The Biz: The Grapevine

Maybe you are a people watcher with a gift for observing what makes others happy. These special individuals have a gift for paying attention to the details in everyday life. They don’t just watch people: they truly want to understand others so they can meet their needs. If the thought of meeting others wants and needs makes you feel alive, then partnering with a designer who shares your interests is definitely a step toward success. Clare Chen, creator of baby and lifestyle goods, puts her sharp observation skills through a vigorous workout and then produces functional, unique items.

When was the last time you saw clothing that was an absolute showstopper? With the increasing buying power of the global middle class, clothing manufacturers are eager to cater to the unique styles and tastes of their customers. And many customers don’t want just anything: they want clothing that turns heads, makes them feel good and gets compliments. These are exactly the kinds of items that should be stocked in every retail store. But it’s hard to keep track of all the new and upcoming designers. One company that will save you time on that search is Lotty Dotty, which blends comfy organic cotton with playful creativity that will turn heads.

It’s comfortable, it’s cuddly, it’s convenient and a classic… it even reached pop culture status by appearing on an episode of Friends. It’s Boppy, one of the most popular baby products of all time. Is there anyone in the baby biz that doesn’t know that the Boppy is a soft, uniquely-shaped pillow designed to provide a comfy, supportive cradle for a baby’s delicate head and neck, making it easier for a parent to hold and feed the infant? This simple yet revolutionary invention has become a household name in the last 23 years, and the company is now poised to serve a whole new generation of moms with fresh designs and styles.

Teeny Tiny Optics
Satsuma Designs

Being a new parent is a stressful enough experience when baby is healthy and happy; when a baby suffers from colic, ear infections or other common infant discomforts, the level of stress and worry is often magnified. For years, parents have heard and tried dozens of folk remedies to calm their restless newborns, but it’s only fairly recently that studies have shown a link between baby bottles and common infant complaints like earaches and colic. Coddlelife is a company that offers baby feeding systems designed to reduce gas and other feeding-related problems.

Over the years, baby gear manufacturers have looked for ways to make lighter, easier to maneuver portable playards and cribs. Some of these efforts have worked quite well, allowing parents more freedom of movement. Still, the perfect folding playard remained elusive; there were always too many parts or too much bulk to allow for truly smooth transport. Finally, there’s the journeyBee, an ultra-light, ready-to-travel folding crib from ParentLab.

Moms sometimes decide to dress down or forgo the fashionable in lieu of the comfortable and functional. Haute couture purses and scarves give way to bulky, pink monkey-splattered diaper bags and blue burp cloths. Parents don’t mind sacrifice when it comes to their children, but what if stylish adults didn’t have to give up looking great in order to schlep baby’s gear from place to place? Products that do double duty as functional and fashionable are especially trendy since both parents often work outside the home. Accessories from Funktion marry panache and utility in a natural way to serve a growing family’s needs and wants.

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The Candy Cottage, developed by two busy moms who still wanted to enjoy family time, is a faux-gingerbread plastic cottage that snaps together. Instantly, the original time-consuming task of making, baking and assembling real gingerbread pieces went from a chore to a simplified family project. “We’re thrilled to see our dream take flight so quickly and be sold in so many specialty gift shops nationwide,” enthused Rhonda Dunn, one of Cottage Products, LLC’s co-owners. After a gangbuster first-showing at the 2011 AmericasMart® gift show in Atlanta, sales have continued to climb as stores clamor for the family-friendly Cottage.

Sports fans and university alumni do not need to settle for pastels or neutrals when dressing their little one. Now, they can show their world that their team or alma mater has a brand new fan, sporting clothing and accessories from Little BIG Fan. The Little BIG Fan team is small but powerful with moms leading the business, dads cheering them on, and kids keeping everyone on track. Like the teams they support, they work and play hard to provide some of the best products for legions of fans. Passionate about creating products with a purpose that are stylish and fun, Little BIG Fan is for loyal sports fanatics.

There’s never a bad time to give a baby gift, but the perennial problem that plagues most givers is the selection. When it comes to babies and toddlers, this can be an especially tricky issue. Companies with long track records of service and quality are great places to start when it comes to solving this problem. Experience always tells, and this is true for businesses, too. AM PM Kids, an offshoot of the Mullins family company that has been serving customers for over 30 years, delivers quality gifts based on a strong understanding of what families want.