Green Daisy Blossoms

    GRAND HAVEN — Kim Lavine wants women to know they can have it all. As a mother and an entrepreneur, Lavine makes no apology for having children and wanting to be a successful business woman. A financial boost from an investment organization is furthering that dream.

    Lavine did not set out to become an entrepreneur. But when she discovered that a crafty gift for her children’s teachers could become a marketable product that would support her family through hard times, Lavine did not shy away from the risk of starting her own business.

    “You don’t have to be the next Bill Gates to have a great concept that people want,” she said.

    Her creation, the Wuvit (pronounced to rhyme with “love it”), is a flat pillow filled with seed corn that can be heated in the microwave or frozen in the freezer for hot or cold therapeutic relief. Lavine has patented the Wuvit, and is introducing other product categories.

    Six years after she sold the first Wuvits from her home and the back of her truck, Lavine has expanded her company, Green Daisy Inc., to include accessories and sleepwear. She has also introduced variations on her original product, including a children’s Wuvit called Sleepy-Head Fred, and a Wuvit pillow for pets. With all of this on her plate, she turned to Grand Angels for some help and guidance.

    Grand Angels, a venture capital organization helping entrepreneurs in West Michigan, started two years ago, and has since invested in six companies representing various industries. Entrepreneurs can receive seed funding in any amount from $250,000 to $2 million from the Grand Angels investors.

    Prospective entrepreneurs go through an evaluation process with the Grand Angels staff, followed by a second evaluation by a small group of Grand Angel investors. If a plan is accepted by the small group, the hopeful entrepreneur will present it in a formal meeting of all Grand Angel investors, who then decide if they are interested in providing personal funding.

    “The decision of the Grand Angels to invest is always a matter of individual choice and it is not a group decision,” said David Hathaway, one of the founding investors of Grand Angels.

    Lavine approached the organization after hearing Hathaway speak at Grand Valley State University in 2005. After a 10-month process of reviewing her company, Grand Angels decided to invest in Green Daisy. In addition to the capital funding, Lavine benefited from the expertise of a group of start-up experts including Hathaway, an attorney with Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone, and the former president of Precious Moments Inc.; Terry Cross, a first-round investor in Google; and Ron Lubbers, a CPA and veteran counselor to early-stage businesses.

    “Fundamentally, our interest was driven by (Lavine’s) passion for Green Daisy and her commitment to excellence, as well as her work ethic,” Hathaway said. “What’s unique about Green Daisy is the underlying concept that Kim brings to the scene.”

    That concept, Hathaway said, is that a woman can be a successful mother and a passionately driven entrepreneur without compromising the quality of either aspect of her life.

    Green Daisy hit the ground running during the 2002 Christmas season. After Lavine’s husband, Dave, was laid off, she started to explore selling Wuvits commercially. She began by selling them on consignment at the Calico Cat gift shop in Grand Haven. She then opened several mall kiosks, which allowed her to sell 250,000 Wuvits. Following further success at a trade show in Chicago, Lavine began contacting national retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bed Bath & Beyond, which started carrying the popular gift.

    Within three years, a woman without much previous business experience was heading up a $2 million enterprise. Lavine’s husband is now the company’s chief operating officer, handling shipping, manufacturing and logistics for Green Daisy. Lavine has also been able to hire Stephanie Milanowski, a design artist who has studied at Rhode Island School of Design, Yale School of Art, and the University of Michigan.

    With the help of Grand Angels, Green Daisy is now branching out into women’s pajamas, including a line that will be featured in Saks’ Parisian catalog for Mother’s Day.

    Saks’ interest in the pajamas may be inspired by their unique design. The button-up shirt and long pants are fairly traditional, but the colors are far from the plain pastels often found on sleeping apparel. With bright orange, pinks and reds, as well as blues, greens and purples, the colors can’t be missed. Lavine describes the sleepwear as “fresh, funky and fun.”

    “We really thought we needed something different,” she said. “They are not your mother’s pajamas.”

    If the Wuvits, bags and pajamas weren’t enough, Lavine is about to become a published author. Her yet-untitled book, set to be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2007, will tell her story of balancing the demands of being entrepreneur with the challenge of being a good mother.

    “I wanted people to see what it really is to be a mommy entrepreneur,” she said. “It’s an extraordinarily important time for women entrepreneurs. It’s a big trend that’s just about to emerge.”

    With her three years of experience and recent investment from Grand Angels, Lavine is proud to be part of that emerging trend.

    “I, as a woman, can have it all.”    

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