Entrepreneur Lynne Eichenbaum invented GardenSleeves by NOMPI (NO More Poison Ivy) Gloves to protect gardeners and others from poison ivy, mosquitos, sun, dirt, scratchy, hay, stinging nettles, and other skin irritants.
A stay-at-home mom, she is the author of “Remote Control Adventures” young readers chapter books. Previously she worked in television production including a stint at ABC-TV’s “The View.” Eichenbaum is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. She lives in New Jersey with her family.
What is GardenSleeves by NOMPI Glove Company all about?
GardenSleeves by NOMPI Gloves (an acronym for NO More Poison Ivy) are a patented line of long-sleeved gardening gloves, designed so you can garden in the heat without having to change into a hot long-sleeved shirt. GardenSleeves are 100% cotton, lightweight and breathable, and are attached at the wrist to a nitrile dipped water-resistant gardening glove. They extend over the bicep and are secured comfortably with an elastic band. They are fully machine washable and are truly a breakthrough gardening glove concept. Our motto is “Functional and Fashionable”. They are the first of their kind.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
I am a stay-at-home mom turned entrepreneur. I am a self-taught seamstress, having learned to sew out of necessity when my children’s Irish Dance school needed a seamstress to alter all of their school competition dresses. I bought myself a sewing machine and became the in-house alterationist overnight. I am also a huge gardener, living in New Jersey (the Garden State) for 16 years will definitely do that to a person!! I have nine raised garden beds in my backyard where I grow all sorts of vegetables. My arms are very sensitive to plant irritants, and after multiple bouts with Poison Ivy, I decided that a short wrist-length glove was not going to cut it for me. I envisioned a glove with a blouson sleeve that secured over the bicep with an elastic band. I searched the internet for hours looking for my ‘idea’. No one made it, so I sewed myself a prototype, absolutely loved it, and decided to start a company!
What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur, and why?
Research, ask questions and listen. I have gotten suggestions from so many of my fellow gardeners who love my gloves, and have other ‘ideas’ to offer me. Some are pretty far out there, but some have been really helpful. For example, when I first started the glove line, I only offered a cotton/poly blend glove, because that is the only type of glove I ever gardened with! Many master gardeners came up to me at the Philadelphia Flower and Garden Show back in early 2020 (right before the shutdown) and suggested I carry a Nitrile dipped glove as an alternative. It was the best suggestion. I added them to my product line and I sell them easily 7 to 1 over my original line.
Similarly, a colleague suggested I get a patent for my ‘idea’. I pressed her as to why a patent was so important, and she said she loved my idea, though it was terrific and very marketable, and I needed to protect it, even if it never went anywhere. I took her advice and went through the patent process. I trademarked the name NOMPI (NO More Poison Ivy) with the clever acronym and filed for a design patent and 2-1/2 years later I received the design patent for both gardening and industrial gloves. I have renamed the product GardenSleeves for easier recognition.
What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow this company?
I make all of the gloves myself in my workshop right now. Seriously, I have five sewing machines in my basement and I am sewing and creating morning until night. I know this is unsustainable, so I am in the process of locating a manufacturing company I can partner with to help me produce the gloves. I am doing everything I can to keep the manufacturing in the USA because that is very important to me.
How have the pandemic and Lockdown affected you or your new business?
The pandemic was a real disappointment to my emerging business because I was booked in dozens of events and trade shows which were all canceled. I had huge traction after the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show in February 2020 and Philadelphia Flower and Garden Show which ended March 7th, 2020, literally 6 days before the country shut down. I had a good amount of inventory stored up from sewing all winter, so I really didn’t need to make any more gloves. At the early stages of the pandemic, people were panicked and scrambling for masks. No one could find elastic or material. I had both, so I designed and began sewing masks to help out. I donated dozens to local health care workers, hospital staff at Montefiore Hospital in New York, and Robert Wood Johnson in New Jersey. I was sewing until 3, 4 in the morning the entire month of April 2020.
I began selling them on my site when friends and neighbors asked if I would post them for sale, as they couldn’t purchase them anywhere. My business shifted to mask making for those few frightening months spring/early summer 2020. Once things settled down a bit, I returned to the business of making GardenSleeves by NOMPI Gloves, with the fingers crossed for shows to begin again in spring 2021. Sadly, all of the big trade shows were canceled with the exception of the Philadelphia show, which had the foresight to move the show outdoors. It was held this past June 2021. It was a huge success for GardenSleeves by NOMPI Gloves. We sold about 750 pairs in 9 days.
