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What a WanderFull World

Two Stay-at-Home Moms Kickstart a Successful Business

Here’s one for all of you moms who opted to give up your careers to raise your family.

It’s the story of WanderFull, the HydroBag that’s making waves in handbags, a sector unnoted for innovation. Nevertheless…

Years ago (but not too many years ago) Katie Hill and Lisa Watkins were moms at Kings Highway. They met over dinner one night, bonding over the deaths of their young fathers from cancer.

That’s sad, but there’s a point: In looking back at this dinner, each insists, “Our dads brought us together.”

The two chaired KHS’s Halloween-inspired Pumpkin Palooza for several years, one of the school’s largest fundraisers at that time. Lisa and Katie’s paloozas’ rocked - kids loved it, parents freebased Advil - and raised thousands of dollars. Their collaboration made them realize “We worked really well together.”

After, they often mused about starting a business, knocking around ideas, but it was never the right time.

Until it was.

Last year Lisa signed up for an Amazon FBA course. Katie decided to do it with her.

They brainstormed products they could sell, but nothing stuck. One day Katie bemoaned the lack of cute ways to carry a water bottle. A passionate proponent of hydration who used to be a buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue, she recalled the wildly expensive and insufficient water-bottle bags swaying from the shoulders of models on fashion week runways.

Lisa demurred - “A water bottle bag? Is that really necessary?” she thought as she stuck a 32 oz bottle of water in her computer bag.

The bottle leaked, drenching the contents of her bag and destroying her laptop. She heard the universe remark: Uh… yeah it’s a good idea.

Thus manifested the zygote of the stylish, reasonably priced bag for a bottle of water, iPhone, wallet, and everything else you need (except for a laptop, but they now have larger hydro-totes for that.)

Reception was positive; people loved the fun, colorful bags. A woman in Long Island consistently ordered hundreds which she sold in her pop-up shops.

As we sit in Katie’s living room, both women laughingly recount what happened next.

“She’s the queen of analogies,” Katie says of Lisa, who turns to Katie and asks, “Can I say my analogy?”

Katie nods.

“I’m the explorer, forging ahead into scary territory,” Lisa explains. “[Katie] holds me back. When I drop my inhaler or forget my passport, Katie is behind me picking up the details I miss.”

Katie smiles in agreement.

They launched in March ’22. In addition to Amazon, they planned to work the pop-up shop circuit and popped up their first shop that May.

Conceding the pop was “good for consumer research,” after one day of standing outside in the cold, Lisa was, like, “Hell no. If I’m going to stand all day it’s going to be at the Javits*, not a pop-up.”**

They ran the numbers and it worked. “Is this the moment we decided to get off Amazon?” Katie muses. “I did,” Lisa responds.

So in August ’22, months after their first shipment of bags, they found themselves swamped with store- and business-owners wanting to sell their HydroBags.

“We felt like Cinderella at the ball,” recalls Katie. They didn’t have time to eat, and the event organizers took their photos and interviewed them as representatives of a Javits success story.

Other exhibitors complained about the lackluster turn-out of buyers, wondering if they’d even make back the fee they’d spent to be there. But by noon the first day, WanderFull had recouped the exhibit fee, and there were 3 1/2 more days to go.

They came away from the show with orders to sell product in over 100 stores across the country.

“I thought, ‘This is serious.’” Says Lisa

Katie exclaims, “I have the old Katie back!”

This whirlwind of success culminated in a hurricane of work. Katie spent long days sourcing product while boxes and boxes of bags landed at Lisa’s home. Friends, neighbors, husbands, and offspring frantically packed up orders. The friendly folks at UPS picked up hundreds of boxes from Lisa’s front hall each day. There were boxes piled in the living room, in the garage, in the office.

Of the 38,000 units sold as of the time of this writing, 70% were shipped from Lisa’s home. Thankfully, they now have a professional warehouse in Indiana.

I’m forbidden to include some of the heavy-hitters who’ll soon be stocking WanderFull bags - which now includes belt bags, totes, doubles, and more.

However, I am happy to write they’ve been featured on GMA two times, Today, and are in talks with HSN and a really important media personality. They’re on target to double their projections for 2023 and are doubling their projections for year two.

Almost every day brings new opportunities. “There are so many roads to roam,” states Lisa, “and there aren’t enough drivers.”

  • Katie and Lisa at their first pop-up.
  • Katie and Lisa at their first Javits.
  • Room for a water bottle, keys, iPhone, and more.
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