Sunday, October 2, 2011

This Is Me Pretending To Be a Real Blogger

I started this blog to keep friend and family updated on everything Mckinley and I have LOVED keeping it up. It has also become a place where I write ideas down so I won't forget them because sadly I would lose my head if it wasn't attached to my body. Today I feel like a real blogger because I am about to post an interview with the creators of The Swaddle Strap

I emailed Anna a few questions to answer about Anna and Eve and The Swaddle Strap. She was sweet enough to put up with me and answer my questions so you guys could get to know them like I have.

So here you have it. My first blogger interview.

What inspired you to start Anna and Eve and create The Swaddle Strap?
The inspiration was the birth of our sweet daughter, Eve, in late April (2011). And needing something to help us as parents, that didn’t exist.
(More detail follows in the next answers.)
How/Why did you come up with the idea for the Swaddle Strap?
This answer is combined with the next…
How long have you been in business?
We came up with and completed our first sample of Swaddle Strap in the first two weeks with Eve, and so we have been in business since May of this year, 2011. We officially launched to the public in July.
It was actually my husband’s idea. We had seen Harvey Karp’s “Happiest Baby on the Block “ DVD a couple weeks before having Eve, and were prepared to swaddle her as part of our plan for calming her. We had some gorgeous swaddling blankets ready to go and thought we were all set…well, swaddling was more difficult than we anticipated, especially in the middle of the night on no sleep with a squirmy little crying (albeit adorable!) baby flailing her arms. Robert was especially frustrated by it. When we would get a good swaddle with a blanket, we saw the magic of swaddling to help calm her. But she was so good at wriggling out and working herself back up with those out of control arms! And inevitably, once we’d get the rare excellent, secure swaddle on her, she would instantly need a diaper change! ACK! We joked a couple of times about needing a baby straight jacket for those flailing arms that she kept upsetting herself with (of course, we were kidding…kind of…) Then right around our third or fourth morning home, Robert awoke and said to me, with little Eve nuzzled up next to him as he held her arms down to help calm her: “Eve and I invented something last night and we are going to start a family business that will help new parents all around the world!”
He described it to me: a swaddle for the arms (since Karp had taught us that it was the arms that were key to swaddling, not the legs), that would go on easily in mere seconds, that couldn’t ride up over baby’s face, that you didn’t need to undo to change a diaper, and that we could then use whatever blanket we wanted over it - or no blanket - depending on the temperature. Rob got some paper, scissors, and tape and made a paper prototype of his idea. I thought he was really on to something. We discussed the design and I got started sewing our first of the 5 fabric prototypes we made to come up with the final design. (It’s hard for me to imagine now how we managed that with as little time as we had and as little sleep as we were getting with a newborn who wasn’t even a week old! I remember sitting at the sewing machine in the wee hours of the night as Rob laid with little Eve…) We used each of the prototypes on Eve, and they worked! But with each one, we thought of improvements in the type of fabric, the length of the straps, the placement of the Velcro, then the final steps were the pillows, which really kept those wriggly arms in no matter what. And Eve was sleeping so much better!
Once we had the final design, I made a few samples and we gave them to some friends to use on their babies, to see if it would work as well on other babies as it did with Eve.  It did! They loved it and their babies slept longer! Then we found a contract sewer in Chicago, came up with the name, designed the logo and a website with shopping cart, shot some videos…and voila!
Tell us what you envision for the future of Anna and Eve.
Our goal is to continue to come up with products that help make parents’ lives easier. We already have several more ideas for products that will do that. Robert and I are a great team, because he comes up with these wonderful ideas based on something he wishes we had to help parent, and then we put our heads together to come up with a design, I make prototypes and make it look pleasing aesthetically. Robert primarily handles the business logistics, and I handle the customer service and the promotional stuff, though we both do a bit of both.
Robert is amazing, the way he just does things. If it had been up to me, I probably would still just be using Swaddle Straps with Eve, and making them for our friends, and dreaming what it would be like to take them to market.  He shoots and edits our videos and I take our promotional photos and design our website and promotional materials.
We plan to introduce our next product early next year, and keep rolling them out gradually.
And in the process of growing the business, we would like ultimately for Anna & Eve to allow us to spend more time together as a family, i.e, not to have other jobs like we currently do. We designed the business so that we can basically manage it from anywhere, since it is all internet based. Eventually we’d like to have someone handling order fulfillment (which currently we do ourselves) because we want to be able to travel as a family.
What's your favorite part of your job?
I love communicating with our customers, and finding out that Swaddle Strap is helping them as much as it has helped us. That is really the best! We have met some really wonderful parents because of Swaddle Strap and we both think that is really cool!
I also really like the creativity of it…choosing the fabrics for the Swaddle Straps, making the prototypes and samples, the design of our website and promotional materials.
