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10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

By Donna Fenn

If necessity is the mother of invention, then a mother in need can be a pretty awesome inventor. 

"Mompreneurs," as they're often called, start businesses for all kinds of reasons: They're sick to death of punching someone else's clock; they want to spend more time with their families; they've identified an unmet need for themselves or for their children. And so they get to work building prototypes, sussing out the market, scraping together startup capital. They are master multi-taskers and expert organizers; they are sometimes frustrated, frequently fulfilled, and very often utterly exhausted. Hats off to them, one and all.

Click through this gallery to find out how 10 inspiring and inventive mompreneurs got started.

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

It All Started With a Bump

It All Started With a Bump

It All Started With a Bump

The entrepreneur: Ingrid Carney

Her brainchild: Ingrid and Isabel

The inspiration: While pregnant with her first child, Ingrid Carney had trouble dressing for work. She wasn't big enough for maternity wear but there was still no "no possibility of buttoning my pants." So she left them open and slipped a tank top over them to conceal the gap. That bit of jury-rigging evolved into Bellaband, now a wildly popular maternity accessory that extends the life of "civilian" clothes by smoothing out the bumps and ripples of unzipped skirts and unbuttoned pants. She founded her company, Ingrid & Isabel, in 2003 (Isabel is her daughter — the original "bump" who inspired Bellaband) and now makes an expanded collection of maternity wear.

The products are sold online, at over 600 independent maternity boutiques, and at Target, Nordstrom, and Harrods. Carney, who is based in San Francisco, is now focused on extending her product lines and expanding internationally.

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

Helping Parents Become Smarter Swaddlers

Helping Parents Become Smarter Swaddlers

Helping Parents Become Smarter Swaddlers

The entrepreneur: Lynette Damir 

Her brainchild: Swaddle Designs

The inspiration: As a registered nurse making home visits to new moms, Damir noticed that "they struggled with swaddling for two reasons: first, the blanket they were using was too small or too thick; and second, they could not remember how to make a good secure swaddle." So she used her healthcare background, and design education from the Art Institute of Seattle to develop the Ultimate Swaddling Blanket® — large and square with swaddling instructions sewn to the edge of the blanket. SwaddleDesigns' first customer, in 2002, was a major hospital that purchased 4,000 blankets; since then, the company has sold more than a million blankets, including some to celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Marcia Cross, and Angelina Jolie, says Damir.

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

Where Next-Gen Parents Go for Green Gear

Where Next-Gen Parents Go for Green Gear

Where Next-Gen Parents Go for Green Gear

The entrepreneur: Alexandra Mysoor 

Her brainchild: Generation Orange

The inspiration: When Mysoor's first child was just three months old, she ran herself ragged trying to find BPA-free baby bottles. A call to a manufacturer in Israel led to another call to a distributor in Florida, which in turn let to Mysoor buying a case of the bottles, thinking she'd share them with friends.  Instead, she and her husband, Prashanth, decided to launch an e-commerce business called Generation Orange that would not only sell the bottles, but also other eco-friendly products for kids and families. "Moms have incredible word of mouth power," says Mysoor. "I thought if I tapped into all the mommy bloggers, they would fuel our growth and they did. They were awesome; they felt part of the company and they brought in other moms."

Today, Generation Orange, in San Francisco, sells thousands of products and Mysoor's suppliers tell her that her website continuously sells more of their baby and children's products than Amazon and Target.com.

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

Eyeing a New Niche

Eyeing a New Niche

Eyeing a New Niche

The entrepreneur: Kristin Ellsworth 

Her brainchild: Peeps Eyewear

The inspiration: Ellsworth's pre-school daughter looked at herself in the mirror one day and declared, "Princesses DON'T wear glasses!" then pulled off her princess crown and flatly refused to wear her glasses. It was then, says Ellsworth, that "I made it my goal to make children feel they don't have to wear their glasses but rather they get to, enabling them, at this crucial time of child development, to dress up and believe they can be anything they want to be." Peeps Eyewear, in Greenville, WI, makes kid-friendly glasses that come with motivational storybooks and dress-up accessories for preschool children. Ellsworth's company won the Wisconsin State Governors Business Plan Competition in 2010 in the category Business Services and she used her prize winnings to help fund Peeps.

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

The Backpack Her Baby Couldn't Live Without

The Backpack Her Baby Couldn't Live Without

The Backpack Her Baby Couldn't Live Without

The entrepreneur: Michelle Staley

Her brainchild: Busy Breathers

The inspiration: Staley's son was born three months premature, with severely underdeveloped lungs.  After spending four months in the neonatal intensive care unit, she was excited to finally get him home but "happiness was overshadowed by fear about my baby being on oxygen for the next two years." So she used her own experience to come up with a product that would ease her worries, and serve the parents of the 500,000 babies who are born prematurely each year: a convenient and attractive alternative to carrying oxygen. Busy Breathers, in Sterling, CO, is a backpack that's designed to accommodate an oxygen cylinder, with an opening for tubes and a mesh window that makes the tank gauge reading visible.

