How Lynne Beernaert got into 5 Wholes Food Market stores
Veronica Jeans (00:00):
I have Lynne Beernaert with me and she owns Hug Patrol and it is not teddy bears. It is actually weighted blankets and weighted wraps. I have one here on the boat. Lynne, tell us, why did you start this?
Lynne Beernaert (00:24):
Well, it all started with me learning to sew in home-ec class, when there used to be such a thing as home-ec in second grade - I still have the skirt skirt.
Veronica Jeans (00:37):
Lynne Beernaert (00:38):
There you go - age ourselves. I just grew from there and just never stopped sewing.
Veronica Jeans (00:47):
Wow. I did. I sold my sewing machine by the way. Yeah. When my husband came home with an overall that was extra, extra large and asked me to make it into a medium, I said, "No, I sold my sewing machine". He went to his sister and she said, "I've sold my sewing machine as well. Go to a professional". That was the last.
Lynne Beernaert (01:13):
If you need any, I've got plenty
Veronica Jeans (01:14):
I'm good. You didn't start in this business straight away? So how did you get into business?
Lynne Beernaert (01:22):
Yeah, the business came years later. When my girls were small, I was given a wrap that was rectangular and I put it on my shoulder and it felt so lovely, but I couldn't move. And out of the corner of my eye I saw a lace antique color that I had. I said, Hmm. So I made a wrap that was like a collar and made them for my kids. And they would go to sleep with them at night. I heat them up and they'd go to sleep with them at night. That was 35 years ago before there was such thing.
Veronica Jeans (01:58):
Or online. Right
Lynne Beernaert (02:01):
Right. Then I was a paraprofessional for a couple of years and they were encouraging me to make blankets and vests also. Then I met the gentleman that owns Therapro Catalog and they brought me in, I was on their front cover back in the day. And it just kept growing from there.
Veronica Jeans (02:25):
Wow. Just by accident. In most businesses that's how it starts. Right. My business started the same way, you know? And so what are you carrying right now - is weighted blankets and the wraps, right? The wraps in different sizes. So what makes your product different to everybody else's?
Lynne Beernaert (02:48):
Oh, geez. Well, I've had time to do a lot of research. I have found fabric that's made in the USA. Yes! Made in America. I'm very, very proud of that. It's seven ounce cotton duck. So it's a heavier fabric, but it's still drapable. It being a hundred percent cotton is very important because you can then put it in the microwave
Veronica Jeans (03:20):
The insides are different as well, so they can put them in the microwave.
Lynne Beernaert (03:33):
Yeah. I use food grade flax seed. And then my scent that I use, if chosen, is lavender buds.
Veronica Jeans (03:41):
Oh, nice. So unscented and scented, right?
Lynne Beernaert (03:45):
Yeah. And what I used to do at expos people were thrilled to have the option of unscented.
Veronica Jeans (03:50):
Yes. So you did a lot of expos, right? Well, before COVID. Your main business was expos. So you met a lot of people and did you sell into other stores or just in the catalogue?
Lynne Beernaert (04:10):
The catalogue and then it grew into Whole Foods. I'm in five Whole Foods - the paperwork is ginormous. It can be done.
Veronica Jeans (04:22):
So because you were at expos, you moved into that sphere. Right. But you're also a woman owned business. Does that matter?
Lynne Beernaert (04:36):
I'm going to say it does because you know they always ask for that information. So I put it down that I am
Veronica Jeans (04:47):
Yeah. So, because I know that having been a woman in business and in my past life's business there was a huge deal because that's how I got into large companies because I'm always a woman in business and they had to check that box if they were working with government. So the difference to just working with a catalog and working with Whole Foods - what is that?
Lynne Beernaert (05:17):
The difference? It's pretty much the same. Don't you have to be more careful. Oh, yes that's true. I'm not able to use diagnosis in any of my verbiage. I can't say that it will help anything except make you feel comfortable, but the testimonial speak volumes. The testimonials just melt my heart.
Lynne Beernaert (05:51):
And so keeps me going. That's what keeps me going
Veronica Jeans (05:54):
The testimonials. So you sew every single thing yourself. Right. So what happens if you are going to expand, have you thought about that?
