Columbus entrepreneur Lou Childs discusses the launch of SlumberPod—“a patent-pending, portable privacy pod to help babies/toddlers to get a good night’s sleep”—at StartUp Columbus, a sleek office space in the 1000 block of Broadway that recently opened to serve as an incubator for local start-ups.
ECL: You obviously crushed it on the digital launch platform with Kickstarter. [SlumperPod raised nearly $19,000 at the time of this interview, far surpassing its one-month goal of $5,000]. So how does focusing on that digital launch pair with also doing a launch at a physical space?
Childs: Kay [Mallory, daughter and business partner living in Decatur, Georgia] and I both have marketing backgrounds and are very technical. Katy created and ran the Kickstarter.
StartUp Columbus certainly helped spread the word. [The noon-hour dozen-plus crowd included reps from four media outlets plus several toddlers and mamas]. And this is a great place to have a launch.
I know some people can be reluctant—especially when it comes to a brand-new baby product—to order something that costs over $100 that they haven’t seen or touched or felt.
So we felt it was important to have an actual physical launch party, where people can see the SlumberPod in action. I’ve picked it up and put it over a couple of people and it’s completely blacked-out—you can’t see the lights in here. I think it’s been important to give some people the opportunity to come and see it in real time.
ECL: Why do a start up? Why venture into entrepreneurship?
Childs: We thought this was a really good idea. And we’re not alone: through our research and reaching out, we talked to moms in Babywise, Moms on Call and other Facebook groups and found that 85 percent have this issue [essentially, ensuring a good night’s sleep when sharing a room with a baby while traveling]. And they would love to have a solution to this problem.
So we took the plunge. Katy was off two years ago—she had twins and was on maternity leave. I was between jobs—what a blessing that was. We took the time and built the idea.
We had our first prototype, which was completely different than what we have now. We worked with a product-development firm in Atlanta to refine the design. Our manufacturing partner is here in Columbus: Jeff Vinson, [CEO of] Muscogee Mills. He has an operation in China where they are building the units.
ECL: How did you connect with Muscogee Mills?
Childs: It was part of a class. [Mallory and Childs worked on developing their concept during a course offered in 2016 at RiverCity Foundry, a precursor to StartUp Columbus]. Somebody in the audience at the pitch we did at the end of class was from Synovus. As Katy was presenting the problem, he was nodding his head the whole time like, “Oh boy, have I been there!”
He came up to us immediately after the presentation said, “I want to help you guys. I think you’re really onto something here.” It was Jeff Dunlop and he’s been a colleague and friend ever since.
He introduced us to Jeff Vinson and we just hit it off. Jeff took us under his wing and worked with us on countless samples, prototype modifications, fabric selections. He helped us with countless things.
We have 450 [SlumberPods] on the way right now with 2,000 more already on order. They are being shipped directly to Muscogee Mills. Jeff will be doing fulfillment of our Kickstarter and any sales on our website. So it is building the economy here.