She's sold 2 million pairs of her sunglasses so far.
Two. Million. Sunglasses.
Fienning and her husband, Ted, along with another couple, created Babiators, which are $20-$25 aviator sunglasses for children as young as newborns. The sunglasses are made of rubber so they never break, and the company has a one-year replacement program if a pair gets lost or broken. Revenues in 2017 were nearly $5 million.
Five. Million. Dollars.
"I would need to create my own business"
Fienning says this wasn't supposed to happen. She was moving to Washington, D.C., for a tech job when she reconnected with Ted Fienning, a fellow Harvard grad who had studied Portuguese but ended up joining the Marine Corps after 9/11 and becoming an F-18 pilot.
"He proposed within four or five months, and all of a sudden I'm a military wife in Mississippi without any tech opportunities," she says. "I knew that at that point, if I was going to work with that military kind of family life, I would be an entrepreneur, and I would need to create my own business."
The new Mrs. Fienning started investing in commercial real estate, managing five buildings at one point, but she wasn't thrilled. "I was missing a kind of fun, creative component."
"It's literally something out of 'Top Gun'"
The idea for Babiators was born on a flight line in 2010 when Fienning's husband returned from deployment in Asia.
"The tradition is when the pilots deploy and return home to the families, all the families get to wait on the flight line and run up to the jets and give their moms and dads big hugs," Fienning said. "It's literally something out of 'Top Gun,'" she says, referring to the 1986 Tom Cruise movie.
The day was especially sunny. While all the adults who were waiting wore sunglasses, "The kids couldn't see the planes because it was so bright. They were squinting."
That made an impression on her.
"I actually mentioned to Ted on the way home that it was funny that we all had our aviators on, and the kids didn't have any, and he said, 'We should totally make them and call them "Babiators" for baby aviators!'"
The name made Molly Fienning laugh, and then she got serious about it. She and her husband reached out to another couple they knew from school — Caroline and Matthew Guard — who were working as consultants in Atlanta for management consulting firms Bain & Company and McKinsey & Company. Together they surveyed 500 parents to learn about the current baby sunglasses market, then they scraped together $25,000 to launch Babiators in 2011.