Based in Boulder, Colorado, Boba--short for "Boulder baby"--produces and sells baby carriers and wraps. Founders Robert and Elizabeth Antunovic launched it with $15,000 and then began traveling the world with their family. Today, Boba's revenue tops $10 million, and the couple oversee 25 employees from their home in Ljubljana, Slovenia. --As told to Una Morera
Robert: Elizabeth was in Slovakia teaching English. I was on a low-budget trip through Europe. We saw each other, fell in love, and now, here we are--five kids and 20 years later.
Elizabeth: We were living in Boulder when I had my second child. The baby slings I used went over just one shoulder--they hurt my shoulder and back. I went to the fabric store, bought $100 of fabric, and cut it into three wraps. Wherever we went, people stopped me. One of us said, "OK. If one more person comes up and asks us about this wrap, we've got to start something." So five minutes later ...
Robert: We had $15,000. We put a portion toward inventory and a portion toward marketing, and calculated how long we could survive on the rest--less than $5,000. We decided to travel the world, because we could cut our budget down to a minimum, and started with an unbelievably cheap flight to Ireland.
Elizabeth: Where our first photo shoot was--on the cliffs.
Robert: Then we made our way to Slovenia, where my family is.
Elizabeth: We stayed three months.
Robert: The first 1,000 wraps cost around $6,000. After we sold the first two, we said, "OK! This is real. Let's get going." Isabela was 4. Nikolai was 1. Our condition was that everywhere we landed, within 24 hours, we had to find internet access to reply to customers. In 2007, this was a challenge. I found a cheap flight to Egypt and we flew into Sharm El-Sheikh, then went to Cairo to wait for our visas for India. We stayed quite a while in the cheapest hotel, and relaunched our website from the roof.
Elizabeth: With all these stray cats.
Robert: And our kids petting all the cats. Then we flew to India. We stayed in Pushkar two months--a comfortable place was a dollar a night. We took a train to Goa and did customer support in second-class coach with 20 or 30 locals looking over our shoulders.
Elizabeth: There were big rats in the rafters of our hut in Karnataka. I'd get underneath my mosquito net, with my flashlight and laptop, and answer customer service emails. I was connecting to the world and growing our business while pulling up well water in buckets. One day, I poured a bucket of water over my head--and it was full of frogs.
Robert: I began studying AdWords and saw that spending $10 got me $32, spending $50 got me $150. That's when I said, "We're moving back to the U.S., because this is going to work." That first year, revenue was half a million dollars. Would we do it again? No question.
Robert: Boba is not one of those unicorns where in three years we're a billion-dollar business. I'm sure that's exciting, but it sucks you in and takes everything. Boba is our sixth kid. Twelve years of gradual growth. And through it all, we got to keep the balance of our lives.