Susan Brown, Founder & President of Boppy
In 1990, my daughter Alistair was in a daycare room for babies younger than 12 months. When I picked her up one day, there was a sign on the door asking if parents would sew pillows to stack around the babies so they could sit up when the childcare workers had their hands full. I figured if they were going to put the pillows around the kids, I should make ones that were round. So the original use was to prop up babies so they could stay alert. I didn't realize moms could use it for nursing until Boppy won an award years later as the best breastfeeding pillow.
Boppy came at a good time. I'd been looking for an idea to start my own business. I had a background in marketing, but I didn't know anything then about manufacturing. In the beginning I sewed my own pillows, but I never actually sold any of those models. The first professionally manufactured Boppies were from a small cut-and-sew shop in Denver. I went through a lot of different manufacturers to finally get it right.
The first trade show I went to was a kids' fashion expo in New York City. Most of the stores scouting there were boutiques looking for clothes, but about 50 stores ordered from me. The idea caught on, and a lot of them reordered right away. Today, we sell about 50 million Boppies a year.
The current C-shaped design is almost exactly like the original. Over time, we realized that most people put it around their waist, so we added a stretchy panel for a better fit. But it's always been pretty much the same size and weight. We know it works, so we don't try to vary it.
I never expected this success would happen, but it turned out that my very simple idea was also very useful.
Originally published in the March 2009 issue of American Baby magazine.