Wilmington is known for its clinical research cluster and its financial technology cluster. But how about its baby products cluster?
The area is home to at least five companies that provide niche products for infants and toddlers. Officials of three companies recently met and talked.
“I’m surprised and delighted that we are sharing best practices and that we are rooting for each other,” said Amanda Legbeti, co-owner of Glider Skirt. The fledgling company makes a fabric skirt to keep the moving parts of glider chairs and ottomans from pinching fingers.
Legbeti and her husband, Emmanuel, met Edward “Trip” Coyne, CEO of DockATot, and Brendan Collins, CEO of Mimijumi, this spring. Both established global companies have their headquarters here.
Mimijumi, in Wilmington since 2014 when Seahawk Innovations LLC invested in the then-Nashville-based enterprise and brought it to town, makes and sells baby bottles with nipples that replicate the breast nursing experience, allowing babies to alternate smoothly between breast and bottle.
DockATot, whose baby lounger and associated products are manufactured in Europe but sold all over the world, came to Wilmington in April 2020 when Coyne, a local attorney who served as the company’s legal adviser, was tapped to lead the company.
Glider Skirt, which the Legbetis envisioned three years ago, is still a home-based operation. Most of the company’s sales are done through its website, but the owners recently negotiated with Amazon and Walmart to have the skirts available also through these retail giants, which sell glider chairs and ottomans.
To be accepted by the big e-tailers, Glider Skirt had to jump through some procedural hoops.
“We have to be approved as a brand, have a trademark and all that,” said Amanda Legbeti. “It’s more than we thought, but we are really concerned about Asian copycats who are Amazon vendors. If you are an approved brand, you can protect your product.”
In the month since Glider Skirt became an approved Amazon vendor, sales have gone well, the Legbetis said. Their next steps are to hire an Amazon advertising specialist and then to build their brand within Walmart.
For all their efforts to expand online sales, the Legbetis are not passing up in-store options in the local market.
While the Legbetis work on a micro scale to increase their exposure and boost sales, DockATot and Mimijumi have distributed workforces and sell their products globally.
“Our bottles and nipples are made in Austria and are sold in more than 30 countries,” Collins said. “Sales continue to grow, and we’re placing more and more focus on direct-to-consumer sales. We sell through Amazon and through our own website; we recognized the online commerce trend pretty early on. You can be in Wilmington and sell around the world.”
Mimijumi now has a complementary sister company. Seahawk Innovation has invested in a Danish company, Natursutten, that specializes in all-natural pacifiers made from rubber. Natursutten is now headquartered in Wilmington.
The same Brunswick County facility is used for assembly, warehousing and fulfillment services for the two product lines.
DockATot continues to expand its product line. In addition to two sizes of the original oval-shaped, padded lounger, the company has added a nursing pillow, a Moses Basket and a play tent.
“DockATot is a fast-growing global company,” Coyne said. “In some territories we do direct sales, but in others we work with well-recognized juvenile product distributors, who have their own sales relationships. … I’ve added seven people since coming on board.”
Coyne supervises a global staff of about 25, and manufacturing is done in several European countries.
A fourth Wilmington-area company, LainSnow, produces specialty swimwear for babies and young children as well as adults. The 4-month-old company operates out of the Ocean Isle Beach home of owner-founder Becca Ingle.
“The idea started about a year ago,” Ingle said. “I had been doing family travel blogging for five years, and I represented other brands of swimwear. During COVID I was doing nothing and wanted to start my own brand, partnering with some other companies. But some friends said I should create my own line [and company].”
Ingle didn’t have to look far for the company name, a play on that of her daughter, Lainey Snow, a 6-year-old who sketched out the high-neck, long-sleeved girls’ bathing suits. Ingle also created a look for adult women.
Armed with the concepts, Ingle contacted officials at other swimsuit brands and asked how they got started. She was referred to a consultant who knew many swimwear manufacturers and who had also started a brand from scratch. The consultant coached her through LainSnow’s nine-month gestational process and continues to advise the company.
Ingle’s California-based manufacturer is hustling to enable production to keep up with demand.
Ingle said she “worked full time to get this off the ground; it was just me with no investors. With my initial investment of $20,000 I have doubled and now tripled my inventory. My consultant is projecting LainSnow to be at $1 million by next year.”