Exclusive Interview with Valencia Chen, Founder of Little Bearnie, Modern Baby Products & Handmade Accessories

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Little Bearnie is a homegrown Singaporean brand baby accessories store established in September 2016 founded by Valencia Chen. It aims to create and provide unique, fun and stylish baby essentials for ultimate meaningful experiences!

Teething is often a challenging and painful process for both babies and parents. Thus it is important to get the right teether for your baby. The Gem Biscuits in teether form featuring the nostalgic and colourful snack that is familiar to all Singaporeans comes in four colours. This is the brand’s first original product, designed in-house by founder Valencia Chen. The teethers can be attached to an optional teething clip so that you don’t lose them in the midst of all the teething frustration. Little Bearnie’s teethers are malleable, soft yet shatterproof, very safe made from 100% food grade silicone and BPA, PVC, vinyl, phthalate, cadmium, and lead free. You can trust the products as Valencia tests them out herself by chewing on them, to make sure they are of the highest quality! The teethers can be easily clean with just a quick wash of soap and water and ready to be used again.

In addition, to accompany this local snack, Little Bearnie is also the exclusive distributor of the Bubble Tea teethers, so your baby can have a sip of the drink while you enjoy yours too. Our Parenting World – OPW Media team is pleased to be able to interview Valencia Chen where she will share more about her products, how to choose the right teether for your baby and more. 

Exclusive Interview with Valencia Chen, Founder of Little Bearnie

1. Please share with us more about your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Valencia: I grew up in a humble family where I was taught values such as obtaining a stable career and climbing steadily up the corporate ladder. However, I have always dreamt of venturing and exploring further by starting my own business or creating my own brand.

I embarked on extensive research for around 2 years, when I studied carefully how to be an entrepreneur. I attended various part-time courses while in my previous job, and the passion and desire to create my own business grew stronger. 4 years ago, I plucked up all my courage, took a leap of faith, left my previous company and started Little Bearnie.

2. What inspired you to set up Little Bearnie and how did you start up your business?

Valencia: During the period I was researching into founding my own business, many of the friends around me were getting married and having new additions to their families. When I was shopping for gifts for my friends and their little ones, an idea struck me: I could be the one creating a wonderful gift for these babies and families. As such, I started to conduct more in-depth research in baby products. The products should be suitable for the baby and also give the parents a peace of mind at the same time.

At the same time, I love travelling. During my overseas trips then, I kept a lookout for adorable and practical baby products. I also bought a few different products and evaluated the functionality of each product.

After evaluating many baby items, I decided to kickstart my company by creating a logo, slogan and company name. From there, Little Bearnie was founded.

We started off selling products from Taiwan and Korea. However, it didn’t start off well as the products were expensive and Little Bearnie was a relatively unknown company or brand at that point. Eventually, we went on to secure event spaces and tried to make a breakthrough. This resulted in a time-consuming journey.

The experience did not make my desire falter. I sought apprenticeship from a few of my friends who were doing business as well. I was inspired by a friend who personalised the products they sold. From this, I started doing even more research. I painstakingly went through countless nights staying up and searching online for unique and customisable baby gifts. This was when I came across a brand located in Canada, Loulou Lollipop.

Loulou Lollipop had a product that caught my eye immediately: their Bubble Tea teether. As a bubble tea fan, I was extremely captivated by their products and expressed my interest in obtaining the distribution rights.

It seemed Lady Luck was smiling upon Little Bearnie, as we clinched our first exclusive distribution in Singapore.

Since the first distribution from Loulou Lollipop, we went on to acquire more distribution rights from other countries’ brands. 3 years have since passed, and today, Little Bearnie is proud to have designed and created our very first original teether: the Gem Biscuit teether.

3. Can you tell us more about the range of products Little Bearnie offers, such as teethers, swaddles, bibs and more?

Valencia: Little Bearnie mainly provides a wide range of baby teething accessories, which consists of Teethers, Teething Necklaces and Bangles (fashionable accessories for mums), and Teething Beads Clips (which doubly serve as a clip-on as well as a teether!). To add on, we also offer customisation services for our Teething Beads Clips where customers can decorate the clips with, for example, a name of a child. This lends a personal touch to the item.

Apart from that, we also have an additional range of baby essentials like Baby Swaddles, Baby Bibs and Educational Toys to cater to the different needs of parents and gifters. However, our main focus lies in our teethers as our goal is to specialise in baby teethers in the long run.

4. What should parents be looking out for when buying teethers for their babies and why does choosing the right teether matter to a baby?

Valencia: We cannot emphasise enough on the quality and safety of our products, and always believe in supporting original creators.

To begin, a good and lasting teether is very important as it can help to ease the teething woes of your little ones as well as distract them and keep them occupied. It can also serve as a pretend-play toy when your little one outgrows their teethers.

The teethers selection that is offered in our store, regardless of whether it belongs to our home brand or distribution brands, are all tested against US/EN safety standards. All the teethers belonging to the original designer will have the brand name embossed on the teether itself.

5. What are the challenges you faced when setting up Little Bearnie and how did you overcome them?

Valencia: One of the fundamental challenges that I faced (and that all founders will) when setting up a new company, is that Little Bearnie was one of the youngest brands in the market. Comparable to many other companies, we were unknown to most. I was determined to change this; thus, I participated in various marketplaces and events to create more brand awareness and brand presence.

At the same time, because I am not a mom, I was faced with the challenge of convincing customers that Little Bearnie was a baby brand they could trust. Through the events and pop-up stores, I made sure to speak to a lot of mothers and obtain on-the-ground feedback about my products to make sure that they were satisfied with the quality of the items. Quality and safety are Little Bearnie’s top priorities, just like how babies are every parent’s priority. We understand that children are the most precious to parents, and we would also want to protect them from any harm. Not only are our teethers tested against international safety standards, I also made sure to test out and play around with the teethers to make sure they don’t break easily, even when bitten with our adult teeth!

