By John Frerichs, VP, Global SMB
For many small business owners, the inspiration to start their own brand came from the years they’d spent working, building expertise, and identifying market gaps within their industry.
For Dabble & Dollop founder Stephanie Leshney, her decades-long background in the cosmetics sector led her to start her own business after noticing there was a lack of premium and innovative personal care products for children. We spoke to Stephanie to learn more about the inspiration behind Dabble & Dollop’s product line, how she’s navigating and innovating within a competitive sector, and how PayPal has helped her business grow.
John Frerichs: Can you share the background on your business? What inspired you to start?
Dabble & Dollop cofounders Stephanie and Tyler Leshney.
Stephanie Leshney: I spent over 20 years in the cosmetics and personal care space, running one of the largest distributors of organic ingredients on the West Coast. About six years ago, I started a “Bring Your Kids to Work Day.” At our event, the kids created their own bubble baths, body washes, lotions, and shampoos. I couldn’t believe how excited the kids, and parents, were as they made their own concoctions. I knew we needed to do something to “bottle up” this feeling – and that’s how Dabble & Dollop was born!
My background gives us unique insight into choosing the best ingredients for our products. Rather than load up formulas with tons of extracts, additives, and fillers, we created a clean, simple formula with pure, safe ingredients sourced from top U.S. suppliers. We’ve also worked hard to use aromatics that are free of known allergens and tested against the highest European Union standards. The simplicity of the product allows them to be safely mixed – so kids can blend a dabble of this, with a dollop of that to create a great-smelling, non-toxic bath.
John Frerichs: How are you preparing for the holiday shopping season?
Stephanie Leshney: To avoid any surprise supply chain breakdowns, we began ordering stock and supplies in early spring! This included ensuring we had enough boxes for shipping, tissue paper, and holiday-specific products like our Bath Bomb Stocking Stuffers and Happy Holidays Handwash.
We also made adjustments to our internal operations with staffing hours for fulfillment and customer service. There’s nothing worse than not having that gift arrive as planned – so we are being proactive and checking post-shipping logs, resending products that look like they may be lost in the mail, and investing in premium shipping options.
John Frerichs: Which PayPal products do you use and how have they helped your business?
Stephanie Leshney: PayPal has become an integral part of our business. We want to make sure we give customers as many ways to pay for our products as possible, and provide a trusted and secure shopping experience. Since launching with PayPal Checkout, it’s become our No. 1 form of customer payment. PayPal Checkout has lowered the instances of fraudulent transactions we experience, which means we don’t spend time tracking down payments or dealing with chargebacks.
We also use PayPal as the primary path for paying our Dabble & Dollop ambassadors and affiliates. We can easily approve transactions and send commission payouts across the country or around the world. With PayPal, there are clear reporting tools and no ambiguity about where a payment may be or how it was transmitted.
John Frerichs: Can you talk about a challenge you’ve faced as a small business owner and how you overcame it?
Stephanie Leshney: The biggest challenge we’ve faced as a small business has been the push by larger, multinational consumer products companies into our space. Over the last three years, we’ve seen entrants ranging from some of the world’s largest consumer product companies to brands launched by actors and celebrities.
While these are significant challenges, we are overcoming them by sticking to the authenticity and innovation that underpins our brand. We’re continuing to invest in our concept, develop new products, and hope that more and more parents find out about us!
John Frerichs: Have inflation and/or supply chain issues impacted your business?
Stephanie Leshney: Supply chain issues and rising inflation continue to impact all aspects of our business in both positive and negative ways. Our decision to create a U.S.-based supply chain proved to be brilliant early on during the supply chain crisis. With more people staying home, the demand for a product that was fun and kept you clean skyrocketed! While we noticed other brands struggling with stock, we remained full of product and grew significantly.
Controlling our own fulfillment and distribution was also beneficial. While large third-party warehouse providers and distribution centers were forced to close due to COVID restrictions, we were able to take the necessary safety precautions with our small team and continue to fulfill orders.
However, the decision to have a U.S.-based supply chain also now means we are feeling the impacts of domestic inflation. Despite the rising costs of our product components, we want to do our best to keep our products affordable and create little moments of joy for our loyal following.
John Frerichs: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses?
Stephanie Leshney: We think the best advice for a new entrepreneur is knowing when to say no. The natural inclination to say yes to everything can sometimes move your business away from its central thesis.
In the early days of our business, we were approached by a large national retailer. The thought of selling in thousands of stores nationwide was incredibly exciting. But after we consulted trusted advisors and did a lot of number crunching, we determined that a “yes” would have overly taxed our manufacturing capacity and put us at risk of having to repurchase stock. We also decided that the retailer did not match well with our premium brand ethos.
We ultimately saw another brand occupy that shelf space, and as painful as that was, when we look at those products and the price at which they are listing, we know our “no” was truly the right response.