About two years ago, North Miami moms Laure Lederman and Sandra Coiffman sat down for lunch. The topic turned to lost children, and Lederman recalled the time that daughter, Yael, then 2, wandered off in a crowded mall restaurant.
After frantically searching for several minutes, Lederman found Yael hand-in-hand with a security guard. Coiffman had a similar story about one of her own children to share.
"We all have cell phones. If somebody could have called us, it would have only been a 30-second ordeal," Coiffman said at the time. The two saw a need in the market, and developed ID products that parents could use on children, B-Safe ID.
Here's how they did it:
The big idea
B-Safe ID is a line of bracelets, stickers and backpack tags that parents can personalize with a cell phone number to use on a child in case they wander off or get lost.
The line includes Band Aid-like stickers, rubber stretchy bracelets and plastic snap bracelets that sell for $3.99 to $12.99. Each comes with a permanent marker to personalize the items. A GPS system that can pinpoint a child's location or call 911 is $49.99.
Laure Lederman and her husband, Jaime, have three children: Roy, 17; Yael, 15; and David, 14. She has an entrepreneurial background and has owned businesses that sell baby products and fashion accessories for kids.
Sandra Coiffman is a single mom with two children, Alexis, 19; and Rebeca, 16. A child psychologist for more than 20 years, she has worked in schools and hospitals. She now is in private practice part time.
The two friends began their research by searching online and looking at kids' magazines to see what other products existed in the marketplace. They looked at children's safety statistics to see where the needs were.
"We used this information to determine our target market," Lederman said. Kidnappings accounted for a tiny percentage of missing children, so the women set out to help parents whose kids could wander off at a mall, water park or theme park.
"We wanted to focus on parents of kids who are put on the wrong school bus, or go down the wrong water slide at the water park and can't find their parents," Lederman said.
Coiffman said there were engraved ID bracelets on the market, but they were costly and time-consuming to produce.
"We wanted to make something affordable and easily accessible to parents," she said.
The partners asked themselves – What do kids like to wear? What is cool? "It's one thing what a parent thinks is practical and useful. It's another what a child will actually wear," Lederman said.
They experimented with colors and materials and got samples from U.S. manufacturers. "We noticed a lot of products made in China, but we wanted to have everything made in the U.S. for safety reasons and quality control," Lederman said.
Their first product, the snap bracelet, is made of a lenticular product that makes the images on the bracelet look like they're moving. They has seen similar bracelets with metal content, Coiffman said, which they didn't like for safety reasons.
For the sticker band, they focus-group tested the size, shape and color before deciding on the final shape. They made sure it was soft and hypoallergenic, so it wouldn't bother the child.
For the stretch bracelet, they experimented with different shapes, sizes and images before settling on the product.
"We wanted to create characters to go on the products, so we researched the top TV shows, movies and cartoons that attracted kids," Coiffman said. "We found that cute characters attract parents, but odd characters, like Spongebob, attract kids."
They tested products on focus groups and had them quality tested. For the GPS system, they reviewed 10 systems before finding one they liked, Coiffman said.
The B-Safe ID website went up in the summer of 2012. They began selling products in October, and now sell at My Gym and Learning Express in Aventura, Playtown Café in Boca Raton and in Café Bambini in North Miami. They also will be at the Miami International Mall on weekends through the holidays.
The women market through Facebook and Twitter, and recently signed on with a social media consulting firm. They sent out press releases and have been interviewed by three radio stations. They participated in Westfield Mall in Plantation's monthly Family Day, and do presentations at schools and preschools. They do product giveaways and use fliers to market.
The partners spent about $50,000 in initial capital outlay, including research and product development, website, copyright and trademark fees, packaging, and initial inventory. They sell about 100-150 pieces a month and are not yet profitable.
"Educating the public and letting them know what this product is and why they need it," Coiffman said. "Getting the word out with our limited budget also is a challenge."
Expanding to more retail shops, amusement parks, kids stores – "to be on every shelf possible," Lederman said. "We also have ideas about expanding the product line, but we want to wait until we are stronger in the market."
Lederman rises at 6 a.m., sees her kids off to school and is at her home office desk by 8 a.m. She checks emails, returns calls, fills orders and packages them until 3 p.m., when she has carpool duty. The afternoon is filled with soccer and other after-school activities. Lederman will sneak in a call here and there, she said. The family has dinner, then Lederman heads back to the computer or to package orders until 11 p.m. or midnight.
"That's the disadvantage of a home office – you're never done," she said. "I stop at 11 or 12 at night when my head starts to spin."
Coiffman rises at 7 a.m. and sees her youngest daughter off to school. On Mondays and Tuesdays, she works at her psychology practice. The rest of the week she's at her desk by 9 a.m., handling phone calls, emails, orders and packaging. She's home by 4 p.m. to meet her daughter after school. After dinner, Coiffman is back at the computer until 11 p.m. or midnight. "It's a balancing act," she said. "Whatever I can't accomplish during the day, I
have to finish at night."
"If you have an idea, and you have a strong will for making things happen, don't let other people tell you that you can't do it," Lederman said. "You can have the best of both worlds."
"Try to keep a balance between all of your roles," Coiffman said. "Be disciplined and structured about your time limits. If you work hard, put aside time for pleasure, too."