Kate Marie Grinold Sigfusson set out to start a company that not only made something great, but did something great. Following in the footsteps of companies like Toms Shoes and Warby Parker (and spurred by the fact that she was expecting her first baby), Kate Marie noticed that nobody had applied the retail philanthropy business model to the baby market, and decided she was going to be the one to step forward and fill that void.
In January of 2013, Kate Marie founded Babies4Babies – a luxury baby brand focused on delivering a happy and empowering customer experience, while making also a significant social impact. Kate Marie believes that collectively, companies can change the world through retail philanthropy, which is giving back through small, everyday purchases.
Kate Marie has a diverse background, which includes a B.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University, and placing in the top 10 in the 2009 Miss America pageant. In addition to being the founder and CEO of Babies4Babies, Kate Marie is an investor and advisor for women-owned startups, and is the recipient of the 2011 Envest Foundation “40 Under 40″ award.
Babies4Babies is the first baby brand with a ‘buy one, save two’ social impact model. When someone buys one Babies4Babies product, the company will provide one life-saving treatment for a baby in need. When someone then enters a unique code (found on the inside of the product packaging), Babies4Babies will provide a life-saving medical treatment to a second baby in need.
After deciding on this social model, Kate Marie had many conversations with global public health officials and child survival experts. She brought them the Babies4Babies idea and asked them what was needed most in the developing world to keep a newborn healthy.
Across the board, the experts she spoke with said Chlorhexidine. This simple, but extremely effective antiseptic can dramatically increase a baby’s chance of survival by helping prevent infections in newborns in developing countries that are short on medical resources. Chlorhexidine has been shown to prevent fatal infections by 68% and overall neonatal mortality by 23% (which works out to be a really big number).
Today, Babies4Babies customers have supported two organizations’ maternal and neonatal health work in Guatemala and Uganda by providing them with doses of Chlorhexidine. Kate Marie worked to build partnerships with two remarkable non-profit organizations to carry out the distribution of this treatment.
Babies4Babies will be rolling out a new website this fall, which will showcase these specific partnerships and highlight their specific work.
Katie Marie acknowledges that they are are agnostic when it comes to partnerships and will work with any organization, small or large, as long as they are doing smart, high-impact work in the communities they serve.
Babies4Babies’ main product (for now) is a baby swaddle blanket, which is sold both individually, as well as in bundles.
They use a simplified, step-by-step product development process that begins with a new product idea or suggestion from one of their Mommy Advisors, their customers, or Kate Marie herself. They then work to source the best responsibly-produced fabrics, develop various patterns to test, build prototypes, and test them extensively through everyday use and wash cycles.
Once they find a winner, they move forward to refine the style, bring the order to their Chicago-based manufacturing facility, develop the product packaging, and voila! – the product is born. Kate Marie acknowledges that this is much easier said than done. The gorgeous fabric for their Newborn Swaddle took hundreds of samples and three months just to source.
The company is constantly testing many other baby product ideas, but only moves forward with those fabrics, designs, and final products that are proven – through extensive testing by moms – to be absolutely amazing and the best in their category.
True to their bootstrapped startup roots, with no traditional marketing or public relations budget, Kate Marie and Babies4Babies had to get creative. They have succeeded in building brand awareness by reaching out to bloggers and key influencers, and have had tremendous success in growing a social media following simply by sharing their startup journey.
Babies4Babies has had a lot of success using Instagram as a free tool to acquire customers. With the birth of her son, Kate Marie has been able to not only use Instagram to showcase Babies4Babies’ products, but has given people a glimpse into her personal life by sharing her journey of trying to balance the life of a startup founder along with being a new mother. She has documented the first months of her son Theodore’s life – usually with photos of him in a Babies4Babies Newborn Swaddle blanket, of course.
The company also drives traffic to their site through their blog, which provides advice, tips, and product recommendations to expecting mothers and new moms.