Another challenge, but also a huge and crucial one, that we faced and are currently facing at Little Bearnie, is the emergence of counterfeit products. We are extremely concerned that these are not rigorously tested for safety, as our original products usually are. Therefore, we have been trying to actively educate the public about the importance of only purchasing the original items from our store.

Finally, I had to think about the problem of sustainability. Because the importing of products is something anyone can do, we had to consider making Little Bearnie different and desirable in the long run. This led me to start exploring creating my own unique designs and teethers.

6. How do you differentiate your products from other teethers and baby accessories available in the market?

Valencia: At Little Bearnie, safety and quality are our top priorities, and we take the responsibility to make sure that all the teethers sold by us are of good quality and toxic-free. Hence, during the creation of my own teethers, I invest a lot in these testing standards.

Our exclusive teether designs have the Little Bearnie logo or company name embossed onto the teether which proves the authenticity of the product. Parents can be assured that the teether went through several rounds of testing, and is definitely safe for the little ones.

7. What’s your advice for those who want to start their own business? What preparation work and mindset do they need to have?

Valencia: The entry level for starting a business is not high in Singapore, but I feel that for one to start any business, other than identifying what you want to do, you also need to be clear of your purpose. I always believe in the 3 “Rs” that I have created for myself which has helped me progress in my entrepreneurial journey.

1) Right Mindset & Passion
It is very important to have the right mindset when starting a business journey, and passion and love plays a big part in building a business. To me, it is like maintaining a marriage, as it takes time and effort to make things work.

2) Right Attitude
Our attitude is what influences all our actions and determines what our results will be. Opportunity knocks at every door, but only with the right attitude will we seize the right opportunity which leads to success.

3) Face the Reality
Being an entrepreneur is often glamorised, but that is not really true! It takes a lot of hard work in building up the foundation of the business, countless sleepless nights working on strategies to improve and many rounds of failure that would require you to keep trying again.

8. Any tips on how one can be a successful entrepreneur and succeed in the competitive market?

Valencia: I do not have a specific set of tips on success as I believe everybody succeeds with their own set of thinking. To me, it is always important to love and enjoy what you are doing, with passion. It definitely keeps the fighting spirit up! One should also not be afraid to fail and make mistakes. Only through making mistakes will one learn from the experience and know better how to handle challenges in future.

9. How do you create and increase your brand awareness and promote your products to the market?

Valencia: It has been a very long journey creating Little Bearnie’s brand presence. I used to run various pop-up stores in many different events like Artbox, Nightfest and many craft markets in shopping malls, before I started to invest in social media advertising. Social media, along with online marketplaces, has evidently helped to provide greater exposure for my brand, and has reached out to different types of clientele in the market with the same product, such as daddies, mummies and gifters who may not be parents themselves.

10. On a personal note, what are some of your favourite beauty and skincare tips that you would like to share with our readers who are mothers on taking care of themselves while looking after their babies?

Valencia: Masking is very important to me, and one of the simplest things that I think mummies should stick to as well! One of my favourite masks to use is Glamglow. As I used to work in the Perfumes & Cosmetics industry before, I got to know the brand owners at one of their product launches and was really inspired by their brand story. I am also attracted to the tagline of their brand, the “camera-ready” mask.

Initially sold to people in Hollywood who needed to look good fast, it was made available to the public a few years back, which was when I tried using it during my travels and even before my wedding. As a result, I felt that my skin really looked more radiant very quickly, and that it would be such an effective mask for people on-the-go. Because the purpose of the brand is to help people cut short the time spent on skincare, I believe this philosophy would work very well with mummies who may not have a lot of time, but still want to look “camera-ready” so that they can constantly take photos with their kids!

11. Can you share some stories of how your products have helped your customers?

Valencia: We have received a lot of feedback from parents who have shared with me that Little Bearnie’s teethers have indeed helped sooth the teething process for their little ones. The teethers can also be placed in the fridge for a cooling effect, making the teether even more appealing and effective for their baby. I specifically remember one of the mummies telling me that our teether helps to keep her baby entertained so that she can eat peacefully.

There were a few other times when parents have also mentioned that even after their babies have grown up, the teethers become part of their lifestyles and the children also incorporate them as their pretend-play toys. I have also gotten feedback from some parents that their little ones actually learnt to love to eat fruits because of our fruit teethers that have influenced their perceptions. It is very critical to educate them on how essential fruits are.

Valencia Chen

(All the above images credit to Valencia Chen and Little Bearnie)

12. Lastly, what are the exciting products Little Bearnie has in the pipeline that parents can look out for and Little Bearnie’s future plans to make babycare safer, trendier and more relatable?

Valencia: We are working hard to provide a wider range of Baby Essentials products, that are uniquely designed and Instagrammable. We want to create items such as teethers or swaddles that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and that parents can take pictures of to create memories with their children. In fact, we are creating our own house brand swaddle this month and are working on even more niche Asian designs for teethers.

Thank you Valencia Chen for taking our interview!

Little Bearnie has a wide range of baby accessories and products from baby teethers, swaddles, bibs, educational toys and more. All its accessories are cute, educational, made with safe and toxic-free materials. The homegrown company was awarded in 2020 for the Best Collection of Stylish Baby Teething Accessories, and it hopes to continue providing parents and babies with adorable baby accessories that will bring a smile to anyone’s face. To find out more and to purchase its products, please visit www.littlebearnie.com.

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