Moms have been starting child-centric business for ages. But in the past decade or so, we've seen a vast increase in the number of stay-at-home dads, and hence a significant rise in the number of "dadpreneurs."
It makes perfect sense. As men become more and more involved in the day-to-day responsibilities of child rearing, they also become acutely aware of the pain points in existing products and services. Frustration leads to inspiration and before you know it, these entrepreneurial dads are starting companies that solve problems for all of us. So in honor of Father's Day, here are 10 inspirational dadpreneurs and the innovative products they created:
Their company: Orbit Baby, Newark, CA
The inspiration: "Baby gear was a space that was very low on innovation and design, and had real problems and needs to solve," says Hei. "For example, did you know that up to 90% of car seats are installed incorrectly?" Hei and White graduated from the product design department at Stanford University and worked at the big product design company, IDEO. So they were well positioned to start their own company to solve those problems.
Orbit Baby makes premium infant-to-toddler strollers and car seats systems that are stylish, simple to use, and made with eco-friendly materials. It's the only company that makes car seats and strollers with BFR-free fabrics and foams. Orbit is growing at 40% a year and its products are available at baby stores nationwide.
2. Helping Young Bikers Avoid Scraped Knees
The entrepreneur: Ed Mondello
His company: GlideBikes, Wilmington, NC
The inspiration: When Mondello's daughter, Samantha, was four-years-old and learning how to ride a bike, "she had such a hard time trying to figure out the whole training wheel thing I thought there must be other parents going through this too," says Mondello.
He began tinkering in his basement with old PVC plumbing pipe and spare bike parts and GlideBikes was born. The product gives riders a low center of gravity, allowing them to achieve balance at a low speed of two mph; children feel comfortable enough to pick their feet off the ground and allow the bike to glide, teaching them balance. "It turned out my son Max, 18-months-old at the time, was able to balance it instantly, so I knew we were on to something," says Mondello. Last year, he sold 7,000 bikes at 50 dealers. They're available at Costco, on Amazon.com, at Toys-R-Us and in Discovery Channel Stores.
The entrepreneur: Bob King
His company: Legally Nanny, Irvine, CA
The inspiration: "When my wife and I were about to have our first child, we decided to hire a nanny and wanted to do things legally," says King. "However, I couldn't find anyone who knew all the legal and tax issues involved in hiring a household employee, as household employment and tax issues are very different than those for businesses." So King, an attorney, did the research himself and realized there was a market for the service that he so desperately needed.
Eight years later, the company represents hundreds of household employers and domestic employment and homecare agencies. Staffed only by King and his wife, the company had 25% revenue growth last year. And, he says, "I am one of the happiest attorneys around.
4. A Kid's Gym With a Tech Spin
The entrepreneur: Keith Camhi
His company: Great Play, Stamford, CT
The inspiration: "When one of my sons was diagnosed with fine and gross motor deficits at a young age, I saw occupational therapy have a positive impact on his development, but struggled to find additional physical fitness programs for him," says Camhi. So he and his wife, Jyl, spent several years researching and developing their own children's gym concept and curriculum.
Great Play, which uses interactive technology to promote fitness among children six months to 12 years-old, is now a franchise with six locations in five states, four more in the works this year, and a total of 20 planned by the end of 2012. "Our goal is to help every child that comes to us develop the motor and performance skills needed to achieve their potential and the confidence to realize success," says Camhi.
5. A Calendar in the Cloud for Busy Families
The entrepreneurs: Robbie Cape and Jan Miksovsky
Their company: Cozi, Seattle, WA
The inspiration: "The challenge of keeping track of our own families' busy schedules was the spark that became Cozi," says Robbie Cape. Cozi is an online family calendar and organizer that Cape and Miksovsky, former Microsoft employees, founded in 2005. "As Jan and I talked with other families, it became clear that the unique needs of families were not being met by existing technology," says Cape. "The number one challenge for each of the families we talked to was managing family logistics -- making sure people are where they need to be, and that there is food for them to eat and soap for them to stay clean. It's simple stuff, but no one was providing a solution tailored to families' needs."
So he and Miksovsky built their own solution. Cozi is a free online organizer that helps families manage schedules, track shopping lists and to do lists, organize household chores, stay in communication and share memories. It has more than three million registered users.
