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- More from Kim Mikus
An idea that originated at a play group where two suburban moms went to socialize has grown into a booming business.
Like moms at most of these gatherings, Kristen Min and Jee Kim were sharing tips on caring for their young children. Their conversation turned to how it would be easier to carry formula or baby cereal when traveling if they had a stackable dispenser with various compartments.
"We needed something that didn't allow the contents to fall out in the diaper bag," Min said.
The women came up with a design and partnered with a South Korean company to make the product. Immigrating from Korea as children, the business partners started Innobaby about three years ago and couldn't stop talking about creative solutions to everyday parenting challenges. They expanded the formula carrier idea to include carriers for snacks and other small items. The Packin' Smart Product line was born. Then came a more mature Essentials line designed to store office products such as paper clips and another series for children's art supplies, from glitter to beads. A line for liquids and juices is hitting stores now.
The products are found in about 800 retailers and boutiques, including all Container Store locations. A single clear container is about $5.
Starting the business in their homes, the women, who met through their husbands, have expanded to an office and warehouse in Lake Barrington.
The women also invented a crib sheet topper that has gone over well; it makes putting sheets on crib mattresses, usually surrounded by bumper pads, easier. The waterproof sheet is tied onto the corners of the mattress. An organic line has just been released and sells for $40. One side of the sheet is a cool cotton and the other is flannel.
"We grew so fast. Our husbands joked that this was our hobby, and in the beginning it was," said Min, 35, of Wauconda. She said they researched what moms needed and the business took off. "It just boomed," she said.
The moms have worked with contacts they have made in other parts of the world to add products to their inventory with a goal of making everyday challenges easier.
For children with sensitive skin, the Sitin' Smart is a cover for car seats and strollers. Made of breathable fabric or bamboo, the concept is designed to help children's skin breath.
And the newest product for the women is Nursin' Smart, a silicone bottle designed for babies that have a difficult time transitioning from breast to bottle feeding. The women have worked with the inventor, a doctor, to launch the product. A cap for the bottle is available as the child grows and can be used like a straw, similar to a sippy cup. "It's easy to keep clean," Min said. The price ranges from $18 to $25.
Min has three children, ages 4, 6 and 8; Kim resides in Hoffman Estates and has two kids, ages 4 and 7. The moms say they enjoy showing their products at consumer shows and talking with customers.
"The most fun part is interacting with other moms and hearing what they have to say," Min said. For more information, check out packinsmart.com. All locations where the products are sold are listed on the site.