It's All Aboard as Baby Boomers Go Bonkers for Michael Lerner's Sign of the Times
If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, one person who would just as soon not be complimented is Michael Lerner, 32, the brains behind the ON BOARD bonanza. A whiz kid businessman from Newton, Mass., Lerner made a healthy sum of money in real estate while in his 20s. In 1984 a friend named Tony Pintsopoulos approached him for advice on marketing the BABY signs concept. After six months of research Lerner sank $65,000 of his own money into the business. Today, Lerner claims Safety 1st, Inc. is grossing "in the multimillions of dollars" on the signs, which sell for about $2. Safety 1st has applied for a trademark registration but has yet to be granted one.
A bachelor with no baby on board his 1985 Mercedes, Lerner is not amused by the knockoffs. "We're in the business of child safety," he says. "It wasn't intended to create parodies. We saw the market for parodies before anyone else. But how could we do that? I could have set up another company, and nobody would know we were making them. But it would have been very unethical. It's a fad. How long are you going to want EX-WIFE IN TRUNK in your back window?"