Inventive Parent

Online Store's Goods Made By, For Parents

By Julia Diament

Hampton Union, Friday, July 8, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- It's no secret that there are stores and Web sites that cater to expectant mothers and children or that product designs keep improving from year to year. But who designs them?

At Inventive Parent, a Hampton-based company that marked its fifth anniversary last month, as the name implies, parents dictate and design items for other parents that are targeted to make child-rearing easier, healthier and more productive.

Creator and owner Sharon Mullen came up with the idea for her Internet-based company with the belief that parents are likely to have a better understanding of what will help them and their children than most major corporate design teams.

"Part of the difference (of Inventive Parent) is that these products were created out of a need," said Mullen.

For instance, you won't find the Weemote, Inventive Parent's version of a television V chip, at your local toy store. It's unlikely you'll stumble across Preggie Pops, the popsicle specifically designed to help ease morning sickness, in your grocer's freezer.

Hampton company marks 5 years:
"We are just thrilled to have made it to this five-year mark. It's really nice to know that we've put together a model that has grown at this pace."
Sharon Mullen,
Inventive Parent

Mullen has created a Web site where products most parents might have only dreamed about are available at the click of a mouse.

The roots of Inventive Parent can be traced to 2000, when new mother Mullen became distressed that her baby's car seat blanket was constantly falling to the floor.

Seeing the need for an attachable blanket, she designed the original Car Seat Cozy, and was almost immediately bombarded by other parents who were experiencing similar problems.

Sensing that she'd hit on something, Mullen began visiting juvenile product trade shows and showcases to learn more about the industry. She was struck by the number of products designed especially for parents by parents, and within weeks, the Inventive Parent online store was born.

What started as a small store now offers more than 300 products that are separated into age-appropriate categories. The product list continues to grow, with more than 30 new items expected to become available soon.

One of the new products, the Light Night, differs from the standard night light or flashlight in that it runs on rechargeable LED lights that don't generate any heat, making it safe for children to take to bed with them if necessary.

The Myself Belt, which was designed by a mother who noticed her child struggling with the standard belt closures and fixtures during potty training, allows young children to take off and put on the belt on their own, without parental assistance.

Another new product, the Bell Blocker, is a device designed to stop ringing doorbells from waking up sleeping children by displaying a removeable sign requesting a knock instead.

And there is a smoke detector that can be equipped with a recording of a parent's voice, as .opposed to a beeping sound, that might help comfort and instruct children on what actions to take in the event of an emergency.

Inventive Parent also gives back to the community as well. Every year, Car Seat Cozys are donated to the organization Kids in Distressed Situations, and thousands of dollars worth of products are donated to PBS auctions nationwide.

"We are just thrilled to have made it to this five-year mark," Mullen said. "It's really nice to know that we've put together a model that has grown at this pace."

While Mullen admits that growth has been slightly slower than expected, she attributes this to the "tough economy," and said that many of Inventive Parent's manufacturers have seen similar retailers being forced to close in the last several months.

Mullen doesn't see closure in Inventive Parent's future.

"The first five years are really difficult for any business," she said, citing inventory growing every day.

"We're really busy," Mullen said, "but really happy we are here."

Hampton co. marks 5 years "We are just thrilled to have made it to this five-year mark. It's really nice to know that we've put together a model that has grown at this pace." Sharon Mullen Inventive Parent