There are 5 moms with "4Moms". From top left clockwise: Cindy Schaab, Erin Rimmel, Jenn Daley, Elizabeth Rychcik, Kristen Napoleon
Like most new moms, Mt. Lebanon's Jenn Daley and her friends spent time in those sleepless and harried early baby days griping about some of their infant products. The infant bathtub: "Your baby sits in dirty, cold water." The vibrating bouncer: "Nobody vibrates their child." And strollers: "Something has got to be done about strollers." But unlike most new moms, Mrs. Daley and her friends have done something about it. The women are now the face of a company called 4Moms, based in the Strip District, whose products have drawn a following from Pittsburgh to Hollywood.
The company began in 2005. Mrs. Daley's husband, Rob Daley, was in the process of starting a business with his partner, Henry Thorne, but the product that they were developing wasn't panning out.
So Mr. Daley's business, called Thorley Industries, instead starting working on the baby bathtub that met the dreams of his wife and her friends -- one that would constantly test the water temperature and circulate clean water.
Although the company is called 4Moms, there are actually five moms involved (the marketing team thought 4Moms sounded better -- one mom goes by "stealth mom") with 15 children among them, now ages 4 to 12. In addition to Mrs. Daley, the other moms -- a couple of whom have known each other since middle school -- are Elizabeth Rychcik, Kristen Napoleon and Erin Rimmel, all of Mt. Lebanon; and Cindy Schaab of Scott.
By May 2006, the bathtub -- designed by several Carnegie Mellon University engineers -- was ready for its debut at the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association's trade show, the must-see event for retailers of baby products. People went crazy for it. The Cleanwater Infant Tub now sells for about $40 at stores ranging from small boutiques to Babies R Us and Target.
The moms themselves aren't involved with the day-to-day operations of the company, leaving that to the 21 employees -- including seven engineers and roboticists (five with Carnegie Mellon degrees) -- who make up Thorley Industries. But they act as a "focus group" to develop and refine ideas, and go to public and corporate events. The company does not disclose sales or revenue figures but has drawn millions of dollars in venture capital funding from investors such as BlueTree Allied Angels, Innovation Works and Newell Rubbermaid.
Next up for the company after the bathtub was another common focus of complaints from the moms: the vibrating bouncy seat. Mrs. Schaab, who has two sets of twins, remembers her utter frustration at trying to soothe one baby with vibrations while holding the other baby. Enter the futuristic mamaRoo: The idea behind it is that it mimics the same motions that real mothers use when they comfort their children. To design it, they put on harnesses with electrodes to track real movements by real mothers. The product sells for around $200 and has exceeded expectations, both locally and across the country.
4Moms has made it to Hollywood. A recent "Oprah" show included a tour of new mom of twins Celine Dion's home and showed two mamaRoos side by side. The moms have heard that Elton John also has at least one mamaRoo for his new baby, and that John Travolta and Kelly Preston have one in all three of their homes.
The company employs a publicist in Los Angeles that helps with product placements in glossy celebrity magazines. Several of the moms also attended the "Celebrity Boom Boom Room" gifting suite prior to the Golden Globe Awards this year, where they demonstrated their products and gave them away to celebrities who were pregnant or new moms.
But more important, the mamaRoo has also been a hit with non-celebrity moms. Babyland specialty store in East Liberty has trouble even keeping them in stock. In addition to the machine's motions, customers seem to like the mamaRoo's sleek design and the fact that it can soothe a baby with music plugged in from an iPad.
The mamaRoo has also intensified the company's charitable efforts, in the form of donations to neonatal intensive care units and other women's and children's charities. The Children's Home in Shadyside, which has a pediatric hospital and a day care for medically fragile children, received about 20 mamaRoos earlier this year. Many of the infants at the Children's Home are especially irritable and uncomfortable because they are going through withdrawal from narcotics. The peace that the mamaRoo brings them allows them to spend their energy healing and growing instead of squirming and crying.
This summer, the moms plan to release their next product, a stroller that can do pretty much everything except change diapers. It folds and unfolds with a one-touch button, powered by electricity that it generates while it rolls. It also has lights for day and night use, and includes a port to charge a cell phone, a pedometer, a thermometer and a speedometer. All those features come at a price, and a fairly steep one: the Origami is expected to retail for $799.99. While it sounds crazy to those accustomed to a $25 umbrella stroller, strollers that cost more than a mortgage payment are not out of the question these days. A special editor of the Bugaboo chameleon stroller sells (at Saks Fifth Avenue no less) for more than $1,000. And many of the sturdy jogging strollers commonly seen on Pittsburgh's rugged sidewalks sell for $400.
The company has ideas for more products in the future but isn't quite ready to share them yet. And even though the moms aren't involved on a daily basis, they feel that their role as advisers gives the company an extra edge.
Metro Pittsburgh Real Estate