Name: Marina Phillips
Business: Bébé Station™️/Station Bébé™️
Industry: Parental Services/Health & Wellness
Tanya: Ok Miss Marina Phillips – tell me about your path to entrepreneurship.
Marina: Gosh, you came out the gates hard. Path to entrepreneurship? I just don’t like being told no. If I see a problem for anything, I always like to find a solution.
Then I had a kid, and then that became a whole new challenge of being an entrepreneur, because then I started finding gaps in how the parenting world views mothers and how the parenting world views parents as a whole and what I could do to plug some of the gaps that I saw based on my life experiences.
Tanya: I like that. What do you consider your boldest business move?
Marina: I think my boldest business move was creating Bébé Station™️/Station Bébé™️ lounges to honor mothers who made a very conscious choice not only to have their kids, but to come outside of their home with their children. Whether they were breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, whatever, moms came out and they were like, “I want to be out here, too. Help me.” So, my starting Bebe Station lounges was to allow them not only the freedom to come out, but the assurance to know that they had a safe and comfortable space where they could actually feed their child and change their child without judgment eyes and with somebody there to protect them.
Tanya: Yes, I love that. You have to look at it that way, especially when you’re launching a business and thinking of why you even did it to begin with. What was the biggest financial turning point for your company, like your ‘I made it moment’, if you’ve had one?
Marina: When I got sponsorship from PC Organics (Loblaws). I was making some money but it was still inconsistent revenue. When I got financial sponsorship as well as products, I was like, “Bam, I’ve made it,” because now people can see that, “Oh, a big company believes in what you do and understands what you do and is supporting what you do.” That was a big moment.
Tanya: It sucks sometimes that you need the validation from these large external companies to validate your business, but it also becomes a domino effect. Because when it’s one, then it’s so much easier to get you into other rooms later on.
Tanya: What is thus far your business’ biggest triumph?
Marina: Besides the sponsorship, it’s two things. I think one is getting the buy-in from a whole bunch of these different festivals and events that I was a necessary essential service. I did a lot for free, because I wanted to get my name up there. Then I gave reduced rates, because I wanted to get in there. But when I started giving my rates, even to some of the clients that I had and I raised them and I said, “Well, you know what? You were beneficiary of when I first started, but this is business needs,” and they didn’t blink an eye.
Secondly, being able to pivot to the vending machines, because that was my original plan for 2021. The fact that people are still interested in the lounges to franchise and then people got all excited about the vending machines, which I’m also going to be licensing, people bought into it and they see that it’s going to work.
Tanya: Wait, tell me more about these vending machines!
Marina: The vending machine is an extension of the lounges. Again, finding the gap where we as parents are missed. The lounges were a self, clean, comfortable space to be able to change and nurse your kids, as well as getting free products if you forgot something.
For the vending machines, If you’re out at the mall or community centre, and forget diapers, do you want to run to the local drug store or big box store, buy a whole pack when only a 4-pack of diapers will do? Especially with a crying, soiled baby? Your toddler is hungry, and instead of trying to find a store that sells healthy snacks, here’s a vending machine that offers more than chips and chocolates.
It’s an extension of the lounges to say, “Hey, we got you.” In my perfect world, they’ll be in airports, because we know how it is traveling with kids. Instead of having to, again, stand up in a line and you’re schlepping luggage and blah, blah, blah, you can just go to the machine, tap tap, and keep it moving.
Tanya: Do you feel overwhelmed by your being a visionary and the execution?
Tanya: I keep thinking back to Steve Jobs. His main function was to be the visionary for Apple, but he would get too far down into the weeds. Now mind you, him getting down into the weeds gave us the products that we have, down to the boxes.
Marina: I’ve realized that, and I’m owning it now even more so than before, that I am a visionary. It’s a bit of a scary thing for somebody like me, because in the day job, I’m an executive assistant to a CEO and a president. So, I have to also fill in the gaps, and I have to make everything smooth. I don’t have a me for me.
Tanya: What is your business’ biggest challenge?
Marina: In general, it’s the fact that there still is a lot of work to do for the buy-in that having a nursing and changing lounge is an essential service and a need at festivals and events, whether indoor or outdoor.
Now, I will say this, that the pandemic has made my pitch easier for next year, because if somebody says, “Oh, well we don’t need it.” I’ll be like, “Okay, so how are you going to deal with moms and dads that are coming in with their kids and they need somewhere to do this and where are they going to wash their hands?” It’s not the same anymore.
I’m also trying to franchise Bebe Station lounges across Canada. I think it’s very important for me to say that my goal, and I’m trying to position it so it doesn’t sound discriminatory, is that I actually want women owners, because I want women to be able to own a company that is theirs for women, by women.
Tanya: I love the idea of empowering women to become business owners and just put it that way. You’re not excluding men. You just want to empower women to own their own businesses. What do you wish people would know about being a black entrepreneur?
Marina: That we deserve funding for our ideas without having to go through hoops. That’s it.
Tanya: The end.
Marina: That’s it.
Tanya: How can clients or companies support black women at this time?
Marina: Support our businesses financially with products, with – I don’t want to say just with influencer opportunities, but with financial opportunities to expand our brand and their brand at the same time. And ask us for ideas, because guess what? We are a powerful movement, and people want to be us. You look at Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, just the social stuff, you look at music, you look at clothing, you look at expressions, you look at everything, they want to be us. So, guess what? Use us.
Tanya: Go to the source.
Marina: Hello hi’s.
Tanya: Hi hello’s. We are so silly. LOL. Last question, how do you or can you find a balance between personal and professional?
Marina: No, no, no. I always say I have no work-life balance at all. I own it. When it’s time for me to concentrate on my family, I concentrate on my family. When it’s time for me to concentrate on my business, I concentrate on my business. I can balance it, I guess, if I wanted to, but I don’t want to, because it’s unhealthy. I remember I think it was 2019 or 2018, one of the two years, I went through from March all the way to October and especially in the summertime I was working my full-time job and doing Bebe Station. I was exhausted. I was physically exhausted. My brain was shifting and downshifting.
I’d rather just be honest about the fact that I don’t have balance, and if I need to be more sided on Bebe Station this week, so be it. Everybody’s advised of it, but that’s what it is. But I do believe that you do need to unplug. You do need to unplug and to make sure that you take care of your health first, because if you’re dead or sick, you can’t make money.
Tanya: I don’t even want to work harder. I just want my money to work harder.
Bold & Black is a monthly interview series conducted by entrepreneur and 2018 Celebrating Women Honouree Tanya Hayles. Tanya is the founder of Black Moms Connection, an online global village of almost 20,000 and non-profit providing financial tools through grant programs generously funded by BMO.