Born Of Love, Baby K'tan Finds Success

Baby K’tan is the one-of-a-kind carrier with a double sling design that supports baby in eight different positions, without complicated wrapping or buckling. Michal Chesal shares her Behind The Brand success story and provides insights into her product’s development and growth. The Baby K’tan carrier’s unique design was first created to provide support and comfort for Chesal’s special needs child, and has since grown far beyond its original inspiration and purpose. This success story is one of hope, love and charity.

When was your brand born, and what was the initial inspiration?

10 years ago we found that most baby carriers didn’t give our son, who was born with Down syndrome, support for his low muscle tone. His physical therapist would tell us what was appropriate for his hypotonia and what was not. We began to experiment, and as a result the Baby K’tan Baby Carrier design came about. With the use of connecting two slings, he got the swaddling needed and was able to sit up while still having his legs and body in a developmentally appropriate posture. The Baby K’tan gave us the ability to have him face forward, and observe the world. Plus, it was great looking and attracted a lot of attention. It could be worn like a sling, wrap or carrier. People were amazed!

All the attention of wearing him in our hand-made double cotton sling led us to bring our Baby K’tan Carrier public: it is now a Patent Pending 100% natural cotton hybrid carrier marketed all over the U.S. and abroad. Not only was it perfect for our son, we now see it is ideal for moms, dads, twins, preemies, breastfeeding and especially babies with special needs (which is near and dear to our heart). Our carrier offers infants a tight swaddled, deep pressure input, providing security and assurance to infants with sensory integration dysfunction and other developmental disorders. We founded our company on the premise that a portion of proceeds from every sale will go back to help fund education, medical research, advocacy programs and promotion of awareness and inclusion for individuals and families living with Down syndrome.

What was your experience prior to the brand launch?

I did not have any personal experience in the juvenile product market. I did have experience in sales and marketing though, as my prior business was a promotional marketing firm. This did help in the brand launch and marketing of Baby K’tan, however, my partner and I have both pretty much earned our MBA on every other level from launch date until now.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting?

The first was the challenge of separating family and work; finding a balance between the two as business started to grow. I found I sacrificed a lot. It was difficult to find enough hours in the day to get everything done properly. I wish I would have learned early on to let go of some responsibilities and delegate better to others. As our business grew we brought in more help. I still have a hard time not doing it all, but I’m learning!

The second was marketing within an extremely tight budget. When starting my businesses I had to overcome the small-business “chicken and the egg” problem: Big agencies and consultants with the know-how to spread the word about our product wanted lots of money, while VC’s and banks wanted us to have customers, sales and buzz before investing their capital.

What is one thing you would have done differently?

I would have started earlier when I had the initial desire and inclination that our product would be a hit! I would not have waited and procrastinated and allowed typical start up fears to rule my decisions!

What do you feel are the three biggest keys to your success?

  1. Our excellent customer service. We love to keep a close and personal relationship with our retailers while at the same time making sure that any of their customers who call our customer service line will always be helped on all fronts.
  2. Our unique product design which makes it different than other carriers and slings currently in the market.
  3. Our dedication and belief in our brand.

Describe a typical new product development cycle for your business?

This is typically a very intense process! Just to summarize, here are five basic stages of our cycle: First stage is team/ partner meetings and brainstorming. Second is consumer research to see if the product is needed and desired. Third is creating prototypes and putting them through vigorous testing. Fourth is developing our marketing campaign, and last, bringing the product to market.

Do “green” or eco-friendly concerns influence your business decisions?

Definitely. We are an environmentally friendly company which manufactures 100% natural cotton baby carriers without chemicals or azo dyes. All carriers are tested and ASTM & FHSA Certified and are manufactured under safe conditions. We also manufacture 100% Organic Cotton carriers which are certified by GOTS.

What is one new trend you’re seeing in the marketplace?

Online sales are gaining greater market share than their brick and mortar counterparts. We truly love our brick and mortar stores so this is a hard trend to get used to.

What types of marketing have been most effective for your business?

Word of mouth marketing. Not only is this free, but word of mouth holds more weight in the eyes of consumers. We have received some of our best “advertising” from the very moms and dads that have used and fallen in love with our Baby K’tan baby carrier.

Another variation of this would be social media, which has been a huge factor in helping spread the word about our brand.

How does your business make use of the Internet?

I can’t imagine running our business without use of the Internet! First and foremost is our Web site which is a great source of information, and we also utilize a number of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to help communicate directly with our customers. We also advertise online and receive constant reviews from bloggers.

What is the biggest challenge your business faces today?

I think it’s the same challenge that most businesses face today, the state of our economy.

What is one change/addition that’s had a positive impact for your business in the last year?

I would say it’s two things:
1. Having strong rep teams. Our 9 U.S. reps have been a blessing and an amazing addition to our growing Baby K’tan family. We truly feel that without them we would not be where we are today.
2. Increasing our product line. This has helped enhance our reach into different areas of the market and strengthened our brand name.

What is your one piece of advice for someone entering the children’s market?

To create solid relationships with your retailers and customer base. This will give you a strong foundation and will help build trust for you and your company. Everything else will follow.

About Baby K’tan

Baby K’tan, LLC was founded by two couples, the Chesals and Wernicks, who have been close friends for years. Each family was raising a child with special needs, in addition to two other children. With a desire to provide their children with the sensory nourishment they require for optimal development, while also wanting to carry their babies as much as possible for parent-child bonding, both couples experimented with different baby slings and carriers.

Improving and incorporating different aspects from various wraps, slings and traditional front carriers that were already on the market, the Wernicks and Chesals created the Baby K’tan® Baby Carrier! As time went on, the Baby K’tan family added new styles of carriers and accessory items to their line. They are set to launch a new product this October at ABC and plan on increasing their product line in various areas of the juvenile industry.

A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of every Baby K’tan ® product is allocated to the American Heart Association and to help fund education, medical research, advocacy programs, and promotion of awareness and inclusion for individuals and families living with Down syndrome.

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