GoSili Expands With Evenflo Joint Venture

Sometimes entrepreneurship grows out of a person’s desire to better the world. For Stacey Feeley, it was just about being a better mom.

When she found out that some plastic baby bottles were leaching a potentially toxic chemical (bisphenol A, or BPA) into the contents of the bottles, she was horrified. Feeley looked at alternatives, but glass bottles could break.

Schwab and Feeley

Enter her friend Giuliana Schwab, the art director at Bon Apetit magazine. Schwab was familiar with silicone from using it in cooking and told Feeley about the benefits, which include being safer for human health. The two soon decided to pool their talents and create a silicone slipcover for a glass bottle in 2006. They dubbed their new company GoSili, with the product line dubbed Silikids.

Today, GoSili makes a variety of products from silicone, and the company has just entered into a joint venture with Evenflo.

The partnership with Evenflo came about as a result of GoSili’s presence at a trade show. Evenflo was looking to expand its offerings beyond the juvenile and baby markets. Company representatives saw GoSili and followed up, leading to the joint venture.

Now with Evenflo on board to handle production, sales and operations, along with providing growth capital, Feeley and Schwab can concentrate on what they like best: business development, R&D and marketing.

“When we first started it was about making better products for our kids, without chemicals and their environmental impact,” said Feeley. “That morphed into a mission of sustainability.”

After launching, the company moved from Los Angeles, where both Feeley and Schwab lived, to Traverse City when Feeley and her husband relocated from the Golden State to their long-time vacation haunt. The two had looked for funding in California, but investors there seemed interested in tech or biotech companies.

Their luck changed when they connected with investors from Michigan, principally Northern Michigan Angels. “Northern Michigan Angels really believed in what we were doing,” she said.

While the company initially focused on the children’s market, it has expanded to adult housewares. “Moms and dads said, ‘Where’s the cup for us?’ It was an opportunity to jump on,” Feeley said. “The adult hydration and housewares market is 30 times the size of the baby market.”

That additional focus enabled them to successfully pitch the line to large retailers such as Meijer, Target and CVS.

The company also was successful in working with Babies”R”Us in Canada, after that country banned BPA. It wasn’t all rosy – the recession hit, and when parent company Toys”R”Us folded, Feeley and Schwab needed to expand their reach. One other product has helped that reach: reusable silicone straws.

“I never thought silicone straws would be a top seller, but they are,” said Feeley.

Single-use plastic straws typically end up in landfills, on beaches or in the water. They have been banned by chains such as Starbucks and Marriott, as well as cities like Portland, Oregon. Paper straws, on the other hand, often don’t last for a whole drink. Thus, silicone straws. “It’s been a really great way to talk about the brand and our mission statement,” said Feeley.

Another facet to GoSili is servicing individual online orders. Schwab enlisted the aid of Grand Traverse Industries, which provides employment for adults with disabilities. “GTI does our fulfillment, warehousing and shipping,” she said. “Their team has been incredible.”

What’s more, the merger with Evenflo may provide GTI with additional work. “Evenflo can utilize GTI for their smaller [orders]. That’s really cool to see,” she said.

With stability insured with the partnership with Evenflo, Feeley is bullish on the company’s future. “There are so many great things you can do with silicone,” she said, touting its sustainable nature and viability in everything from the adult hydration market to sporting goods.

Is Feeley surprised at the growth of GoSili? Yes and no – mostly the latter. “We’ve grown at a quicker pace,” she said. “This is the vision we pictured.”