Sitting Down with Addie and Brittany: Co-Founders of Pluie

Jan 27, 2022

female founded brands like Pluie are changing the modern world

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with another set of inspiring female founders. Addie Gundry and Brittany Hizer are the co-founders of Pluie, the first self-sanitizing diaper changing table ever brought to market. Their changing table uses UV-C light to kill 99.9% of bacteria 60 seconds after a parent uses it. Not only is it much cleaner than the usual tables in public restrooms, it’s a lot more comfortable for your baby. The idea behind this concept as well as the story behind these ladies is truly inspiring. Keep reading the interview below or watch it on the Inspiro Tequila YouTube Channel here!


Q: Give me a quick overview of your background and how you became partners in Pluie, one of the most innovative female founded brands in our market.


Addie: Sure. I can start by saying my background has nothing to do with baby products or product development and manufacturing. I never imagined I would get into a hardware business, let alone one that surrounds diapers and baby bottoms. But I had two children, a four-year-old and a two-year-old. As you know, when you have a baby, your whole world changes—new experiences, new products and services you leverage and use, a lot of love and sleepless nights so it’s similar to a startup. But I had my son while working full time in a test kitchen, writing a series of cookbooks, and working on Food Network as a finalist. No one knew I was pregnant while filming, but he was born shortly after.

I had a difficult diaper change in a public restroom. My son had a blow-up at Culver’s, and there was no changing table in the men’s room. It was my first time experiencing a dirty diaper out of the home, and my husband wasn’t able to go in and change it. We later joked that maybe there was one in there, and he just pretended there wasn’t so he didn’t have to do it.

The plastic changing table is just not a comfortable place to put your baby. And truly, it doesn’t feel safe. People often think that their baby will fall off, the security strap can be broken or stuck behind the wall panel, and of course, the number one pain point for everyone is cleanliness. After we talked to 650 parents across the country, they confirmed that changing tables just don’t feel clean. Whether changing tables are clean or not, it never seems that way. So people would rather leave the store, leave the restaurant, and change the baby in the car.

Here we were in this modern restroom with touchless options on the toilet and Dyson hand dryers—and then there’s this piece of plastic hanging off of the wall. I got back to the table and told my husband, “I think we could make a better one.”

We wanted to get to the point where we could go to a company and ask them to create it and bring it to market. It was the coolest job ever because we didn’t have to go do it—all three of us know how hard it is to actually execute an idea. That’s where a lot of startups fail. They have an idea and a great product ready to go, but that’s only half of the battle. Building a business around it is what’s really crucial.

For a couple of years, my husband and I worked on this product while I remained working in the kitchen. I had my daughter. She was born on a Friday, and I began raising money on a Tuesday. During my six weeks of maternity leave, we brought in a little over half a million, and I left my job in the kitchen in January of 2020. So I was this naive person with money and a product idea, but we were ready to prototype and manufacture. I met Britney in February of 2020 right before the pandemic hit, which sent both of our children home from daycare.


Brittany: Prior to meeting Addie, I spent 16 years working for a large corporation designing fitness equipment that had internet connectivity, Apple product compatibility, and Bluetooth. We sold in health clubs like Lifetime Fitness, Equinox, and Planet Fitness. Then I pivoted from designing fitness equipment to fishing boats for a company called Crest Liner. But I always had this entrepreneurial itch to start my own business. A mutual mom friend actually introduced me to Addie. I had a young son who was around two years old at the time, but I had changed hundreds of diapers on dirty changing tables in public restrooms. I just thought, “This is an amazing idea and an amazing woman who really believed in her mission.” And here we are today. We launched Pluie in October of 2020 with our first install in February 2020.


Q: How do female founded brands actually execute great ideas? What does the process of researching and finding manufacturing options look like?


Addie: I think we got really lucky in that when I was raising that first round of friends and family, I met someone named Mitchell Patel. He was interested in investing through Angel Group. They ended up not investing because we wanted to stick to friends and family versus bringing in any angel or institutional capital at that time. But he has a consulting firm here in Illinois in Palatine. We hired him right away in 2020 to take our CAD files and source the parts. His firm manages all those supplier relationships to then bring in the parts. Through that process, he then said, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to get into manufacturing. How about we do your first round of one hundred?” We knew they would never be able to scale with us, but that was how we built our first one hundred.

I do think there are a lot of design firms that can take it beyond just concept and actually manufacture, especially here in Chicago. When you look at AmHub and some of the resources around here, you can definitely meet engineers and designers that could also help with the supply chain. You can find a contract manufacturer and do a small run in their unit or facility. I think what we’ve learned with most startups is that your first units or contract manufacturer will likely not be the one you scale with.

A broker introduced us to Sanmina, which is a $7 billion global CM. And it’s taken over a year for us to sign our Master Services Agreement with them because it is challenging for us—why would they want to manufacture our product when we want a hundred tables? One day, we want ten thousand, but we don’t know when. So I think it definitely is a pain point for startups: how do you find someone to manufacture your product? My advice would be to look into consulting firms that offer design work, supply chain sourcing, and small manufacturing. AmHub, especially when you think of Chicago and women entrepreneurs here, is a great resource.

In the beginning, it was daunting. That was when I thought, “How do you even manufacture a product?” But just think of it as a phased approach. You don’t have to use this global CM from the beginning. You can produce units here and there and really leverage the design community to find that for you wherever you’re located.


Q: Brittany, do you have any advice about working with a larger CM?


Brittany: Rely on your network. Everyone always knows someone that has experience in manufacturing. As Addie mentioned, go into this with the right mindset. You might go through a couple of different manufacturers in the beginning, but that’s OK—you’re growing and your product’s going to evolve. Also, find people that have experience in the hardware space. There are so many startups focused on software, but a wonderful community of startups are focused on physical products. Start networking with those other founders.


Q: Whenever I tell people how to get started in a totally new industry, I say to first do your research. Research, research, research. Educate yourself and get up to speed. The second thing I say is you need a network—you can’t do it all alone. I think it’s so important to get involved and find other female founders or other leaders in your industry who can provide guidance. The worse they’re going to say is no, so just try and connect with them. How do you approach building a network?


Addie: I think one regret is that we kept our product and idea secret for too long. I used to think, “What if anyone knows I have this changing table idea? 10 other people are going to do it!” Well, you need a couple of million dollars and other resources—it’s not that easy to just take an idea and run with it. For a long time, no one had any idea. I was doing this while still cooking. People didn’t even know I raised money. When I did tell my friends about it, they said, “Whoa, what are you doing? I thought you were cooking.” The minute we put out that press release in October of 2020 and shared it on our personal networks, we were blown away by how many people were emailing us offering to help.

In terms of building a network, I love what you said. You never really turn down a Linkedin message. But building that network is hard. It’s exhausting. You have to do network calls and tell your story a hundred times in one day, which no one ever wants to do.

I will say if you have an idea, if you have a product, whatever stage you’re at, share it. I think you’d be really surprised at how quickly people will jump in and help. That will help you build your network because that’s how we were introduced to other people.


To listen to my full interview with one of the best female founded brands today, click here and stay tuned for more inspiring stories and interviews coming soon!