[A ROUND CHANGING PAD KEEPS ANTSY BABIES ON TARGET]
Blame it on multitasking. Grace Welch was chatting with her sister, then a business student, about Welch's entrepreneurial dreams while struggling to change a diaper on her toddler daughter, who kept wriggling off the changing pad. "I said, 'They need to make a round pad,'" says Welch, 39, "'so it doesn't matter what position the baby is in.'"
Then Welch—a San Francisco stay-at-home mom and a former marketing specialist for a design firm—went to work inventing one, using a sewing machine "for the first time since fifth grade." The result: the Patemm Pad (www.patemm.com). Named for son Patrick, 6, and daughter Emma, 4, the circular pads—made from cotton or oilcloth with pockets for diapers—drew raves from fellow moms. "They all asked, 'Why didn't I think of that?'" says Welch, whose husband, Marty, 41, is a mortgage broker.
Selling only online, she has invested profits back in the business. Her biggest thrill: spotting strangers whipping out their Patemm pads in public. "Simple ideas," she says, "can be the best ones."
PROJECTED 2006 GROSS: $200K
[A CELEBRATION OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HEROES—ON KIDS' BEDS AND WALLS]
When Beverly Sutherland was pregnant with her now-3-year-old son, Elijah, she was determined that his room's decor reflect their African-American heritage. "It was really important to have positive images in the house," says Sutherland, 40, a technology consultant from Pasadena.
Going store to store, she found nothing close to what she had envisioned, then had an idea: What if she created her own line of bedding, curtains and wall art, featuring pictures of prominent black Americans? Sutherland called it the Afrobabies Collection and launched it last year after a year of research and prototypes. Sold mainly online (www.afrobabies.com), the collection features images such as baseball greats Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, who played for the storied Negro League. For a more feminine theme, she has her Flying High line, sold in stores, depicting young black girls as aviators, astronauts and princesses.
Although she's hit a few rookie bumps, Sutherland has also seen encouraging signs. Driving to the office one day, she says, "I turned on the radio and a sportscaster said, 'If you're tired of SpongeBob, I found this new company, Afrobabies, and they've got this wonderful Negro League bedding.' I was like, 'Oh my God!'" Sutherland says. "'Let me pull over.'"
PROJECTED 2006 GROSS: $3M +
[AN IDEA SO SIMPLE—AND YET SO SMART: GIVE A BABY A TOY COVERED IN TAGS]
When Julie Dix's son Craig was 5, he would rub the satin edging of his beloved yellow blanket so much, it started to come off. Ever practical, Dix, a stay-at-home mom of three in Massachusetts, took colorful, satin ribbons and sewed them onto a new blanket so they protruded, like tags. "He took it everywhere," says Dix, 40. "I thought he was the only kid with this obsession."
Far from it. At Craig's playgroup, moms told how their tots were fascinated with satin tags. One, Danielle Ayotte, sensed a business opportunity—and, voilà, in 1999, Taggies was born. Dix sewed, while Ayotte, 38, a mom of three and former health-care administrator, sold. Starting with craft fairs, with family doing the packing out of their basements and garages, the two expanded to boutiques and then got into mass production. Today, with 23 employees, Taggies is a virtual empire, its toys, pillows and soft books carried online (www.taggies.com) and in giant retailers. And while Dix and Ayotte plow much of their profits back into the business, success has allowed them indulgences like spa treatments and travel, including a two-family trip to Turks and Caicos in 2004. "The kids had so much fun," Ayotte says. "I kept thinking, 'Isn't this great we could do this for them?'"
PROJECTED 2006 GROSS: $4M
[FROM A TO Z: STORIES BUILT AROUND KIDS' NAMES]
Maia Haag was on maternity leave in 1998, reading to her newborn son Austin when the book—customized with his name in the story—caught her attention. "We'd read and I'd think, 'How could this be better?'"
Armed with a Harvard MBA and an entrepreneurial spirit, Haag, now 39, visited bookstores and searched online. Within a few months, she had written her first book, My Very Own Name, in which whimsical animals assemble a child's name letter by letter. With advice from graphic-designer husband Allan, Haag launched her My Very Own (www.iseeme.com) line of books in May 2000. She has sold 330,000 copies, written a spinoff, My Very Own Fairy Tale, and has celeb customers including Courteney Cox Arquette
Arquette. Another milestone: Haag is now drawing a $120,000 salary, what she earned when she left her management job at General Mills, all while working from home in Deephaven, Minn., where she also plays with Austin, now 8, and brother Griffin, 3. Says Haag: "It makes for a rich and happy life."
- Also reported by Amy Elisa Keith,
- Paysha Stockton Rhone.