When Natalia Ortiz’s daughter, Catalina, was 18 months old, she tried to jump out of her crib. So Ortiz moved the toddler to a twin-size bed.
"She was a 'helicopter sleeper.' She would sleep all around the bed," said Ortiz, who lives in Miami.
It was a turbulent time for Catalina, whose tiny arms would get stuck between the bed rail and the bed or who would bump her head against the wall as she turned. Ortiz tried stacking pillows against the wall, and when she couldn’t find a safer bed rail, she found some foam, covered it in fabric and made her own.
Today, Ortiz makes the Wall Bumpi, a soft foam wedge to help kids feel secure in big beds. Here’s how she did it:
The Big Idea
Wall Bumpi is a triangular-shaped foam wedge that serves as a bed rail and wall bumper for kids transitioning to bigger beds. The flame-retardant polyurethane foam is covered by a removable, washable cotton canvas cover, and the wedge attaches to the mattress with a cotton strap for security. The Wall Bumpi comes in three lengths: toddler, twin and full, and eight colors. The price ranges from $65 to $70.
Ortiz has two bachelor’s degrees from Florida Atlantic University: one in advertising from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and one in marketing from the School of Business. Ortiz worked at an advertising agency before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
When Ortiz began looking for a product to serve her own needs, she looked online and at baby stores to see what was available. She found traditional bed rails and an inflatable bumper, but nothing that satisfied her.
Ortiz decided to make her own combination bumper and bed rail for Catalina’s bed. She headed to JoAnn Fabrics for a block of polyurethane foam. She wanted something soft that would stay in place if it were bumped. Her husband, George Ortiz, used a saw to cut the block into a triangular wedge.
She thought about kids at the potty-training stage and decided to cover the foam with a washable fabric. She chose canvas because a canvas cloth covered some of her sofa cushions, and she noticed their durability.
Ortiz looked through Pottery Barn to find popular bedding colors, and chose fabric colors to coordinate with childrens' rooms. The different sizes came from her own personal experience. Her daughter, Catalina, slept on a converted toddler bed when she visited her grandmother's. Son, Nicolas, slept on a full-size bed.
After Ortiz made the initial prototype for her daughter, Catalina gave her feedback about size and dimensions. Ortiz went through a few sizes, then made one for her son, who requested a Wall Bumpi as a buffer against the cold wall next to his bed.
She used a soft, washable cotton belt with a plastic closure to secure thepad to the mattress. Catalina suggested a side pocket so that a child could insert a favorite bedtime book or lovey. Ortiz added a certificate for the child that congratulated him or her on moving to a big kid bed.
Ortiz made a few for friends who requested them for their children, then brought a prototype over to Safer Kids and Homes, a Miami retailer, to see if they liked the idea. "They loved it. They said, 'Go for it,' " she said.
Ortiz found a cushion manufacturer in Hialeah and showed her prototype. They made 50 samples, and in September 2010, Ortiz bought the domain WallBumpi.com and sold her first product. A month or two later, she decided to sell on Amazon.com. "I was intimidated at first, but they are very user friendly and seller friendly," she said.
In January 2012, Ortiz received a call from her manufacturer. They were closing their doors. "It took me about a second, and I said, 'Can I buy your industrial sewing machines?' " Ortiz said. In an hour, she had a truck over at the site, where she picked up the sewing machines, and hired the seamstress.
Ortiz rented a small office, and hired the full-time seamstress, and a part-time fabric cutter. She handles customer service and packaging herself.
This year, she added two products to her line. The Monster Buddy Body Pillow ($65.99) is a memory foam pillow in the shape of a lovable monster. The Cot Buddy Cot Mat ($89.99) is a cot cover with a built-in pillow and detachable blanket, which a child can bring to school for naptime.
Wall Bumpis are sold on the company’s website and on Amazon only. Ortiz reaches out to mommy bloggers and offers them product in exchange for reviews and word-of-mouth buzz. She has used paid advertising under the "Tips and Trends" section of Parenting magazine, but found it costly.
In September, Ortiz flew to Los Angeles to take place in a celebrity guesting suite for the primetime Emmy's. "I don’t know how they found me, and they don't know either," Ortiz said. Wall Bumpi sponsored the toddler play area, and three celebrity moms began using her product. Ortiz is working on following up with them to get testimonials for her product.
In October, Ortiz learned she had won $15,000 as one of 11 Huggies Mom-Inspired Grant contest winners. "It was amazing to get that recognition," she said.
Initially, Ortiz had no overhead costs, only the cost of inventory. When she bought her own equipment, rented space, hired employees and expanded inventory, she invested about $100,000. She sells about 100 to 200 Wall Bumpis a month, and is not yet profitable.
Getting people to know about her products, Ortiz said. "If you do a Google search of bed rails, I'm on page 8," Ortiz said. "Nobody knows I exist."
Moving to a larger warehouse, making her brand known by sending out press releases, and reaching out to bloggers and baby product publications are on her wish list, Ortiz said.
Ortiz rises at 6 a.m. and gets Nicolas, 6, and Catalina, 4, ready for school. Husband, George Ortiz, travels globally for his job as a medical doctor for a pharmaceutical company, so Ortiz is often alone with the kids. She gets them to school by 8:45 a.m., then is in her office by 9:15 a.m., where she checks emails and orders, packs up orders and brings them to UPS.
She picks up the kids at 1:30 p.m., then heads to afterschool activities. Ortiz will work on her iPhone on-the-go before heading back home for homework, dinner, baths, and the kids’ bedtime at 7:45 p.m.
"It's hard for my kids to understand why Mommy is glued to her iPhone sometimes, but I try to involve them as much as I can in the business so that they feel that they are part of it," Ortiz said. "My husband has also been a great support for me throughout this entire process. They help me pick out fabrics and give me constructive criticism when they think something doesn't look right."
After she tucks the kids in, Ortiz heads to the couch to unwind in front of the television, does one more email check and is in bed by 10 p.m.
"I used to stay up late, but I need my sleep so that I will have patience and focus the next day," she said. "I realized I wasn’t being fair to my kids."
Having your own business "has its highs and it lows," Ortiz said. "You have to know it's not always going to be easy." But when you become successful, she said, you will have the flexibility to be with your kids more.
Make sure your spouse or partner is supportive, she said. "Sometimes things are not going to go your way, and you’re going to need to have someone to talk to and share tears with."