Huggies brand diapers recognized her innovative idea with a $15,000 grant from its new Huggies® MomInspired™ Grant Program. Introduced earlier this year, the grant program provides resources and seed capital for entrepreneurial moms to turn great ideas inspired by motherhood into successful businesses, or take existing businesses to the next level.

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

The School Bake Sale: Now on Your Smart Phone

The School Bake Sale: Now on Your Smart Phone

The School Bake Sale: Now on Your Smart Phone

The entrepreneur: Tania Mulry

Her brainchild: edRover

The inspiration: A year ago, Mulry quit her job creating mobile marketing campaigns for big brands like AT&T and Nintendo to launch edRover, a new mobile application that pairs companies' need to attract loyal consumers and educators' need to obtain supplies for their students. "I was frustrated by the constant flow of fundraising requests from my kids' school, but also couldn't stand the idea that teachers use hundreds of their own dollars to purchase classroom supplies every year," she says. 

EdRover, based in Los Angeles, is available for free through the iTunes App Store, and will expand to other popular smartphone platforms later this year. It works like this: Each time a consumer uses the app to make a purchase from her mobile phone at one of the participating online retailers or "checks in" at one of the bricks-and-mortar locations, a donation goes from the retailer's account to purchase schools supplies for the classroom or program selected by the app's user.

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

The Craigslist of Kids' Stuff

The Craigslist of Kids' Stuff

The Craigslist of Kids' Stuff

The entrepreneur: Bridget Hawkins

Her brainchild: StorkBrokers

The inspiration: The Atlanta-based StorkBrokers.com is like Craigslist for parents -- an online marketplace where families buy and sell gently used items for babies and children. Hawkins started the company just last February with her husband, Sterling, because "we have two growing kids and over the years we accumulated a house full of baby and children's gear we no longer needed or used." The site provides a secure environment for buying and selling quality used gear with other moms and dads, and also gives parents an online community for chatting and information sharing. "In the two months we've been live, we've signed up over 2,000 parents and our membership and product listings continue to grow daily," says Hawkins. The company charges a 6% commission rate on everything that's sold on the site; Hawkins is also cultivating relationships with brick-and-mortar consignment shops.

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

A Blanket Full of Memories

A Blanket Full of Memories

A Blanket Full of Memories

The entrepreneur: Michelle Rubin

Her brainchild: Willow Creek Studio

The inspiration: When packing up her son's outgrown baby clothes in 2003, Rubin was struck with a bolt of inspiration: Why not use the clothing to make a patchwork blanket that would last a lifetime?  The "memory blanket" was born. Customers send in their special items, such as baby clothes, old road-trip t-shirts, and team sports jerseys, to her company, Willow Creek Studio. The items are then pieced together into a one-of-kind, handcrafted memory blanket. An early article in Child magazine gave the company a boost, as did the highly popular "Twilight Saga" movie series, in which a main character receives a memory quilt from her mom. Rubin's memory blankets have been featured in numerous publications and have even caught the attention of celeb parents like Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld.

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

A Medicine Dispenser for the Modern Mary Poppins

A Medicine Dispenser for the Modern Mary Poppins

A Medicine Dispenser for the Modern Mary Poppins

The entrepreneur: Tiffany Krumins

Her brainchild: Ava the Elephant

The inspiration: In her work as a nanny for special needs children and as a hospital volunteer, Krumins noticed that getting kids to take their medicine was often difficult and stressful. After a particularly wrenching experience with one of her charges, she decided to address the problem. "I created a talking elephant who dispensed the medicine from her trunk and it was an instant hit with children," she says. In August of 2009, Krumins (aka "Elephant Lady") landed a $50,000 investment from millionaire investor Barbara Corcoran on the TV show "Shark Tank," which put the Auburn, GA, mom on the map. Ava the Elephant now has nationwide distribution at CVS, and is sold on Drugstore.com and in 14 other chains. The company has sold more than 20,000 units and will soon go international. "Currently we are translating and tooling sound chips in Spanish, French, and Russia," says Krumins.

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born

The Cookbook Every Kid's Dentist Will Love

The Cookbook Every Kid's Dentist Will Love

The Cookbook Every Kid's Dentist Will Love

The entrepreneur: Pamela Waterman

Her brainchild: The Braces Cookbook

The inspiration: Waterman's daughter, who endured six long years in braces, "was tired of the seemingly limited food choices governed by the magnet of 'forbidden foods' posted on the refrigerator," she says. So Waterman rose to the challenge and created alternative recipes (all soft for tender teeth) for each of those forbidden foods. Before long, she developed dozens more and in 2006 published "The Braces Cookbook: Recipes You (and Your Orthodontist) Will Love."

Readers ate it up (pun intended), so she published a second collection, "The Braces Cookbook 2: Comfort Food with a Gourmet Touch in 2009." Both books won national awards. "My books, resources and workshops became a complete business, which I am just in the process of rebranding and expanding as Metal Mouth Media," she says. "I love hearing how the tips and recipes have made a braces-lifestyle so much easier for both parents and the children and teens in braces. She also contributes content to the public website of the American Association of Orthodontists and is an orthodontic "expert" on AllExperts.com.