Giving back is good business for WubbaNub
WubbaNub founder Carla Schneider is dedicated to doing good.
December 12, 2013,
A special education teacher, she relished her role in making a difference in the lives of children with special needs. But as so many in this industry know, opportunity knocks when you least expect it, and suddenly, Schneider found herself embarking on a new career.
It all started 15 years ago on a vacation with her then-infant son, who spent several days fussing and crying after repeatedly losing his pacifier.
"The pacifier just kept falling out of his mouth," explained Schneider. "I'd pick it up and clean it off, but it just kept happening."
So she grabbed the hotel sewing kit and attached the pacifier to her son's favorite plush toy, creating the very first WubbaNub. It didn't take long for the invention to attract attention.
"I was stopped by many people asking where they could buy it," said Schneider. "So, at the urging of my mother, I applied for a patent." Patent granted, Schneider went on the search for a pacifier that met her standards for safety. She chose a BPA-free model made of medical grade silicone by a small company that has since been absorbed by Philips, which now makes WubbaNub's pacifiers.
"I wanted a pacifier that I felt was safe," she explained. "And the fact that hospitals used it was the validation that it was a safe product to use."
That partnership led to WubbaNubs being sold to hospitals across the nation, including Johns Hopkins and Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Many of these facilities use WubbaNubs to soothe babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and during patient transfers - a practice that appeals to Schneider's passion for helping others.
"I didn't realize the impact the WubbaNub had on the NICU families until I started receiving letters from families thanking me for giving comfort to their child," said Schneider. "Some of them have lost their children and they kept the WubbaNub as a memento, and that just means so much to me. That's the driving force that keeps me doing this business - that we can offer a product that has a positive effect on a family that's going through something so sad. It's more than just a product for me, it's more than just a way to make an income."
WubbaNub's success wasn't built on hospital sales alone. Starting with her first two designs - a red dog and yellow duck - Schneider grew her business in the specialty market.
"Specialty boutiques are where we started and they're what really built my brand," she said. "They were the foundation to WubbaNub becoming a household name."
By 2009, the brand was available in large department and mass market stores, such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Babies ‘R' Us and Buy Buy Baby, among others. Also that year, Schneider signed a licensing agreement with Mary Meyer Company to develop WubbaNub designs for the Mary Meyer Baby Line. Today there are 32 WubbaNub designs between the two lines, with more on the way.
In addition to new designs, Schneider looks to expand the brand in 2014 with the addition of new products, such as stroller toys, teethers and a blanket line.
"These new products are kind of a second stage," she explained. "We want the WubbaNub brand to grow with the child."
But even as the company grows, Schneider stays dedicated to the spirit of giving back. The company has partnered with Baby Buggy, a New York City nonprofit founded by Jessica Seinfeld that takes overstock and gently used baby and children's goods and donates them to impoverished families. For Schneider, efforts like these take her back to her days in special education and remind her what truly matters.
"We're very fortunate that we have a wonderful business," she said. "I love what I do here, and I believe in paying that forward. I don't forget where I came from; I won't allow that to happen."
Related Content By Author
Last Chance to Enter the ICON Honors