Lynne Beernaert (06:08):
I did. And I was all set up and then COVID hit. It is not that I can't re-invent that wheel at this facility or another one ........
Veronica Jeans (06:25):
Yes, the opportunities are there probably.
And we've spoken about that. Probably a good ideas to use mums that can sew. The kids are out of the house. What do I do now? I mean I know, I remember my friend, she was a nutty sewer as well. We always had these big flowers and stuff that we were doing for the school. If you're happy doing it, baby, you can do it. Now I'm on a boat and I'm back to sewing. But I'm not making sails, just little baby things and if my husband says, "Oh, we have to do a cover". But I am not doing cushions. So you get an order in and then you have to delivering physically to Whole Foods. Do you actually hang it up?
Lynne Beernaert (07:32):
No. Right now I'm still local. My five store soon to be six - fingers crossed - a new ones being built right now. They're all within an hour away, an hour and 15 minutes. So I don't have a problem and it's nice to meet the people in the store that put my product out on the floor and I'll have suggestions sometimes. I offer ideas - gently. I offer racks, displays, whatever they need. We work well together.
Veronica Jeans (08:12):
So, I mean, it sounds so wonderful. You know, I've worked with a lot of companies and it sounds so wonderful. I'm in Walmart and I'm doing this and the millions are not rolling. And so, I mean, somebody actually has to buy your products for you to actually get money. Right. They don't buy a whole consignment?
Oh wow. So they buy the whole consignment and you just supply as per consignment.
Lynne Beernaert (08:40):
They place an order. I fill it. I deliver it. And then I guess, check in my bank.
Veronica Jeans (08:51):
We like that. So now you and I are working to get your online going and more active. That's a challenge in itself because we had a little bit of a problem with Facebook, but that's resolved right now. Well, not with actual Facebook, but with that account, but that's resolved and we're going to start advertising and everything. And so I'm very excited about that as well. Your suggestions are a normal progression of business before the internet. Right. You would be meeting and then you would be doing the shows and everything, and then you were into the stores. So really the online thing was not much of a concern for you because you were moving and shaking on with the other stuff and kept pretty busy.
Veronica Jeans (09:49):
Right. And then COVID happened and you go, "Oh, maybe I should do something". I've got to admit, you know, you are one of the people that, I went into your new website and your images are brilliant. That is not always the case. In fact, we were talking to Meg and she said, one thing she would do differently is have better images of a products online. So that's hugely important to have those really beautiful pictures of your products online. So people can actually see and want to buy them because I mean, they can't touch or feel them or do anything.
Lynne Beernaert (10:30):
And my product is that - touch and feel - and to portray that is very difficult.
Veronica Jeans (10:38):
Exactly. It's not like, you know, you're looking at chocolates and go, "Oh, I need that. I need to buy that". So I have one big question, "What would you do differently if you started again?" And I mean, you have really started all sorts of things for over a long period of time. So what would you do differently?
Lynne Beernaert (11:08):
I would probably, first of all, take it more seriously. Second. I'm working now with an SBDC counselor. Small Business Development Center here in New Hampshire - she is fabulous. And others I've worked with are also fabulous. Fabulous. which brought me to you - brilliant!
Veronica Jeans (11:37):
So we're moving on, we're moving forward with business and that's the whole thing - you have to move forward with your business. When you started - I know we talked about it a minute ago - you started out with university students helping you, right? You did bootstrapping.
Lynne Beernaert (11:56):
Yeah. She got me connected with a local university in New Hampshire here, UNH, and working with some of their senior students in marketing class. It was amazing. And then COVID hit. Two meetings in and then it was off, but they still continued like troopers. They were the ones that took a lot of the pictures that are on my site and just continued on. They were fabulous. I'm still reconnecting with them as we speak.
Veronica Jeans (12:33):
Oh, that's wonderful. I think they did a fabulous job on those pictures because getting, professional photos done is a very expensive outlay. And I've worked with a fashion designer. She did hers professionally. I did a couple of shoots with her. In fact I was one of the photographers. That was so awesome. I was having so much fun. It was a case of you have to pay models to come and model your stuff. And then it's a whole day of clothes on and off and positions and lighting. And you know, we actually did it in a mansion that she managed that was empty, that she managed to take photos and it was absolutely amazing.
