By Joe Marcucci, BBP Blog Contributor
Oogaa. It’s a fun word for a fun product and it started in the imagination of a very fun nine-year-old girl.
“Oogaas are something that have always been around me,” momtrepreneur Sam Skolnik, and creator of Oogaa, said during a recent phone conversation. “A friend and I may have created them as children, but even then I knew they were something significant and would be with me for the rest of my life.”For years, these little critters lived in Sam’s sketchbooks and always at the back of her mind while she finished school, toured the world, started a career as a successful interior designer and, eventually, became a wife and, later, a mother to a little boy named Max.
“When my son was about six months old, I realized that there had to be an easier way of getting him to eat,” said Sam. “So I set about to make mealtimes more fun and had the idea of really making the spoon into an airplane or a train or bowls that got happy as they emptied.”
Which brings us back to the oogaas.
“They were a natural fit,” Sam adds. “If the goal was to make meals more fun, what’s more fun than an oogaa?”
She got to work, designing the first line of Oogaa products and researching how to get them into production.
“While I was drawing and designing, I assumed the products would be made of plastic because after growing up with plastic all around me, I assumed it would be safe but the research proved me wrong,” she said.
Instead, her research uncovered that plastic contained a plethora of chemicals like BPA and phalathes, which can be harmful for little bodies. Eventually, she gave up the search for a chemical-free plastic and decided to use a silicone product. Silicone is known to be non-toxic, environmentally friendly as well as microwave and dishwasher safe. Perfect!
“Fortunately, at the time I was doing this research, we lived in Hong Kong and which put in me in a prime location for finding a factory that was able to put together a silicone prototype,” said Sam. “As soon as I saw the prototype I knew it was right. The whole thing just came alive for me and I felt comfortable moving forward.”
And she did, but it took time. Max celebrated his eleventh birthday this year and Sam celebrated the arrival of the oogaa products on the virtual shelves at Babies ‘R’ Us.
“It’s been kind of crazy getting here, but we’ve had a lot of fun along the way,” she said.
Oogaa is not Sam’s first foray into entrepreneurship. She has worked with her husband, who owns a motorcycle accessory distribution company and, as mentioned before, she also worked as a successful interior designer. A couple years ago, she wrote a book about her life experiences, which include living in the United States, China and England. Sam credits these diverse experiences for giving her the opportunity and expertise to move forward with starting Oogaa.
“I wouldn’t have been so brave without that prior experience,” Sam adds.
Her advice for other moms looking to start their own business?
“Don’t compromise. It would have been very easy for me to manufacture the oogaa products with regular plastic but that would have been harmful for the children and the environment and that’s not what I’m all about.”
Brilliant Baby Products has declared 2014 the year of the Momtrepreneur. Each month we will feature a different mom taking her “brilliant” idea and using it to make the lives of parents around the world easier and more fun!