When Michelle Brandriss’s son was starting daycare, she faced a challenge many daycare, school and camp parents have—missing clothing and other belongings. “Cooper started at daycare with name labels created from masking tape and sharpie markers, but as you all know, they aren’t a long-term solution,” says Michelle. Like many mompreneurs who see a need and created a product to solve it, she launched Name Bubbles, custom name labels that are made in America (upstate NY, to be specific).
Cooper is now 15 years old, and Name Bubbles has gone from a small operation in Michelle’s basement office to having two buildings (one in upstate New York and one in CO); and 20 people working on orders that ship to all 50 states and all around the world. We spoke to Michelle about growing her company, preparing for a busy camp season, and more.
Want to buy some Name Bubbles labels for camp? Head to namebubbles.com and use code CAMPMOM15 for 15% off all products!
Can you please tell us a bit more about yourself?
Hi, I am Michelle Brandriss. I would describe myself as a wannabe artist turned biz-gal. I am also a West Coast transplant living in upstate New York and loving my small-town life. I met my husband in New York City and we moved up to Saratoga Springs over twenty years ago. We have a son, Cooper, he is 15 now and has entered the age of hug avoidance and self-dependence. As a parent of an only, it has been a bit of a heartbreaking transition, but I try to remember that it’s healthy and I’ll be better prepared when I must be an empty nester and the college years arrive. We do have two rescue dogs though!
Can you please share the “aha” moment when you decided to launch Name Bubbles?
Other moms had what I called “fancy labels” and I learned that they came from label companies in different countries. I talked to my husband about starting our own label business for close to a year, but we were nervous—I had a good job at a local advertising company. The catalyst happened on a Sunday afternoon. I had been traveling a lot and that weekend Cooper had a double ear infection. I had to fly out that day for an early Monday morning focus group. That was it! Mom-guilt can kick anything into gear; all the pieces started shifting into place and I left my job the next month.
Why are Name Bubbles so great for kids that have food allergies?
Like many kids, Cooper has food allergies, and mealtime out of the house was an issue when he was young. One of the first name labels we created was an allergy and medical alert label that had four customizable fields to enter both medical details and emergency contact information. These alert labels are an extra piece of information to stay put on lunch containers and backpacks.
What separates Name Bubbles from other label brands out there?
Name Bubbles uses a 3M product, so our labels are made in America, from the materials that are sourced to where the labels are created, in the village of Ballston Spa in upstate New York. I’ve also had our labels tested to make sure that they are safe for kids to use. Many of my employees have been with me for years and everyone understands how important our customers are and the care that goes into every label. Another important note is the new designs and styles for older kids, who want something age-appropriate or perhaps just a phone number or email.
Can you please tell us about your commitment to going green?
As a business owner, I want to do my part to offset the carbon that the business is creating. We recently upgraded our solar panels and I have electric car chargers scheduled to be placed on the building later this year. I am purchasing green energy during the winter, but I am also looking to do more on-site. It has been a process and I will need to repeat this for the Colorado location as well. Name Bubbles are made to last for years and they help families keep track of personal items and avoid purchasing replacements, which also helps a carbon footprint.
Love your Labeled for Good ® program that gives back to nonprofits. What nonprofits are you currently partnering with?
This is an aspect of being a small business owner that makes me very happy. I started our charitable arm in 2010, and I’ve always been drawn to organizations that help make a child’s day a little brighter through health, happiness, and education. We will hit $200,000 in giving this year.
We are working with The Positivity Project throughout the entire year and will sponsor 10 schools. Their mission is to empower America’s youth to build positive relationships and become their best selves through a K-12 positive character education curriculum. I met with the founder and I fell in love with the work the program is doing for kids, schools, and families.
Every quarter, I have selected four non-profits and committed to giving a minimum of $10,000 to each. We have Daily Karma connected to NameBubbles.com and they keep track of our giving.
Q1 – Women In Need (WIN) WIN transforms the lives of New York City homeless families by providing holistic solutions of safe housing, critical services, and ground-breaking programs they need to succeed on their own
Q2 – Double H Ranch The mission of the Double H Ranch is to provide specialized programs and year-round support for children and their families dealing with life-threatening illnesses.
Q3 – Blessings In A Backpack Raises money to provide food on the weekend for grade school children in the U.S. who may otherwise go hungry.
Q4 – Toys For Tots Helps bring the joy of Christmas and send a message of hope to America’s less fortunate children.
Congratulations on launching your podcast! What is the premise?
Thank you, the podcast is called From the Basement Up and it’s been a passion project. I’ve interviewed an inventor who launched a product into Walmart’s across the country in her early twenties, women who have made a jump and completely changed their careers, and individuals who have started a non-profit to help people in their community. The podcast is for people thinking about starting their own business or redefining success and creating inspiration for others. I like to think that it’s about getting your grit on and learning from your mistakes.
Two of my favorite episodes are my intro one and Jeff Bryan’s episode from The Positivity Project
What is your advice to fellow moms who see a need in parenting like you did, and want to start a business or a product to solve a problem?
Do your homework. Who’s the potential competition? You’ve identified a need but what is the potential reach of the product? If you are going to manufacture a product, be sure to have the people helping you sign a non-compete and a non-disclosure agreement. You may want to investigate a patent. Save money where you can and stick to the budget. Know that everyone is going to tell you that you can’t do it or that it’s a bad idea. If you believe in it and all your research points to yes, and you are excited about bringing the product to market, then dig in. You don’t want family or friends’ personal opinions to affect your business decisions.
Why do moms make such great entrepreneurs?
Women are creative multi-tasking gurus who become part superheroes when they become a mom. There’s a reason why ancient goddesses have so many arms; we get it done. All kidding aside, women are good at nurturing. It’s a skill that adds value in training and keeping employees in addition to building valuable relationships. You don’t build anything big on your own. Once you are a mom, your time is the most valuable thing you have. Moms work to put an efficient plan in place. We also understand that things build day by day, like a child learning how to walk. A business needs to be nurtured in the same way.
What’s next for Name Bubbles?
Name Bubbles will be launching new styles for sports, and middle and high school kids. Our new product for the camp season will be trunk labels and we are reintroducing our luggage labels this summer. There is a big announcement regarding two sister divisions. One is Labels To Last, which has been created for adults and individuals going into memory care and senior care facilities. And our newest division, Sticker & Co, sells waterproof photo stickers and reusable photo wall decals.
This story is sponsored by Name Bubbles.