Veronica Jeans (13:33):
But it does take money to actually do the photos that you had the students do for you. Bootstrapped, that was a great idea. And then looking into the community and think who can I utilize that actually needs money and that will be faithful and stay with me without going off having babies. And nobody's got anything about babies, but still, or has children problem - they can only work til three o'clock - they can't work till then. A lot of moms that have college education that suddenly say, "You know what now? I've been busy in the school and I've been VIP. mom (I only learned about VIP mom when I came to this country) and I did all the volunteering . These women are crazy. But it's an it's amazing phenomenon in America.
Veronica Jeans (14:30):
How much parents actually give to the schools. But these ladies then ended up on - What now? And they are proficient. They just want to do something. And if they can earn money, I mean, that's a great idea. So I always say, you know, look around you. In my past recruiting company I used to suggest that to small companies. Look around and ask the moms in your children's schools, if they would like to come and supplement. They all have skills, but they're not as expensive as a professional.
Lynne Beernaert (15:09):
And I did utilize, I did do exactly that. There was a friend that offered to take pictures for me. So I made sure to barter and then another photoshoot and a barter thing and it worked out well.
Veronica Jeans (15:28):
You just have to, you've got to think outside the box.
Lynne Beernaert (15:30):
There's always a future.
Veronica Jeans (15:32):
We are going nationwide right in Whole Foods. So we are very excited about that. No, no laughing. This is a serious matter because. You're in. All you have to do is now expand it. And then we are definitely getting busier online and getting more traction online, but it does take time. And so we also practicing how to blog, right?
Lynne Beernaert (16:04):
Veronica Jeans (16:07):
And it's so important to actually do those blogs and do those information. But anyway, we do them in my workshops. It's a lot of fun and there's a lot of, "Okay, so what do I do now?" This has been brilliant. Thank you so much for popping in and learn. Actually managed to get her Skype going this morning. I am so proud of her
Lynne Beernaert (16:34):
Thank you. You are probably the most patient person I've ever met. And even with the bleep with the original Facebook page and everything you never, ever, ever said anything negative. It was always, "Well, let's go this direction, let's try this direction and let's try this direction". You've been amazing.
Veronica Jeans (17:05):
I'm always thinking outside the box - that's what you have to do.
Lynne Beernaert (17:08):
Veronica Jeans (17:13):
Thank you very much. We've got the next person popping up in about 15 minutes or so. So thank you Lynne, for being with me and we will also pop this on your websites. And then we're going to pop your contact information into this, into the group, onto the Facebook group. So people can connect with you and see what you're selling as well. And if they have any questions, they very welcome to ask. I bet there is some people going, "How can I get into Whole Foods?" Make something made in America. Handmade and has to be special that they're not selling. I know how hard it is to get into these places. There's one more thing - you actually work for the Veteran..........?
Lynne Beernaert (18:07):
Well, if I'm not here or with my family, I've been volunteering at New England Healing Sports Association, which is a nonprofit established by a veteran. The model now is - No one left indoors. It's open to anybody. So we ski in the winter or snowboard. Kayak in the summer. So I've gotten a lot of experience and I've made a lot of adaptive things for them as well. It has opened my eyes to a lot of that. So I am VA Vendor because it is something very near and dear to my heart. For all people in general but to help a veteran makes me feel good. I'm also a New Hampshire Vendor. So if somebody in New Hampshire needs a weighted blanket - a washable, adjustable weighted blanket they can get it through their doctor, it can be scripted through.
Veronica Jeans (19:33):
I forgot about that. That's very good to know. Brilliant. Thank you so much for popping on and we are going to say bye until next time,
Lynne Beernaert (19:46):
Stay healthy everyone - thank you Veronica.
Lynne Beernaert - Hug Patrol - Shopify store owner!
For over decade, Hug Patrol's carefully researched and intentionally designed weighted wraps, blankets and other comfort creations have provided natural support to those who need it most in our online store. Our creations are used daily -- across the world -- in homes, healthcare, schools and on-the-go. All Hug Patrol products are born and based in New Hampshire, USA. We are in 5 Whole Food stores locally.