Stephanie and Brett Parker created the Zipadee-Zip out of necessity – and quickly won over thousands of exhausted moms. But getting their company, Sleeping Baby, pitch-perfect for Shark Tank took much more than one good idea.
The Parkers' journey as entrepreneurs began when their first child, Charlotte, was an infant. Charlotte would not sleep through the night without being swaddled and had suddenly become uncomfortable sleeping in her blanket. The Parkers cycled through available sleep sacks, but with little success. Exhausted, Stephanie decided to take matters into her own hands, creating the Zipadee-Zip, a wearable blanket that allows babies to transition out of the swaddle without waking themselves up or allowing them to scratch themselves.
Zipadee-Zip wasn't supposed to be anything more than a fix for the Parkers' sleepless nights. A two-income family, Stephanie was reluctantly planning on going back to work after maternity leave. But as friends tried Zipadee-Zip for their fussy babies, it became clear that the product could be a life saver for innumerable parents.
After crunching some numbers, the Parkers realized that if they could find a way to make $200 a month, Stephanie could stay home with Charlotte. When they began selling Zipadee-Zip, the goal wasn't to making Sleeping Baby the next big thing in baby clothing: it was to make just $200 a month, using only a website and a Facebook page to promote the product.
"I think that everyone thinks that they have a million-dollar idea, but you have to work backwards," says Brett. "You have to make $200 first. So that's what we did."
Without any money spent on advertising, word of the Zipadee-Zip swiftly spread. "Every parent has to deal with a crying baby that can't sleep, [so] when a product like that comes along and it works, they'll tell 10 people," says Stephanie.
In addition to word-of-mouth promotion, Sleeping Baby's growing social media following (the company currently has over 19,000 likes on Facebook) provided essential and immediate feedback for the Parkers. "Stephanie would create a print, and say, 'Hey, what do you think about this?' And they would absolutely say, 'It's terrible,'" Brett recalls.
The Parkers always listened to criticism, allowing them to only print patterns that would be wildly successful with their market. With sales adding up, the couple began contemplating going on Shark Tank. As fans of the show, they knew what they needed to convince the Sharks: passion backed with hard facts.
Shortly after the birth of their second child and two years since they began selling Zipadee-Zips, Stephanie and Brett entered an open casting call for Shark Tank. The Sharks were immediately taken in by the Parkers' earnestness, as well as Sleeping Baby's stats: 25,000 Zipadee-Zips sold, generating more than $1 million in sales. Lori Greiner, Kevin O'Leary and Daymond John all made offers for a piece of the company. The Parkers closed a deal for 20 percent of Sleeping Baby for $200,000 with John after trying to talk him down to 15 percent of the company for the same amount.
"I'm always thinking, 'Who is a gold digger or not?'" says John. "But when they fought enough on the offer… I always believe when both parties are a little uncomfortable on the amount that they gave or lost, that's when it's a good agreement."
The Parkers say that they entered the Shark Tank knowing that they wanted John to be their investor. "We wanted to make it a baby FUBU of sorts, because that's what we aspire to," says Brett.
John tends to stay away from investing in other clothing lines, he says, as he likes to use Shark Tank as a means of diversifying his investments. However, he was impressed by the purity of Sleeping Baby's pitch and the Parkers' business savvy. "Shark Tank is only an injection of hype for six months or a year," he says. "If you're only here for six-month hype, you're not a business."
Sleeping Baby is showing no sign of slowing down any time soon, with a huge traffic spike following Shark Tank's Season 6 premiere.
Based on parents' feedback, the company is now launching the 'Flying Squirrel' for kids who are too big for the Zipadee-Zip, but still need a comfortable cross between pajamas and a blanket.