deep touch stimulation is something that benefits so many infants, children and adults. I am excited to bring products that have traditionally been used only for therapy to mainstream consumer use.

Many of us have no idea about the backend process of how to apply and get accepted to be on the Shark Tank. Can you tell us the story about how you applied and got accepted. What “hoops” did you have to go through to get there? How did it feel to be accepted?

There are two ways to apply: Online application and in-person events. I applied in March 2019 via the online form and to my shock, one of the executive producers called me a few weeks later. Weighted blankets really took off in 2017/2018 but the producers had never seen them in a wearable fashion, safely designed for infants so they were really intrigued. At the time I applied I hadn’t sold a single product yet so things got immediately shut down when we got to that portion of the conversation. What most people don’t know is I continued to send video messages to the executive producer with every (and any) update on the business. In hindsight, it was really odd as I don’t send video messages to anyone but I thought he would want to see that I was comfortable in front of the camera with hopes that it would help my chances of being selected. It worked! When I flew to LA he told me there has never been a more persistent founder.

I’m sure the actual presentation was pretty nerve-wracking. What did you do to calm and steel yourself to do such a great job on the show?

The moment the doors opened, and I entered the Tank was surreal. I walked to the line and stood there looking at the Sharks then heard the camera crew yell: 3,2,1… As soon as I started talking, I snapped into business mode and realized if I ever was going to rise to the occasion now was the time. I was more prepared for this pitch than anything else in my life. I had spent the 3 months prior watching and studying all 10 seasons. I was prepared to answer any question that had ever been asked on the show.

So what was the outcome of your Shark Tank pitch. Were you pleased with the outcome?

Lori Greiner offered me a deal, so yes! It was beyond pleased as she was my dream Shark! Although Dreamland Baby products fit really well into her portfolio, I didn’t think she would make an offer because we were in such an early stage. I was thrilled to say yes to her offer!

What are your “5 Important Business Lessons I Learned While Being On The Shark Tank”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Be confident in your pitch! I went into the tank feeling super confident because I was prepared. In every aspect of business, preparing for the opportunity is critical.

2. Know your numbers. This is critical in a VC pitch but also in order to run a successful business. If you don’t know your average customer acquisition (CAC) or average lifetime value (LTV) it is hard to know where to invest marketing dollars.

3. Be open to feedback. We had launched our website three weeks prior to me pitching the Sharks. I remember Mark Cuban was really kind to give some great (and now in hindsight obvious) marketing advice. I was really receptive and implemented these things as soon as I got home.

4. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a deal! Of course, this is why we all go on, hoping to land a deal with our dream Shark, but you still are exposed to millions of viewers who wouldn’t have otherwise heard of your product.

5. Have fun! Being on Shark Tank is such a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I remember saying to my husband over and over I can’t believe we are here! I was trying to soak in and remember every moment.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive and avoid burnout?

When you are running a small business with a lean team you are doing a little of everything. There are some things that just need to be answered so it is hard to take time off or step away. The first two years of the business I worked 7 days a week but felt really burnt out. I am now committed to completely unplugging on the weekends. This gave me time to recharge, rest and spend time with my family. I am now more productive during the week after stepping away and letting my brain rest on the weekend.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Wow, this is such an interesting question I have never thought about! I think it would be something with women in business. According to Forbes, only 2% of Women-Owned Businesses break the $1 million mark in annual revenue. And according to Inc.com, women lead companies get less and 3% of VC funding. It is crazy to think about these two stats in 2021! I would love to be able to bridge the gender gap and make these numbers more balanced.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The difference in winning & losing is most often not quitting” by Walt Disney. This quote has inspired me time and again. It is on my vision board that I look at every day. There was a week during 2020 when we were having major supply chain issues due to Covid-19; our inventory was delayed and we had just found out a large batch of our product was lost by USPS. I didn’t have any inventory on hand to resend the lost items to customers and it was days of upset people emailing and calling. I went into my closet, closed the door and cried. In hindsight it wasn’t the biggest deal, but at the time I felt like everything was falling apart. After feeling bad for myself, I came out, looked at this quote and committed to finding the good in this situation.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

A dream person to have a private breakfast with is Warren Buffet. I majored in finance in college and have always been super interested in investing.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

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Edward Sylvan CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group
Authority Magazine

Edward Sylvan is the Founder and CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc. He is committed to telling stories that speak to equity, diversity, and inclusion.