Tell us about your background. What path led you to do the work you do today?
Funny, you never know when you start out where you will go…I am actually fine artist (sculpture and drawing) turned pastry chef with a passion for organics and nutrition. Pastry chef-ing segued into a job as an event planner for a high end catering company- but I missed pastry and then started my own organic pastry business for 4 years. Then one of my pastry customers offered me an executive position in his organic retail business and from there, for the past 4 years, I have been working running this really awesome program in Chicago’s primary food bank, where we train unemployed adults to get jobs in the food service industry while making meals for hungry kids. That has been my favorite job.
Since having Eve, though, my number one priority is being a mom, followed by working with Robert to run and grow Anna & Eve, which I love doing. So I am working part time at the food bank now, which is great.
And since we are a total team, I feel I should mention a bit about Robert’s background, too. Like me, he is an artist. He is an amazing painter and sculptor. And he also used to have his own business, making artist supplies from recycled copy toner. He works in retail management, so he knows a great deal about the business of selling.
Both of us had these businesses in the past that were incredibly complicated and difficult to sustain. We both learned a great deal from our experiences. So we created Anna & Eve completely differently, using the lessons we learned from our past ventures.
How do you come up with new designs and ideas?
As I mentioned earlier, the initial ideas, at least so far, have come from Robert…wishing we had a product that would help us as parents, that doesn’t exist.  Then we work together to make the product a reality. I am REALLY excited about our next one! You will be one of the first to hear about it when we are ready!
How has motherhood changed the work that you do and how do you balance work and family?
It has totally shifted my focus from my career, where I used to work 50+ hours each week in a director’s role, to my family with my job being part time and much less stressful than it was. I used to be the boss of the department, now I am just there 3 days a week reporting to someone who used to report to me. I love it that way! The business will ultimately allow both Robert and I to combine family life and career full time. Our goal is to spend as much time all together as possible. And if it is in the cards for us, we’d like to have another child. Right now it is a balancing act between being mommy & wife, the business, and my part time job.  And mommy gets the lead role, for sure! That is how I want it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The 4 days each week that I am home, I balance being mom- nursing Eve, changing diapers, playing, singing & reading, laundry, meals…with doing things for the business when Eve is napping or sleeping at night. The 3 days that I leave to go to work, I take off the mommy hat and put on the culinary instructor hat. We found a really wonderful nanny that we love who spends 2 days with Eve, and Robert was able to rearrange his schedule so that he is home with her the other day.  I LOVE coming home to Eve after I have been working! I miss her so much when I am at my job. But I know she is in really good hands.
Tell us about your customers.
Our customers are awesome! They are parents like us, who want to do the best they possibly can for their babies, and they want to help their babies stay calm and get better quality sleep. They generally do lots of research into which products they want to purchase for their babies, like we do. We aren’t currently doing any advertising, so Anna & Eve is growing via word of mouth. Or as the case often is, word of keyboard! Blogs tend to be the primary way that our customers find us.
It is really cool that we keep meeting our customers via email…they will email us questions or comments, and we strike up an e-friendship. We compare our parenting experiences and talk about other baby products that we love. We have also met other parents who have started baby related businesses.
And I was even able to meet in person the mom we call Customer #1, Melanie. She found us just a couple of days after we launched our website, before we had gotten our first run of Swaddle Straps from our contract sewer. Her daughter wouldn’t get any amount of sleep, night or day, unless she was swaddled but in the summer heat, she had been hoping for something like a Swaddle Strap! She googled the term “swaddle strap” and we came up! So she emailed…I could tell she really needed one FAST, so I made one for her myself and sent it right away. Our daughters were born 5 days apart, but it turns out they had the same due date, so are the same gestational age! She lives in a different state, but it is clear that we are going to remain friends as our daughters grow. And she has family in Chicago, so we will definitely continue to visit through the years.
Do you see any other products in the future for your business?
Many! We already have 4 more in mind! We recently added a large size to our Swaddle Strap line. And as I mentioned, we plan to have our next product ready for market early in 2012.  We are really excited about it! I am not going to spill the beans just yet…but I will say that it will be a huge help to parents during diapering!!!

I personally can not wait to see what Anna and Rob come up with next. I am also so gosh darn excited that they have created a large Swaddle Strap since my chunky girl is getting too big too fast and I fear the day we grow out of our Emerald City Strap.

Thanks Anna for putting up with me and answering all of my silly questions. You guys are awesome and we can't thank you enough for creating such an amwesome product.

Kinley says THANKS!

1 comment:

Mrs. K said...

I actually just ordered one of these for Mr. Carter today. I can not wait until it arrives so we can try it out!