Allergies and health problems are not all that uncommon for children, yet the lack of awareness in places such as the classroom or daycare can become a problem. For a child with an extreme peanut allergy, the slightest mistake by introducing peanuts into their enviroment can be life threatening.
Robin Davison’s son has a serious peanut allergy of his own and when Robin couldn’t find the right product to help her son, she did something about it. From bracelets to backpacks, her STATkids product line offers a variety of options for parents who want to protect their own children.
Tell us a little about STATkids.
STATkidsâ„¢ was founded after a year-long struggle to manage my young son’s food allergies. After an exhaustive search, I was surprised to find no practical, age-appropriate, allergy-specific products to help protect him when I wasn’t with him. I finally decided that instead of complaining that I couldn’t find the products I wanted, I would design them myself. Thus STATkidsâ„¢ was born. The goal of STATkidsâ„¢ was to create a line of practical, affordable, kid-friendly, effective and durable products (not necessarily in that order) that were liked by kids and parents alike.
Since its September 2006 launch, STATkidsâ„¢ has received overwhelming feedback not only from parents and teachers of children with food allergies, but from those who care for children with other health concerns, such as Celiac Disease, Diabetes, Asthma, seizure disorders, Autism, Bee Sting Allergies, medication allergies, and more. In response to this need and many requests, STATkidsâ„¢ broadened its mission and expanded its product line to address the needs of these kids as well. From specially-sized, bright red, comfortable 100% silicone wristbands that boldly state each child’s particular food allergy or other health issues, to bright red Health ID lunch bags that alert others to a child’s needs, which may be especially important when lunchtime is a high-risk activity, STATkidsâ„¢ is working to protect children by communicating their needs to those around them.
Parents are relieved to know that when a substitute teacher enters their child’s classroom, the STATkidsâ„¢ 8-1/2″ X 11″ Health ID poster clearly and quickly identifies him by name, photo and specific food allergy or other health concern.
For children who require emergency medication, such as an Epi-PenÂ® or inhaler, STATkidsâ„¢ provides a convenient way to keep them immediately accessible. A bright red, personalized travel pack stays with the teacher or caregiver at all times–on the playground, during a field trip, or in a school assembly–and not locked in a cabinet or left in a desk drawer.
The STATkidsâ„¢ product line also includes Health ID Backpacks, Emergency Information Cards, Allergy Alert Stickers, Food ID Stickers and Safe Snack Boxes. We continue to expand our product offerings to meet the needs of all the families who struggle to keep their children safe and protected at school, camp, parties and play dates.
STATkidsâ„¢ knows the difficulties parents face when trying to make others aware of their children’s food health issues. It is a daunting task, especially when considering all the teachers, lunch room aides, substitutes, coaches, tutors, babysitters, neighbors, friends and family who spend time with their children. What STATkidsâ„¢ has been able to do is create products that appeal to both parents and children, whose priorities are quite different. Parents love STATkidsâ„¢ because the products are practical, affordable, kid-friendly, effective and durable. Kids love STATkidsâ„¢ because they are “cool” and non-stigmatizing. The positive feedback we have received from adults and kids alike is incredibly gratifying. STATkidsâ„¢ is now working with schools, camps, day care facilities, physicians, support groups and non-profits to make children safer.
What inspired you to launch your business?
My son was diagnosed with severe allergies to peanuts and tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc.) at 11 months old. As a stay-at-home mom, I was able to closely monitor his food intake and his environment. That all changed when he went to pre-school for the first time, just after his second birthday, I provided his teacher with safe snacks, two Epi-PensÂ®, BenadrylÂ®, dosing information and an Emergency Action Plan. We discussed the symptoms indicative of an allergic reaction and practiced using the Epi-PenÂ® trainer.
A few weeks into school, I walked my son to his class and his teacher, by chance, mentioned that they would be making trail mix. TRAIL MIX! I was astonished that after all the preventive steps I had taken, it was all worthless. At best, he would have experienced hives and vomiting. At worst, he could have gone into anaphylactic shock. The parents of two other peanut/tree nut allergic children in his bunk were equally horrified. After hearing many similar stories, I realized this frightening experience was not unique.
STATkids was born in response to the pressing need for heightened awareness and preparedness, and the lack of practical, age-appropriate, kid-friendly products. After countless requests from parents of children with other health issues, including Celiac Disease, Diabetes and Asthma, it became clear that our strategy had a broader application and could be used to protect these children as well. In response, we have expanded (and continue to expand) our product line. Our dedication to the protection of children with health concerns is the driving force of our company.
How has it expanded/grown since February 2006?
When the company initially launched in September 2006, we planned to sell our products directly to consumers through our website. Our web sales started out small, but have grown consistently over the past few years. We now get an average of 5,000 hits a month and during the months of July and August, as parents get their children ready for school, we get nearly 10,000 hits/month.
STATkidsâ„¢ products are now carried by a number of retailers from smaller independent retailers to Amazon.com and BabiesRUs.com. Our products will soon be available in a mass market children’s retailers and a large regional grocery chain and we hope to continue this momentum.
What part did your children play in the testing of your products?
When I founded STATkids, my children were 4, 2-1/2 and 16 months (the 2-1/2 year old had food allergies), which in many ways made starting a business incredibly challenging. But it did provide a great perspective as I designed products for children of all ages, from babies to kindergarteners. My children and their friends provided the most valuable feedback about the products … and they were great product testers! They wore the wristbands in the bath, on the playground and to the beach. They even put them through the washing machine! They played in our backyard wearing the backpacks to check their comfort and durability; they used the lunch bags at school and camp and told me what other kids said (which was fortunately all positive). We received a number of orders from kids telling their parents that they wanted “an allergy lunch bag like [Sam]”. All of that information and testing was invaluable as I developed products that had to be effective and functional, yet also be kid-friendly, durable, comfortable and attractive to kids so they would actually want to use them.
