Product Development Tips from a Mom Who's Gone from Idea to Expo

This is a guest post by Ellen McCaleb of

I’m on my way to the ABC Expo as a first time exhibitor and Elle Decor magazine just contacted me. They’d like to use one of my growth charts in a nursery feature. “Just the perfect thing,” the stylist said.

Some would say, “You’re here. You’ve arrived!”

I guess I have arrived, but it’s taken so much to get here. 

And “here” is just the beginning.

The beginning of having stores stock my products, the beginning of making regular sales and the beginning of having this business pay for itself.

Though it’s hard to see it some days, I am getting closer to the goals I set three years ago. My husband frequently tells me, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” And that is so true.

My company, Growth Chart Art was born three years ago. Lots of blood, sweat and money later, I’m “here.”

I’d like to share my lessons learned for those of you on the product development journey.

Ideate and Incubate

The first basic tenant I have for any idea you come up with is this: if you are still thinking about it after three months, then it’s real.

It’s not just a whim.

Invite Input

Instead of being paranoid about someone stealing your idea or thinking your idea is the greatest thing ever, share your idea and prototypes. Solicit input. Then solicit some more.

Build Your Brand

You need to know who you are. Envision what your company and your brand stand for.

What space do you intend to occupy or conquer? Do your research. Who else occupies that space? How is your product an alternative to what’s already in the market? What’s your point of difference?

I was stuck on the idea of having to price my USA made growth charts around $60 retail (I’d starve) because that was the price ceiling at the time for higher end growth charts. But none were made in the USA. None were sustainably produced with eco-friendly components.

I thought I had to compete with the imports. I was wrong. I underestimated the importance of my distinctions. I adjusted my prices and sold more growth charts.

Take Your Time

By now you’ve likely heard that “you need to be on Twitter” or you “need to be on Facebook” or both. No.

But what you really need to do is finish developing your product and bring it to those social networking platforms when you are ready.

Don’t rush things. Don’t follow someone else’s timeframe. Don’t do anything before it’s time.

To quote the Grateful Dead, bringing a product to market has been a long, strange trip. But I’m so glad I can share my travels with you.

How has your journey as a mom entrepreneur been so far?

Ellen McCaleb is a professional trophy fish carver – she’s carved over 200 fish from 16 different countries and seven continents. When Ellen became a mother she was inspired to create a really cool growth chart, which turned into her new company Growth Chart Art. She lives in Barrington, NH with her husband Jonathan, her children Evelyn and Nathan, her dog Foster who thinks he’s a child and a cat Mulberry who knows Foster is definitely a dog and not a child.

{Top Image Credit}




  1. Debbie

    I am very new to this networking thing and the internet part of it.
    I have a line for leggings that I want to have in the stores. So my question is how do I do this? Can you help me? The last post I see here is from last year…
    I probably have someone who will make them or they know who would be best match for me.
    I am really serious and I have not seen “my creation” anywhere in the magazines, on shelf/hangers in stores, etc. I even have a “trademark” process waiting with Legal Zoom. How do I make the break? I have only a couple actually sewn (I am not a the best I can but into a phototype), I have to get photos of them (better on someone), drawings of them plus a couple of possible jackets that go with them or not.
    And of course the complete bottom line is……….I’m on a tight budget.


  2. Jennifer

    Great post Ellen. I am glad to see things are going well. It has been a long journey for both of us, especially when you are trying to make your product here in the USA.

  3. ThaisLuckyDuck

    I posted to Twitter straight away…inspiring and encouraging. Sage advice for a fellow who is also committed to manufacturing in the USA:) Well Done! Thank you!

  4. cloudlovebaby

    Oh I loved this post! I feel like I am about halfway down that path to arriving, but then I look back and realise I have ‘arrived’ a dozen times or more in this journey so far. It’s nice to look back at what you HAVE achieved and it’s the fuel you need to keep going. I have a specific end point in mind at the moment with lots of little goal posts along the way and it’s really nice to hear from someone who has already been there! xo

  5. rebeccapcohen

    I so appreciate the notion of ‘arriving’ and then once again, starting over: a bigger platform, different challenges, and still the need for the drive to see the next stage to fruition.

  6. PlayfulDecor

    Thank you for sharing! Your growth charts are very creative! I’m about to open my biz soon decorating lights for nurseries and kids rooms I’m in agreement on the timing, I’m really slowing down to make sure my ducks are lined up (somewhat) before I open. I also have several more ideas to market so trying to do one thing at a time!

  7. chiefprincess

    Quite inspirational. Thank you for sharing and emphasizing the “timing” aspect. Too often we (I) expect things to be done faster.

  8. babyjives

    Thanks so much for sharing your story! I am actually traveling down the same kind of road right now with my company Baby Jives Co. I started about a year ago making handmade mobiles after my son finally started sleeping again and I had time to work. I design and make all the mobiles myself right now but am researching expanding my production beyond my studio but keeping things made in the USA, if not locally. Your story is a definite inspiration to keep up this journey, it’s exhausting but rewarding too.

  9. MarjorieLMcCaleb

    You are awesome Ellen!

  10. themogulmom

    I’ve been down this road before…thanks for sharing your tips, Ellen! cc: emccaleb

  11. LauraNelsonMagu

    I really needed this right now! Thank you for your words.


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