By Jennie Wong
The Charlotte Observer (MCT)
This week’s “Ask the Mompreneur“ features an interview with Kelly Stephenson, senior brand manager at Kimberly-Clark, who runs the Huggies MomInspired grant program for inventive mothers and their innovations.
QUESTION: What are the big trends that you’re seeing the MomInspired applications?
ANSWER: I haven’t seen this year’s applications as we are still accepting them until July 31 on our website, http:/// www.huggiesmominspired.com. But last year we saw some general categories from moms who were in the trenches experiencing some of life’s big frustrations:
Some of the categories with the most play were breast-feeding, feeding time, binkies, potty training, and general education. We had a lot of applications around moms wanting to find a way to easily locate binkies in the dark as well as keeping them clean when they fall on the floor. Many were prototypes and ideas, but there seems to be an unmet need when it comes to binkies.
We also had a lot of ideas that focused on design within an unmet need. Moms want a new level of fashion in everything they are doing. They want more personalization and the ability to express themselves.
We had several winners last year around fashion. Michelle Isron and Michele Naftal created Undercover Tape, which is a hypoallergenic, latex-free adhesive tape to covers irritating tags on children’s clothing. But it isn’t just a plain bandage-looking tape; it has fun boy and girl designs to help engage the child.
We also had Traci Petty, who invented the Lil’ Hot Heads, a cooling headband used for fevers, headaches and sore muscles. They come in a variety of stylish designs for young ones. And another was Lily Winnail, the inventor of the Padalily, a plush and stylish car seat arm cushion for the mom who wants to look great and not have a sore arm when carrying her baby.
Q: What is the process for picking the MomInspired winners?
A: We have a panel of judges from both internal and external to Kimberly-Clark that review the applications. Every single application is considered, and we consider the following things:
-Originality and creativity, which counts toward 50 percent of the judging process
-Relevancy to the grant theme - solves an important parenting issue (25 percent)
-Potential commercial viability (15 percent)
-Stage of idea/business development (10 percent)
Red flags would include “me too“ products. I get a lot of entries that are just the same old product with a new color or design. For instance, I saw almost a dozen entries on breast-feeding cover-ups and another dozen on nursing bras. We are looking for new innovative ideas that are designed to help make life easier for parents so that they can better enjoy everyday moments with their little ones. We want ideas and solutions that help meet unmet needs that aren’t currently being addressed.
Q: Who is the youngest person ever to win the grant? Who was the oldest?
A: We don’t consider age when picking the winners, we look at the ideas. But you do have to be over 21 to enter.
We do have diversity in our winners. For instance, Lauren Levy, inventor of Magnificent Baby, a magnetic clothing line, just had her first baby a few months ago. And then we have Jonelle Krier, inventor of Assessables, a onesie for newborns that has an umbilical cord cutout, who worked as a labor and Delivery nurse for over 20 years before becoming a mompreneur.
Q: Who has been the biggest commercial success of all the grant winners?
A: The biggest commercial success is Romy Taormina, inventor of Psi Bands, stylish acupressure wristbands that help relieve nausea due to morning sickness, as well as motion sickness, anesthesia, and chemotherapy.
Since being awarded her MomInspired Grant, Taormina has seen multiple years of 25 percent to 35 percent growth, gained nationwide distribution at major retailers, and is currently waiting to hear back from a major mass retailer in the U.S. on gaining full distribution of Psi Bands. She and/or her product has also been featured in various national media, including “Shark Tank,“ “The Jeff Probst Show,“ “Good Morning America,“ Oprah’s O Magazine, Entrepreneur magazine and Women’s Health.
Susanna Lee has also reached a major milestone by selling her 100,000th Aqueduck, a faucet extender to help toddlers reach the water to wash their hands.
Q: What trends do you see for mompreneurs in the future?
A: They will continue to migrate towards fashion and finding unsolved and unmet parenting needs. I anticipate a greater trend to figuring out how digital will help moms and dads make parenting easier and even more enjoyable. We started to see a few digital applications in our grant applications last year, but I anticipate we will see many more this year.
Jennie Wong is an executive coach, author of the e-book “Ask the Mompreneur“ and the founder of the social shopping website CartCentric.com. Email her at TheJennieWonggmail.com.