ZoLi: Designs for Sustainable Success

Juli Shaw

Co-Owner, ZoLi

Julia Shaw shares a personal look behind the ZoLi brand that she founded with her husband Chet Hong to provide young families with environmentally-safe, functional and sustainable product solutions, with a primary focus on a variety of feeding aids that feature modern, colorful and contemporary designs with easy practicality. I met Juli and Chet several ABC’s ago, but at first greeting they had the ability to make me feel like we were already old friends. I was taken with their passion for their products, open smiles and gracious manner. I was quickly impressed with them as a couple, family and entrepreneurs and knew that they deserved every success. I was even inspired by their logo, which, like most art, connotes several interpretations. For me, I saw the logo as a family tree, a promise to the environment, with a grounded, modern sensibility and playfulness.

Product. People. Price. These have long been the triple threat in success. Old marketing texts told me that one can have two, but usually not all three. ZoLi is an exception, as this top notch company offers the best of all three. I believe their success story has many more interesting chapters and look forward to seeing their future.

When was your brand born and what was the initial inspiration?

We launched our company in 2008 after our second daughter was born, but the seed was planted back in 2004 when I had my first daughter. That was when I became aware of the harmful chemicals used in many of the baby products available in the market. Three and a half years later, after I had my second daughter, I was frustrated to see that the situation had not changed. Products still contained harmful chemicals and alternatives were still not easy to find. It was then that we decided to offer parents a safer option and created ZoLi.

ZoLi is a whimsical name based on the first two letters of my daughters’ names – Zoe & Lila. It seemed apropos given that they are the inspiration behind the company.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting?

We started during the economic downturn so funding, managing expenses and cash flow were paramount.

What are the three biggest keys to your success?

It’s so hard to limit it to just three, but if I had to choose it would be:
• Our retailers – they took a chance on a nascent brand and brought our products into their stores. We are so grateful to the original retailers that continue to carry the ZoLi brand.
• Our customers – with their support and their loyalty, they have helped spread the word about our products and grow our business.
• Our team – we have been fortunate to work with an amazing group of people. Not only have they been instrumental in our growth; they have such a positive attitude and upbeat energy that they foster a great working environment. We are truly lucky to have the team that we do.

As partners in both your business and in marriage, to what do you attribute your success?

My husband is my best friend so it seemed natural that I would have him as my business partner. The funny thing is that even if we weren’t doing this business together, I would still bounce ideas off him to get his input on key decisions. So maybe having a good listener as a partner is the key??

Describe a typical new product development cycle for your business?

It starts with an idea, a concept and a perceived market need. We’re constantly developing new and innovative products to make parents lives easier. I’m a huge proponent of market research – whenever we develop new products, we build in time to assess the market and get consumer feedback. Post findings, we tweak the final design to reflect the market insight prior to entering production.

How do “green” or eco-friendly concerns influence your business decisions?

Creating safe products for babies and kids is what we do, so being green and eco-friendly is a natural by-product of that. It is always part of our decision making process – from material selection to the design of the packaging it comes in. Our products are made from recyclable materials that do not leach harmful chemicals, and packaged in recycled paper printed with vegetable-based inks.

How do you market your brand?

By word of mouth and through our specialty retailers or, as we call them, brand ambassadors. We design and package our products for the specialty channel.

Share your strategy for expansion into new product categories and age ranges?

My daughters continue to be the inspiration behind ZoLi. Now as they are getting older, we are seeing additional opportunities to create safer products for their age group. In the last year, we have launched new items geared towards grade school children with new lunch gear and safety items.

What is your one piece of advice for someone entering children’s market?

If you believe, just move forward. Don’t spend too much time over analyzing, otherwise you’ll never take the first step.

More About ZoLi

ZoLi’s products blend substance, sustainability, and style for a modern design that both reflects and enhances utility. The company creates products to make parents’ lives easier while growing a greener future for our children.

Most popular products include:

BOT XL – This 9 oz. sippy cup is BPA & Phthalate free. The flexible, innovative straw allows it to move freely in any direction the cup is tilted to ensure that babies and toddlers will be able to drink to the last drop. Integrated handles with flip lid makes it easy for toddlers to hold. SRP: $15.00
SUMO Snack Tower – The BPA & Phthalate-free Tower, with stackable containers, is a the big bro to ZoLi’s On-the-Go formula & snack dispenser. Bulky snacks, such as strawberries, orange slices, pretzel sticks, and rice cakes, fit into one of the three 8-oz. containers. SRP: $18.00
GUMMY STICK – Each package includes a set of 2 sticks with ergonomic handles so it’s easy for babies to hold. Textured nubs gently massage gums and teeth. The easy to grasp handle is reminiscent of toothbrushes, helping to establish early dental hygiene. The anti-choke prevents over-insertion. BPA & Phthalate free. SRP: $10.00

New items:
NOMNOM Bag – Pack all your lunch goodies in this PVC & lead free insulated bag. The roomy interior is designed with an adjustable divider to keep hot foods separated from cold foods or collapsed to the back if not needed. The NOMNOM has an easy to clean durable 600 dernier polyester exterior and aluminum lined interior and comes with lots of pockets to hold goodies such as extra snacks, ice pack, napkins or utensils. SRP: $24.00
DASH Bottle – Keep drinks hot or cold for hours with the BPA, phthalate, and lead free, 12-oz. DASH. Made of high-quality 304 stainless on both the exterior and interior, and featuring a flip-top lid with secure latch, the doubled-walled construction allows the DASH to always remain cool to touch, whether with hot or cold drink inside. It also comes in bright and modern colors, adding a bit of color splash to kids’ lunches. SRP: $26.00
DINE Food Jar – This BPA, phthalate, and lead free, 12-oz. food jar comes in five bright and modern colors. The DINE has vacuum-insulated walls to keep food hot or cold for hours. Made of high-quality 304 stainless on both exterior and interior, it is perfect for packing meals on the go. With its doubled-walled construction, hot or cold meals will always feel cool to the touch. SRP: $25.00

ZoLi, Inc.
650.558.1115 Option 1

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