Sozo: Created by a Mother and Father of Invention

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 Watches to Weeblock

According to Sean, he and his wife had always planned to start a business one day, but never imagined it would involve the sale of kids’ merchandise. Their years of corporate experience —Sean had been a vice president of worldwide marketing at Timex and Tracie had been a brand manager at the company— helped to guide the duo’s entrepreneurial efforts. Striving to right what was wrong in the world of infant and toddler products, the Gildeas launched Sozo in 2004. Tracie thought of the name of the Connecticut-based business, which means “creation” and “imagination” in Japanese, during a yoga meditation session.

The pair first successfully entered the sales arena with the Weeblock, which Sean laughingly says was born out of the not-so-pleasant experience of “getting peed on!” A wearable sponge placed between a baby boy’s legs, the Weeblock protects parents from accidental sprays during changing time. Sean and Tracie first tested the Weeblock by developing a prototype made of craft store products. The invention quickly took off and captured widespread media attention on shows including “Today” and in InStyle magazine. Actor and expectant father Will Ferrell even received a Weeblock as a gift on the “Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn.” The designs on the cup-like coverings, which retail for $10, reflect their clever names like Captain Blast Off and Whizz Kid.

Expanding Sozo to Fill a Void

The Gildeas followed the Weeblock with vibrant crib sets, carpets, valances and décor items that added style and excitement to children’s rooms. They collaborated with Lynda Allen, a freelance designer who had also worked at Timex, to counter the far too common sugar and spice and frogs and snails design aesthetics targeted toward young girls and boys. Instead, they introduced merchandise with bold, playful prints like jungle themes, Koi fish patterns and Asian-inspired characters, which were also reflective of the company’s name.

Sozo eventually expanded to include apparel and other products. Today, outfits include dresses, rompers, pants and t-shirts embellished with appliqués and patterns that feature pandas, ladybugs, giraffes and poodles. The 100% cotton clothing means kids are not only comfortable and cozy, but parents can also easily toss the pieces into the washing machine. Sozo sleepwear options include bunting and cap sets fashioned like chili peppers and monkeys as well as nap saks with dual zippers for easy changing. There are also glow-in-the-dark pajamas.

In addition to its apparel, Sozo is well-known for its swaddle blanket and cap sets. Measuring 40” x 40”, the blankets are extremely versatile and can be easily used as stroller and receiving blankets. Adorned with animal, vegetable and critter themes, the versatility of the premium brushed cotton blankets earned Sozo a 2008 iParenting Media Award from, the premier media site dedicated to parents and children’s products.

Strategies for Sozo’s Success

Sean says a major factor in Sozo’s strategy for success is rooted in communicating the brand, its innovation and the ways in which it satisfies the creativity and whimsy that many parents desire for their infants’ and toddlers’ clothing and accessories. The brand has received extensive exposure in newspapers across the country and in publications including Baby Talk, Fit Pregnancy, Kids’ Rooms and Parenting.

Tracie also credits the decision to hire a Hollywood placement agent for getting Sozo into the hands of celebrities, including Courtney Cox, Julia Ormond, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson. The Sozo Web site features thank you notes from these and other stars who rave about the outfits and accessories. This placement strategy also got Sozo night lights into the hands of music industry powerhouses, including rocker Sting, through goodie bags handed out at a Grammy Awards MusiCares charity event.

Sean and Tracie say the excellent vendors with whom they partner have been integral to getting the word out about the brand. Paper Doll in Boulder, Colorado and Bambini in Brookline, Massachusetts are just two of the specialty boutiques that stock Sozo merchandise.

While publicity and brand loyalty have undoubtedly helped to spur Sozo’s success, the Gildeas continue to value the importance of approaching their business with fresh, creative styles. They frequently incorporate buyer feedback as well as customer requests into their merchandise to ensure its appeal and relevance. After all, they started Sozo with the aim to fill a marketplace void and they want to continue to attract consumer interest and to generate buy-in. “It’s about newness,” says Sean. “When customers see Sozo, I love getting the ‘wow’ factor. If we don’t hear, ‘Oh my gosh!’ or ‘That’s so adorable!’ then we don’t do it.”

For more information, visit Sozo at