6. A Spill-Proof Sippy Cup
The entrepreneur: Shandley Phillips
His company: TILTY Cup, San Diego, CA
The inspiration: Phillips created the spill-proof TILTY Cup when he noticed his nine-month old daughter struggling with the typical sippy cup. The traditional cup design forced his daughter to use the "eyes-in-sky, chug-a-lug" position. Phillips decided to make one that used an internally slanted wall, eliminating the need for such an extreme head tilt and mimicking how adults use a regular cup.
His products can be found at BabiesRUs.com, Amazon.com,â€¨ buybuybaby.com, diapers.com, and a variety of other retailers. "We have seen a 200% increase sales for the first quarter of 2011 and have sold almost 100,000 units since our launch two years ago," he says.
7. Guy-Friendly Baby Bags
The entrepreneur: Chris Pegula
His company: Diaper Dude, Los Angeles, CA
The inspiration: When the first of Chris Pegula's three children was born, his wife came home from the hospital with several diaper bags that she had received as gifts. "I took one look at them and asked which one was mine," he recalls. "They were all so feminine." Pegula planned to be a stay-at-home dad, so he decided to create a bag that he'd be proud to carry.
Diaper Dude, which makes hip, messenger-style diaper bags, now has revenues of over $2 million a year, and has received attention from celebs like Brad Pitt and Oprah. Brand extensions include an on-the-go first aid kit, a Dude picnic blanket, a kid style messenger bag, "diva" bags for mom, and lap top bags. The products are available at Nordstrom, Buy Buy Baby, A Pea in the Pod, FAO Schwartz, Amazon.com, and other retailers.
8. One-of-a-Kind Keepsakes
The entrepreneur: Grant Barton
His company: Precious Metals Prints, Knoxville, TN
The inspiration: Two years ago, Barton was searching for a Christmas gift for his wife, "a wonderful mother to our two boys." While browsing in a local bookstore, he came across a book about precious metal clay. Intrigued, he found the clay and used it to to make his wife a solid silver pendant with fingerprints from both of the boys.
The gift was a hit and Barton was soon inundated with requests from friends for pendants of their own. A business was born. He now sells kits that include a small ball of clay that parents use to capture their children's fingerprints. The print is sent to Barton, who transforms it into a sterling sliver pendant (cufflinks are also available). So far, he's sold 800 kits and his products are featured in AmericasMart, the largest wholesale gift market in the U.S.
9. Helping Families Feed Each Other
The entrepreneurs: Mike Laramee and Stephen DePasquale
Their company: Meal Train, Burlington, VT
The inspiration: Laramee knew that an organized meal train waw a great way to support new parents (I know it was for the birth of my two children) as well as to help those dealing with difficult situations like surgery, illness, or death. But after watching his wife, Kathleen, organize a meal train for friends with a new baby, he knew that the process could be far more efficient. He decided to build a website to help people create and organize meal trains around significant life events.
"The timing, in conjunction with social media, has been great," he says. "As we have become more connected online, people still crave to support others through traditional methods, and has helped reconnect individuals in a physical way." The site is free and is supported by advertising. In the past year, Laramee and DePaquale, who were college roommates, have helped organize more than 125,000 meals for more than 14,000 families.
10. A High Tech Lost-and-Found
The entrepreneur: Seth Price
His company: TurlyTag, Providence, RI
The inspiration: Price used to travel frequently as an identity theft consultant to large insurance companies, so he spent a lot of time in airports and on the road, where it's easy to lose track of your belongings. "The idea for TurlyTag came about when I left a laptop at airport security," he recalls. "Then I started thinking about all the things my kids lose on a day-to-day basis. I have four kids ages 3 to 17."
TurlyTag is an ID system of tags and stickers that can be used on your valuables (anything from a laptop to a bike helmet). The ID code is private and registered on the TurlyTag website, so that the finder contacts TurlyTag, and the company then contacts you and arranges return of your possessions. "I now label all of [my kids'] stuff and it makes it easy to get it back whenever they leave their helmet at a hockey game, lunchbox at school, or water bottle at camp," says Price. Users pay a subscription fee; $7 a month for 36 tags is the most popular.