How do you separate yourself from your competitors?
I am extremely personable and friendly and really enjoy attending trade shows to get my message across and to introduce my gloves to potential customers. Even if the person I am speaking with doesn’t garden, they probably know someone who does. Anyone with a yard will likely be pulling weeds at some point. GardenSleeves are a necessity. We also handmake all of our gloves at the present, which people really like. The fact that there is a face and a story behind the product resonates.
What were the top three mistakes you made starting your business, and what did you learn from them?
It didn’t even occur to me to interview master gardeners or to do focus groups to ask for feedback on my original gloves. When I look back at my first year in business, it’s really a bit embarrassing! I was very cost-conscious, so I purchased cheap gloves and any fabric I could find on sale. The gloves clashed terribly with the sleeves. I still sold a bunch at craft shows and small events because people liked my concept, but wow were they an eyesore!
As I did more research, I found solid color better quality gloves that would pair perfectly with the better-quality whimsical fabrics I switched over to. In the end, the attractiveness of GardenSleeves product was perfected. The manufacturing process hasn’t changed, and the design hasn’t changed, but the styles certainly have.
My first trade show was at the Edison Convention Center in New Jersey in 2019. It was a big learning experience for me. I should have researched presentation and booth design before I went. I had three tables with my GardenSleeves by NOPMPI Gloves laying on them. I had no vertical display, no banner, very little information on my patented gardening gloves. They still did very well because I took the time to explain the concept to anyone who would listen, but looking back I should have done my research ahead of time.
Now I have hanging display racks for my gloves, beautiful table covers, professional signs, and a mannequin named Natasha who wears a tee shirt with my logo and displays my GardenSleeves gloves all day long.
I also didn’t do nearly enough networking. You know the old adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? That is SO true. Over the past year, I have joined the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and I am in a wonderful ‘mastermind’ group with seven sensational business owners. We all are in different industries, but we have many shared experiences. Monthly, we bounce ideas off each other, and give suggestions to problems, and share successes and failures. It’s so important to network because starting a business from the ground up takes a lot of time and there is a huge learning curve. Asking for help is a must.
Tell us a little bit about your marketing process, what has been the most successful form of marketing for you?
For me, trade shows have been a perfect fit for GardenSleeves by NOMPI Glove Company. They are a great way for thousands of potential customers to learn about my product. Both consumers and businesses attend the big flower and garden shows that run across the country. It’s been a great way for me to reach the retail and wholesale markets. I am slated to attend the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas in October 2021 where I hope to connect with larger retail outlets. In addition, I hired a woman to assist me with overhauling my website, adding keywords and phrases for search engine optimization. She also encouraged me to take more photos of people actually wearing my gardening gloves instead of just pictures of them, so people visiting my website can see them in action.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge has truly been balancing business with my life as a stay-at-home mom. My family is used to me doing almost everything here, as well as being the mommy shuttle bus. For myself, I have had to learn to delegate responsibilities to my kids, and to rely more heavily on my teenage son to pick up his siblings and to run errands for me. My 16-year-old daughter is a chef in the making, and she has taken up the role of dinner maker, so that has been a huge help. If I am on a work call, or if I am in the middle of a huge batch of gloves they really step up to the plate.
I also hate rejection. It had been hard for me to do a cold call to a garden center with my gloves and see if they would be interested in carrying them. I have had to develop a thick skin. Nine times out of ten the center will either not call me back, or will turn me away, but I have learned not to be discouraged. My best friend and I took my GardenSleeves Gloves to a beautiful garden center and gift shop in Manalapan, NJ (Maple Leaf Farms) on a whim because my friend wanted to do some spring plant shopping and browsing. Their gift shop is huge and they carry really cool unique garden supplies and art. I left samples, and was called the very next day with a large order, so you never know. You can’t possibly succeed if you don’t try.
What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
My first business idea was an attractive reusable insulated tote called “The Doggie Bag”. I thought it would come with a few collapsible plastic containers, and consumers could take it to restaurants with them and put their leftovers in them and take it home. I still think it’s a great idea, especially as the world is getting more sustainable, and with the pandemic, people are scraping their own leftovers into the to go containers. I never did anything with it. If anyone wants to run with it, go for it.
What are you learning now? Why is that important?
I am learning how the manufacturing process works, what a Tech Pack is, how products are made and packaged, how much production costs, and how to do cost analysis. It’s important because I have three scenarios for my business going forward. I can purchase production space, hire some machines and ramp up production here in New Jersey.