One of the challenges for us was that the purchasers of our products are not the same people who would be using them. We had to make the products appealing to the parents who buy them and the children who use them. Products that appealed to one without the other would be useless. What good would our products be if the kids refused to use them?
The feedback we received was better than we had hoped in this regard. Not only did the kids with allergies and other health concerns love the products, but we also received requests for these wristbands from kids without any health issues at all! They also wanted red, wristbands that fit their wrists. One of my children, in his effort to score a wristband, went so far as to tell me he thought he was “getting allergic.” The same was true of kids who wanted the big, red lunch bag. These experiences were incredibly validating for the kids who needed these products for health reasons. Instead of the items being a stigmatizing label of their health issue, it was a “cool” and desirable accessory. What the anecdotes above told us was that we had a product that kids WANTED to wear.
We also heard from parents that many of the children who used STATKidsâ„¢ products thought the “STATkids Kid” was himself/herself. While that was not the intent, we were thrilled to hear that our logo provided a cute and fun way for them to relate to the product that was essential to their safety.
What are some of your top products?
Our wristbands, lunch bags and travel packs are our biggest sellers. Almost every order contains at least 2 out of these 3 items.
What knowledge and experience were you able to bring with you into the business?
I have a JD and a Master’s Degree in Public Health (MPH) and practiced for a number of years as a medical malpractice defense attorney. Both have which have provided a distinct perspective as I developed the company.
My MPH training provided me with the background to approach this problem with a global outlook. I wanted to address the difficulties beyond just keeping my son safe. I wanted to create a strategy to facilitate a safer environment for all children dealing with health issues. Whether it’s at school, at home, at soccer practice or family celebrations, I wanted to find ways to raise awareness of each child’s specific needs and bring peace of mind to parents and children as well as the teachers, family, friends and coaches who care for them. STATkidsâ„¢ has developed a comprehensive strategy for communication, which is the key to keeping these children safer. My training allowed me to assess these problems not only from a parent’s perspective, but with schools, camps and day care facilities in mind.
My ability to spot legal issues and potential problems has helped me avoid potential pitfalls as I run my business. It has also enabled me to help schools, camps and child care centers create a safer environment for their students. While clearly the best interest of the children is the top priority, I have also been able to discuss why it is in their own best interest as well. Through my legal training, I can effectively advocate for the needs of children and their parents.
But what prepared me most for the business was my experience as a mother. First, because I know the struggles and risks first-hand, I was able to develop products that directly addressed those issues. I also focused in on what is important to me in a product and what I look for when contemplating a purchase for my children. Quality, durability and affordability are crucial and I wanted to make a product that would meet expectations. It was obvious to me that without a good product, the business would not succeed.
But beyond product development, my day-to-day experience as a Mom was key. Multi-tasking, trouble-shooting, prioritizing, crisis management, conflict resolution, communication and the ability to focus in the midst of chaos were all skills I had honed in my years as a mother. Not a day goes by when I don’t put most of those skills to good use.
What lessons have you learned directly from running STATkids?
I’m not sure if you’re referring to what I have learned about business or what I have learned in general, so I will address both (feel free to use whichever part answers your question). On the business end, I have learned more than I ever thought I’d learn (or wanted to learn) about EDI, inventory management, website maintenance, sales, marketing, business politics, order fulfillment, customer service, accounting, taxes, etc. I’ve learned that running a business is a roller coaster ride. The highs and lows are cyclical. When things are going well, it’s important not to get complacent and when things get tough, I remind myself that we won’t be there forever. As corny as it sounds, every day brings new opportunities and you never know what they will be or when they will present themselves.
On a personal level, I have learned a great deal about myself and my priorities. I have realized that the process is just as important, if not more, than the end result. I know I cannot control what anyone else does nor the decisions they make. I can, however, control how I conduct myself. I place a premium on honesty, integrity, hard work and compassion. As longs as we stick to those principles, I will feel good about what we are doing.
How do you manage to balance your family life with your business?
Finding a balance, if that’s even possible, is a constant struggle. When I started my company, I quickly realized that for me, balance is something I have to assess over time. There may be periods of time when I am consumed with work and feel that the scales are tipped toward the business. Then there are other stretches of time where it goes the other way. I do my best to adjust my work hours around my family schedule. I wake up early to do a little work before they wake up, I work while they’re in school and I work after they are in bed, sometimes well into the night. I feel very fortunate that I can get them ready in the morning, take them to and from school, chaperone field trips, watch them at swimming lessons, ballet and basketball practice and still run my business. I LOVE my Blackberry and credit it for giving me this flexibility. I can respond to e-mails at the playground, field a business call while driving carpool and schedule conference calls during T-ball. I don’t think any of this would have been possible for me without it. It helps that my husband does A LOT around the house, which gives me more time to work. Without his love and support, I never would have been able to get this far.
Do you have any tips that would help other mompreneurs do the same?
First and foremost, to any mom thinking about starting a business, I would suggest you give a lot of thought to how much passion, time, money, dedication and emotional support you have for it. As much of each of these you think it will take, it will take much, much more. That is not meant to be discouraging. Finding a need and creating a business that addresses that need is a wonderful and rewarding accomplishment. Just think long and hard about how much you want it and how much you are willing to sacrifice, or you may find yourself in a very unhappy and unsatisfying place. In my experience, I knew starting a business would be difficult and challenging, but I had no frame of reference for just how demanding, exhausting and all-consuming it would be. But I also didn’t realize how deeply I would connect with my mission and how rewarding and gratifying it would be. Knowing that the business I created to protect my son is helping thousands of other families do the same has made it totally worthwhile.