We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelley Higney and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelley, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I grew up in San Diego, California. My background and upbringing have influenced who I am today. It provided me with strong female entrepreneurial role models who taught me that when you have a problem, seek out a solution. With determination and hardwork, anything is possible. I am a third-generation female entrepreneur. As early as I can remember, my mother’s business was part of my daily life. I was answering the phones for my mom, Ellen McAlister’s business, as soon as I could talk. As a child, when my mom’s international clients were in town, they would stay at our house. We would also travel to Las Vegas for trade shows once a month. After completing school, I worked with my mother in my family’s international export and distribution business, A.C. Kerman, for 15 years. Then five years ago, my husband received a job offer in South Florida and we moved to the South. However, soon after relocating to Florida, I discovered my daughter is severely allergic to mosquito bites. I remember I tried every cream and home remedy to alleviate my daughter’s suffering. Frustrated, I then decided I needed to take matters into my own hands. I began researching how other countries combat insect bites. I came across a little-known product from Denmark that uses suction to help remove the insect saliva/venom. It also contained zero chemicals. The product was more effective than everything else I had tried and offered my daughter instant relief. After negotiating the distribution rights for the product, I created my own brand that is known as Bug Bite Thing. I remember when I first started my company. I had no experience in bringing an unknown product to the U.S. market. I was also told that there was no chance of the product succeeding without an entire product line, as well as many other reasons why I would fail. However, I was determined to succeed. When there was something I did not know, I taught myself how to do it. Two years later, I am proud that after taking a major leap of faith, I am now running my own successful business. I will always be grateful to the matriarchs in my family for teaching me all the little lessons over the years that led me to where I am today.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
For starters, Bug Bite Thing is unlike any other insect bite relief product on the market. It is chemical-free, reusable and is a suction tool that is truly effective. My business journey was definitely not easy or without sacrifice. I took a huge financial risk to start my company. My husband and I sold our home. We used the money to start Bug Bite Thing. We rented a house and operated Bug Bite Thing out of our garage. When I started out, I was told multiple times that Bug Bite Thing as a singular product would not succeed. People said that I needed a product line to launch the business. Instead, I relied on my gut instinct which told me that Bug Bite Thing would change people’s lives. I intentionally started my business on a very small scale. I wanted my community to test the product. I was out there talking to customers and constantly receiving feedback on the product. I discovered that people did not understand how to use Bug Bite Thing. The product sat on the shelves and inventory was not moving. It took several versions of packaging to translate to customers how to use the product effectively. I began selling Bug Bite Thing at local farmers’ markets and bake sales. Then one day, there was a conversation about Bug Bite Thing in a local Mom Group on social media. The local news picked up on that conversation and contacted me for an interview. That interview was then syndicated and all my inventory sold out in a week! Then, Bug Bite Thing grabbed the attention of one of the casting producers of ABC’s hit show ‘Shark Tank’ on social media. The producer reached out and encouraged my mother and me to audition for the show. A little less than a year ago we appeared on ‘Shark Tank’ and pitched the Sharks to invest in Bug Bite Thing. We had all the Sharks biting with offers. We decided to strike a deal with Lori Greiner who offered us her Golden Ticket, which signifies her keen interest in a company and the promise of a hands-on partnership. Since appearing on the show we have experienced a dramatic increase in sales and the company’s overall growth. I have learned so many lessons along the way! One is that social media is an extremely valuable platform for brands. Another lesson that I learned is when it comes to marketing a product, it takes time to get it right. Also, focus on creating a demand for your product and make sure your customers are happy with your product. This will then bring more customers and also attract retail partners. I created Bug Bite Thing because I am dedicated to offering people a chemical-free and eco-friendly solution that alleviates the discomfort, stinging, itching, and swelling caused by bug bites and stings. Since I started my business, I have always offered a 100% money-back guarantee. I want customers to trust my brand. And I stand behind the product’s effectiveness. Also, I want the world to know that an effective chemical-free solution for insect bite relief does exist. Since I started Bug Bite Thing I describe myself as a “mom on a mission.” I started Bug Bite Thing because, as a mother, I did not want to use a product full of chemicals on my young daughter. Since, I have become passionate about increasing public awareness of the thousands of chemicals approved for use in personal care products used on children in the United States. There are many chemicals found in cosmetic and personal care products on the market in the U.S. that are banned in other countries. I encourage other parents to look at the list of chemicals that are in products they are using on their child.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
When friends come to visit, I love sharing Miami’s art and cultural attractions! My favorite spots include Coral Castle, Miami Beach’s Botanical Gardens and the Art Deco Historic District. The Art Deco District is a must-see as it captures Miami’s identity as a city; art, style, and culture. I am a mom with two young daughters so I gear my itinerary toward unique, fun and family-oriented adventures.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mother, Ellen McAlister. Having her as my role-model growing up, I saw first-hand how much hard work goes into being a successful female entrepreneur. She has been by my side during my entrepreneurial journey and is the president of my company. When I stopped working for my mother to focus on Bug Bite Thing full-time, it was with her blessing. She taught me about getting proper legal protections in place from the beginning. This minimizes your risk even before you start your business. It also is a way to set yourself up for success. My mother also is a shining example of the power of having a positive outlook and making smart decisions. She has a saying, “Find the angle to make a situation a win-win-win.” From my mother, I learned to always find a way to make an opportunity successful for all parties. For some reason, if a situation or opportunity does not work out, always remain on good terms. You never know when a new opportunity might present itself.
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelley-higney-84301290/, https://www.linkedin.com/company/bug-bite-thing/
Other: https://www.tiktok.com/@bugbitething/, https://www.pinterest.com/bugbitething/