Feature Articles: Road To Success

David Holdridge is the kind of child who thinks about the needs of others. In 2008, when he was just seven years old, he thought up a way to bring his little sister more joy. He knew she loved her soft, fuzzy blanket, and her favorite stuffed lovey. He thought that if he could combine the two, it would surely bring a smile to her face. With the help of his mom Emily, David was able to make his vision a reality, and Happy Blankie was born! Happy Blankies are blankets that kids want to cuddle with at first sight. These cozy covers come in a variety of styles, each featuring an adorable, wide-smiling creature.

They have been immortalized in marble, regaled in poetry, noted in song, and celebrated with commemorative days. They have been reflected in the adoring faces of little children, had their names tattooed on their sons’ arms and their figures captured in crayon on their daughters’ refrigerator art. In whatever language — madre, muti, moeder, mère, mãe — they are mothers! Recently, www.Babble.com chose the “Top 50 Mompreneurs of 2011” to honor for their entrepreneurial spirit and prowess. Among the distinguished honorees are Kelly Meyer Douglas of Itzy Ritzy, Jenny Ford of Monkey-Toes, Julie Aigner-Clark of Baby Einstein, and Aileen Chen of Belly Armor. Congratulations!

Sean and Tracie Gildea realized they needed to take matters into their own hands when shopping for their baby boy’s room left them uninspired. Despite a diligent search, the couple was disappointed by the limited selection of children’s bedding they saw in stores. “Most of what we found was either dull or too sophisticated,” Sean recalls, “when a baby should be about being whimsical and fun.” And so, like the old saying goes, necessity truly is the mother of invention. The void the Gildeas found in the marketplace inspired the pair to launch Sozo, a charming collection of colorful clothes, blankets, sleepwear and accessories.

From a humble garage in 1973, the husband and wife team of Tom and Linda McConnell set out on a mission: to provide children with high quality, innovative toys. With Tom creating rocking horses, and Linda painting them, this dynamic team built Prince Lionheart, one of the front-running companies in the children’s industry. As the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, Prince Lionheart remains a ground-breaking company today; renowned for its top-notch, original products and exceptional service!

As the owner of No Slippy Hair Clippy ®, Annie Salyer is immersed in all things girly — bows, ribbons, flowers, barrettes, and fabric. But this mother of two boys isn’t complaining. “Honestly, I think most girls love hair accessories,” she says. “I grew up with four sisters, and we were always putting clips, ribbons and bows in our hair. I definitely have more of a passion now, especially after serving as the sole Hair Clippy designer the past six years.”

Young artists usually have their first private showing on the famous gallery known as The Refrigerator, in homes across the country. However, second-grader Liv Larson’s parents loved their daughter’s creations so much, they transformed them into a collection of delightful greeting cards, Liv Notes! The overall response to Liv’s art was so positive, that the Larson family realized they were onto something special.

Growing up in a family of nine children, JC and Reid Smoot took mental notes as their seven other siblings geared up for a family road trip. Each child would bring their favorite stuffed animal to cuddle, a pillow to rest their head on and a blanket to keep warm. Years later, JC and Reid capitalized on their siblings’ packing techniques to create Zoobie pets, the ideal travel companion. Zoobies, as they are affectionately known, are all-in-one cuddly-soft stuffed animals and plush pillows.

Maddie Bradshaw seems like a typical eighth grader. The Texas teen is a member of her middle school swim team; she plays lacrosse and tennis; she loves English and History; she’s read all the books in the Twilight saga and declares herself “Team Jacob”; and she can’t wait to celebrate her 14th birthday with family and friends. Yet Maddie is anything but ordinary. Her entrepreneurial spirit has catapulted her into the national limelight, and she’s the president of a multi-million dollar company.

Rebecca Finell, founder of Boon, shares her “Road to Success” with The Giggle Guide®. Editorial Director David Gaunt recalls, “I remember very well the impact her student design, The Frog Pod made at the JPMA show several years ago. I met her among a group of competitive student designers, and by the next show she was a successful corporate executive, building one of the most exciting new children’s brands in years. I’ve seen a lot, having attended juvenile product shows since 1979, and Boon has been one of the best, and most well-deserved success stories. She understood function and design, plus the importance of brand image.” Her story is a great example of the possibilities of staying true to one’s business vision and being willing to take the risks necessary to succeed.