The second scenario is outsourcing the manufacturing to another company and having them made out of house. The third scenario is licensing my patent to another company that would make and sell them and I would be out of the process altogether. I am taking the time right now to explore all options, and to figure out which would be the best for my company long-term. For me, it’s not about the get-rich-quick scheme. I have put my heart and soul into this product and I want the most fulfilling outcome for myself and my company.
If you started your business again, what things would you do differently?
When I watch shows like “Shark Tank,” the Sharks always talk about taking baby steps instead of leaping off the bridge. I have taken the time to perfect my GardenSleeves, work out the kinks, expand my glove variations so I have a product for all gardeners. Rose gauntlets? I have those. Nitrile thorn-resistant glove? I have those. Traditional gloves? Got it. Kids? Yep. Men’s? You bet.
The only thing I would have done differently would have been to find another seamstress to help me ease the production load. I spent so much time sewing, it really took away from the research, networking, marketing and sales. I probably also would have hired a marketing and public relations representative sooner, because honestly marketing yourself is tough and it is not my strength. Creating is my strength. I should have recognized this and started the ball rolling. Know your strengths and weaknesses and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
Plan out your day ahead of time, and don’t check your cell phone every time it buzzes that there is an email. Sometimes, I stop sewing constantly to check my emails. When I put my phone out of arm’s reach, I am able to do sew an entire batch of gloves uninterrupted. Then at the top of every hour, I spend a few minutes answering my emails. Calls and texts I get to right away, but emails can wait a bit.
Can you recommend one book, one podcast, and one online course for entrepreneurs?
I absolutely love “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. After reading this book I realized that I needed to take my business to the next level if I wanted to have the opportunity to become ‘Rich Dad’.
The book explains the difference between working for money and having your money work for you. I think it’s an excellent read.
If you only had $1000 dollars to start a new business, knowing everything you know now, how would you spend it?
Fabulous website and social media marketing. The world is the internet now. Everyone has a cell phone and information is at your fingertips. You really need to have a solid internet presence for people to find you and understand who you are and what you are selling.
What helps you stay driven and motivated to keep going in your business?
I absolutely believe in my product, GardenSleeves, because they work and I personally use them every day. My resolve is strengthened every time I get an email from someone who has either purchased my gardening gloves or received them as a gift. I recently got an email from a woman who received the gloves from her daughter. She explained to me that she is a breast cancer survivor with lymphedema, and wears a compression sleeve on one of her arms. She said she loves to garden, and my GardenSleeves Gloves are perfect for her because she can pull them right over her expensive compression sleeve which protects the sleeve from the nicks and pulls of the bushes.
A gentleman on a blood thinner purchased my gloves to help protect his arms from scratches and punctures because his doctor was concerned about this and suggested he stop gardening, the thing he loved most! I get so many beautiful and wonderful emails from happy customers that it warms my heart and motivates me, even more, to keep the brand alive and growing.
What is your favorite quote?
Jeff Wheeler is one of my favorite authors. I absolutely love so many of his quotes. This one rings close to home, however.
“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”-Jeff Wheeler
What valuable advice would you give new entrepreneurs starting out?
Don’t let FEAR stand in the way of SUCCESS. Life is short. I contracted COVID 19 at the beginning of February 2021. I had an unexplained heart attack on March 31, 2021. I lived to tell the tale, and realized the fragility of life. If you wait for another day to try to achieve your dream, that day may never come. You need to dream now and start to make those dreams a reality.
Who should we interview next and why?
Katie Camarro from Sundae’s Best Hot Fudge. She is a true entrepreneur and a real go-getter. She is also an entrepreneur and self-starter. She is an inspiration and has been a big inspiration to me.
What is your definition of success?
Fulfillment. If you feel fulfilled and you have achieved your goals. I went from a successful television career in my 20’s to a stay-at-home mom, I wrote a children’s chapter book series called “Remote Control Adventures” while I was hopeful with my kids. I had a goal of writing 10 books which I achieved. I then went on to create my GardenSleeves by NOMPI Glove line. I think that’s a pretty successful life so far!
How do you personally overcome fear?
Don’t take rejection personally. Just dive in. The worst people can say is ‘no’, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been a good fit. Perhaps you were meant to do something differently. It can be motivating. I am not afraid of failure anymore, because I have achieved so much in my life. I have already succeeded!
How can readers get in touch with you?
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