Ergobaby Going Global
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Maui resident and first-time mom Karin Frost was having trouble finding a baby carrier that was comfortable and ergonomic for both herself and her infant son. When she couldn’t find a product that met her needs, Frost decided to design her own. She began producing designs in 2002 and sewed her first baby carrier for her infant son, Keala Kaj.
In her first year, Frost produced a mere 50 hand-sewn baby carriers. Today, Frost is the proud president and designer of ERGObaby Carrier Inc., a Maui-based, family-run company that sells more than 100,000 ERGObaby carriers a year worldwide.
How did that happen? It took a little bit of luck, backed by a good idea, a lifestyle shared by many, and some old-fashioned, person-to-person marketing.
The idea actually came from someone else. While pregnant, Karin and her husband read Jean Liedloff’s “The Continuum Concept,” which stressed the importance of the parent being in constant physical contact with the baby until the baby could crawl. “I was convinced,” says Frost, “that carrying my baby was the best way to usher him into our world.” So Frost set out to create a carrier that would allow her to keep her baby close to her body while still having complete range of motion. “I was delighted that I could easily carry my son as I did housework, nursed, gardened or shopped.”
While many people might have a good idea, not everyone has the discipline that Frost had to follow it through. Her good idea has turned into a profitable, international business, with factory contracts in India and China and a worldwide network of distributors that, ultimately, allows Frost the luxury of spending quality time with her son.
Google “baby carriers” and you’ll get more than a million entries. Visit any baby blog — like nappypooh.com — and you’ll discover an onslaught of baby carriers on the market: Hip Bubby Baby Slings, Jolly Light Child Carriers, WrapNWear, Sleepy Wraps, Gentle Nest Baby Slings — just to name a few. What sets the ERGObaby carrier apart from the competition? Simple: Frost’s design is just plain better.
ERGObaby is most known for its standard, soft-structured carrier, which differs from other carriers on the market because of its supported waistband, well-padded shoulder strap (one-inch, high-density foam) and versatile design. A parent can carry the baby in three different positions: on the back, on the hip or in the front.
While Frost’s business sense may be the result of intuition and excellent timing, she learned her design acumen professionally. She received a MA in design from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Design and Apparel in 1988. After graduation, she created several limited-edition lines of clothing and also worked as the main designer for a woman’s clothing manufacturer.
Frost’s career in design, however, was not a straight line. A certified sea kayak instructor, she opened a Sea Kayak Center in Door County, Wis., before moving to Maui in 1997. Nonetheless, Frost credits her design experience as instrumental to her success. “With my design background, it was natural for me to create a carrier that incorporated the elements necessary to carry my son for prolonged periods as his weight increased,” Frost explains. Local parents would see her carrying her son and would ask her to make them a carrier. Their feedback was invaluable as she continued to refine her prototype.
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