The birth of a child creates new challenges and causes moms and dads to discover new needs and wants they never knew they had. It’s common for moms who are on maternity leave and engrossed in baby life to come up with ideas to make life for themselves and other moms easier.
But what about entrepreneurial dads?
Martin Hill is the ultimate dadpreneur. After moving from St. Louis to South Florida for his wife’s career, Hill found himself a stay-at-home dad of a then 2-year-old girl and 3-month-old boy. “I had to be extremely efficient,” says Hill of the child-rearing experience.
One thing that was always throwing Hill off schedule was eating. His son, like many infants, was a fussy eater but Hill noticed one of the times his son was most relaxed was while they were reading together. Wanting to feed his son while reading a story, but unable to flip the pages of the book and hold the bottle at the same time, Hill decided he had to invent something that would free up his hands when feeding his son. An engineer by trade, Hill went to his garage and using Styrofoam, a cellphone case and a kitchen drying mat, he created the first prototype of the Beebo, a feeding tool that attaches to a parent’s shoulder and holds a bottle in place, giving parents a free hand while feeding. With the Beebo, Hill was able to feed his fussy infant while reading him a story.
A juggling act
Hill eventually found a job in his field and went back to work, but the Beebo weighed heavily on his mind. Like many mompreneurs, this dadpreneur says running a company while trying to manage home and work demands involved a lot of juggling. “It was tough to find all of the hours in the day to manage everything,” he says.
For a while, sleep took a backseat, but that was proving problematic. “With a lack of sleep comes lack of brain awareness and it was just this crazy spiral that was happening,” he says. A few years later, he quit his engineering job to focus on the Beebo full time.
Necessity sparks invention
While dadpreneurs face many of the same challenges as mompreneurs when starting a company, Hill admits he’s a rare breed in the baby-product industry. “In our society, the dads are expected to work and the moms tend to be more involved with the kids. Moms are feeding the kids; whether it’s breastfeeding or bottle feeding,” he says. While not all dads have the opportunity to be Mr. Mom, Hill says it’s this time spent focusing on family life that sparks innovation in creative-minded individuals. “When you’re engulfed in raising a baby, that’s when you start thinking of these ideas of how could I make this easier or better,” he says.
Keeping it in the family
Part of the key to being a successful dadpreneur, Hill says, is keeping engaged with his kids. “I always try to keep my kids in the loop. I let them know what I’m doing, what I’m working on and try to make it part of our activities together,” he says. Hill’s kids are now 6 and 4 years old and actively participate in the Beebo with their dad.
“My kids love running around helping me fulfill orders by getting product from our storage area, taping up boxes, packing the Beebos and putting shipping labels on parcels,” says Hill.
After all, it’s this kind of family togetherness that sparked Hill’s product idea, so why not run the company together, too?