Baby ge­nius

How the CEO of baby-care brand Frid­ababy trans­formed it into a cat­e­gory leader

Fast Company - - Contents - By El­iz­a­beth Se­gran

Frid­ababy CEO Chelsea Hirschhorn has trans­formed the busi­ness from a one-hit won­der to the top in­fant-care com­pany on Ama­zon.

Chelsea Hirschhorn can re­call the mo­ment she came up with each of the gad­gets she has de­vel­oped for her com­pany, Frid­ababy. There was the time she was clean­ing her dog’s teeth with a ca­nine wrap­around tooth­brush and wished she had one for her 3-year-old; a few months later, she launched a three-sided child tooth­brush that is now avail­able in 18,000 Tar­gets. Or there was that night when her 16-month-old was sick, and Hirschhorn woke him ev­ery hour to check his tem­per­a­ture; that in­spired a patch that sticks un­der a child’s arm and sends tem­per­a­ture data ev­ery few sec­onds to a smart­phone app.

These tools might not be revo­lu­tion­ary, but Hirschhorn’s fo­cus­group-of-one strat­egy is clearly con­nect­ing. In the three years since she be­came the CEO of a small busi­ness with a sin­gle cult prod­uct, the Nose­frida, Hirschhorn has tripled sales—with 2.5 mil­lion units sold last year—and turned it into Ama­zon’s top baby-care brand. Its wares are also avail­able in stores such as Wal­greens and Whole Foods.

Frid­ababy now of­fers 15 gad­gets that tackle all kinds of sticky sit­u­a­tions. The com­pany is best known for the Nose­frida, a tube that en­ables you to suck mu­cus out of your baby’s nos­trils. (Sound dis­gust­ing? You prob­a­bly don’t have young kids.) Other of­fer­ings in­clude the Snip­per­clip­per, which makes it eas­ier to cut and file a new­born’s nails, and the aptly named Buttwasher, which helps keep tod­dlers’ bums clean while they are toi­let train­ing. This sum­mer, Hirschhorn is in­tro­duc­ing the Med­ifrida, which helps par­ents ac­cu­rately ad­min­is­ter medicine us­ing a com­bi­na­tion paci­fier and sy­ringe. Also in the works is a line of in­fant skin-care prod­ucts and gad­gets that will help avoid ex­cess sun ex­po­sure.

Much of Frid­ababy’s re­cent suc­cess has come via a clever bit of mar­ket po­si­tion­ing. The com­pany cre­ates prod­ucts for the kinds of snotty, poopy, sick-baby tasks that only a har­ried par­ent can un­der­stand. At the same time, the brand’s trendy pack­ag­ing and tart hu­mor are care­fully shaped to speak to mil­len­nial moms and dads. “We think of our­selves as the best friend ev­ery par­ent wishes they had,” says Hirschhorn. “No other brands are this fo­cused on be­ing there for you when it’s 3 a.m. and your hands are cov­ered in baby shit.”

Hirschhorn never planned to build a baby busi­ness. For­merly an in-house at­tor­ney for the New York Mets, she moved to Florida in 2014 with her hus­band, Eric; he had been hired as the CMO of Burger King, and she went to work as a lawyer for the Mi­ami Mar­lins. The Hirschhorns’s new next-door neigh­bor, Kaisa Levine, owned a com­pany that im­ported a mu­cus­re­mov­ing med­i­cal de­vice and pack­aged it as the Nose­frida. Levine had been sell­ing it since 2007, with some suc­cess, and she was look­ing for some­body to take over the busi­ness. “I saw an un­tapped op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand be­yond snot­suck­ing so­lu­tions,” Hirschhorn re­calls. She signed on as CEO in 2014. (Last year, she bought the com­pany with the help of pri­vate eq­uity part­ners.)

As she stud­ied the mar­ket, Hirschhorn no­ticed that the baby in­dus­try is full of gad­gets de­signed to solve imag­i­nary prob­lems, such as duck­ies that in­di­cate if bath­wa­ter is too hot. She sus­pected that many brands avoid the unglam­orous parts for fear of gross­ing cus­tomers out. Hirschhorn re­vamped the com­pany’s im­age, adopt­ing a tongue-in-cheek tone. (The mes­sage on the side of a gift box: “Calm the fuss down!”) Within 18 months, Frid­ababy had gone from 2,000 stores to more than 28,000.

Now Frid­ababy is look­ing to­ward its next growth op­por­tu­nity: As its fans age out of the baby cat­e­gory, the com­pany hopes to de­velop with them. “You have to think how to turn the busi­ness into a broader plat­form,” says Eurie Kim, a part­ner at Fore­run­ner Ven­tures, which has in­vested in baby brands. “A great prod­uct that solves a prob­lem is the be­gin­ning of a re­la­tion­ship that can ex­tend to other things.”

And there are, of course, plenty of child-rear­ing chal­lenges to tackle. “If we keep this up,” Hirschhorn says, “we’ll soon be mak­ing Fri­datween prod­ucts.”

“I saw an un­tapped op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand be­yond snot-suck­ing so­lu­tions,” says Hirschhorn.

Clean­ing up

Hirschhorn’s pop­u­lar prod­ucts help with awk­ward, dif­fi­cult child­care mo­ments.

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