In 2020, Deborah Brooks had been working in tech for 26 years. She had been part of twenty-five tech startups, 7 of which were successfully acquired. On paper, everything seemed perfect, and she felt that way for many years. But, “somewhere along the way, I lost interest in tech and the battle I always felt I was fighting to be a woman in tech,” explained Deborah. Indeed, she was often the only woman in the room and she started to feel she couldn’t be a successful tech exec and a mom at the same time.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she realized she needed a change. She needed to create a company and a new space where she could be authentically herself. And she did. “At My Puffin I can be a woman leader and a mom at the same time, and most importantly I can support other moms,” she said.
So in the fall of 2020, Deborah wanted a new challenge. Let’s stop right there. Who needed an additional challenge in 2020, you may ask? Well, that speaks to what kind of powerhouse Deborah is. With everyone stuck indoors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she realized parents were in desperate need of a safe indoor activity to keep their kids busy while reducing screen time and increasing the imaginative muscle.
She and her co-founder then started My Puffin, the first play couch 100% made in Canada. Her products are made using superior fabrics and they are soon launching additional resources for parents to help increase their kids’ imaginations and enhance playtime. Deborah’s mission is to help other parents bring imagination and active playback into kids’ lives. Indeed, kids who use their imagination are happier, and they learn coping skills and problem-solving skills.
Starting a business during a global pandemic is no joke. Deborah’s advice to women wanting to start their own project? Do lots of research, then talk to people you trust, then do more research. “If all data points are saying “yes” then go for it. Regret is a terrible feeling,” she says.
If you’re a Female Disruptors regular you’ll know we love to ask entrepreneurs for their top 5 leadership lessons. Here is Deborah’s:
You’ve probably heard people say it’s never a perfect time to have children. The same goes for launching a business. There are always risks and reasons why not to do it. Ours was an economy that was stretched due to the pandemic and growing concerns with decreased disposable income across all demographics.
Do you like the people you work with? You have to respect them at the very least. My co-founder Sperry and I are very good friends. We have known and respected each other for 16 years. The biggest lesson in my years of entrepreneurship was to learn that constructive criticism and praise are equally important. You need both to be successful, and having a trusted partner you can be honest with is central to that.
Celebrate and recognize every small victory. Whether it is a new shipping process or a customer in a new region, we celebrate all progress. We love our customers and we are having fun building My Puffin!
Let’s be honest, we never know enough and we are constantly learning as we go. From SEO to inventory control—it’s a learning process and everything takes time. Despite our extensive marketing experience, we decided to bring in a digital marketing team for our Canadian launch. Thank you Schmooz Media! And this is something we will continue to do—strategically bring in experts to help us move quickly.
I did not predict I would become a foam expert. But here I am talking about ILD and foam compression. Customers do want to know who they are buying from and all the little details. My advice: be transparent and share that information. Today’s world is all about information and data.
If you’re working from home while taking care of your kids, looking into My Puffin! Deborah is looking forward to developing the brand and diversifying the products in 2021. Follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram to see how her work supports the women she admires the most: moms.