While it may seem easy in theory, if you have a child (or have ever helped a friend with theirs), then you know that unbuckling a car seat can sometimes be the most annoying and stressful task. Well, thanks to NYU Stern School of Business graduate Becca Davison and her mother Barbara Heilman (who is a licensed and registered occupational therapist), there is now a quick solution to unbuckle that children’s car seat!
The mother-daughter duo have invented UnbuckleMe (www.unbuckleme.com), the easy to use children’s car seat opener that you can take with you anywhere you go. Thanks to a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, the UnbuckleMe product is now currently sold in hundreds of retail stores across the US (including here in NYC), Canada and a growing number of international locations including buybuyBABY, Nordstrom and Amazon. Plus, it also recently was awarded the top Family Choice Award!
The Levity Ball sat down with one-half of the founders, Becca, to find out more about how this simple, yet amazing small product, is changing lives for parents and grandparents worldwide…
1. To start off, you earned an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business… has entrepreneurship and wanting to be in the business world something you’ve always wanted to do and be a part of since you were younger?
Yes, it has, but I don’t think I always recognized it as business. I enjoyed running a lemonade stand with my neighborhood friends because it was a challenge to see how many people would stop and buy it. I organized a clubhouse with my childhood friends but didn’t necessarily recognize my penchant for leadership. In college I was voted president of my sorority, and naturally enjoyed orchestrating meetings and running events. So yes, I think many of these experiences primed me for business and entrepreneurship. During my entire tenure at Stern I was incredibly excited by the entrepreneurial community but didn’t feel that I had a strong enough business idea to pursue, so I continued working in the corporate world.
2. How did you come up with the UnbuckleMe idea? And how long did it take from coming up with the idea to finally having a product in-hand?
UnbuckleMe was my mom’s idea. I had moved back to Houston (after nearly 8 years in NYC) and welcomed my first daughter in 2015. My mom offered to help me with childcare when I went back to work. When my daughter became more active, my mom naturally wanted to take her out of the house to explore and bond with her granddaughter. But she realized that because of arthritis in her thumb, she couldn’t press the car seat buckle with enough pressure. This simple limitation meant that she couldn’t take my daughter out of the house, for fear of getting stuck somewhere and not being able to get my daughter out. My mom is also an Occupational Therapist, and quickly thought of a tool that would solve her own problem. When I saw what she had invented, I was intrigued, and we started researching the market potential. It took a full year to navigate the process from idea to product-in-hand.
3. The product is co-founded also by your mother. How is the “family dynamic” working alongside your own mom?
It’s certainly a unique experience to work in business with a family member. It’s special experience, and my mom and I are learning a lot about each other, including our own strengths and weaknesses that we may not have seen first-hand before starting this business. In our case, we complement each other’s skill sets, which I believe is driving much of our success. We’ve had our challenges and conflicts, for sure, but celebrating the triumphs and weathering the storms with someone you love and trust is invaluable.
4. What makes your device one that all parents and grandparents should have in their bags?
UnbuckleMe is a smart little tool that uses leverage to make it 50% easier to unbuckle child car seats. If you’re a grandparent, or anyone with weakness in your hands (carpal tunnel is common with many new moms), this product will make a daily process of unbuckling your child SO much easier and pain-free. On a lighter note, UnbuckleMe is also great for moms with long fingernails, who are tired of breaking them on car seat buckles! And finally, if you have older kids (4-6yrs) who are still in a 5-point harness and want the independence to be able to unbuckle themselves, you can pass back UnbuckleMe to give them the power. Just keep it in a safe place when the car is moving (in your bag, glove compartment, or side pocket of the car door), out of reach of kids.
5. You now live in Houston, but prior to that spent 8 years in New York… how different do you find the two regions in terms of family life and business atmosphere?
I grew up in Houston, lived in New York for 8 years, and now I’m back in Houston. It’s hard to compare them, since I’ve lived such different chapters of my life in these two places. I love New York and will always cherish my time living there. My first job was on Wall Street, then midtown, and I loved the morning energy of those neighborhoods when everyone is walking to work. The career and business opportunities of New York are incredible. I think the working proximity of people creates very strong networks, so big industries start to feel very small. Houston, by contrast, is a sprawling city, and feels more independent. It has been a great place to raise my two kids, so far, with lots of parks and family activities. I have only scratched the surface of entrepreneurship resources in Houston, and I’m working to explore this further.
6. When you do return to New York, where are some of your favorite hot spots you go?
I lived in Chelsea for most of my time in New York. Favorite restaurants (too many!) … Cookshop, Barbuto, Gradisca, Ippudo, Cuba, Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company. And all of the dive bars around NYU!
7. Being a mother while running a business must be hard? What is your advice to other moms wanting to go into running their own company while raising a child or two?
There is never an easy time to start or run a small business! Being a mom is certainly a busy time, but also a highly creative time, which is why I think we are seeing so many successful “mompreneurs” lately. I’m still figuring out the best way to run a business while having young kids, but my best advice so far is to compartmentalize as much as you can. When I’m with my kids, I try to shut off my phone and be present in the moment with them. It’s so tempting to check emails/texts/sales/to-do-lists/inventory/ social media because monitoring all of those things is a 24/7 experience for small businesses, but kids need us to be plugged into them and they are young for such a short time. So that’s my current focus.
8. What is the best advice you have ever gotten?
Trust yourself. Whether it’s business or family, instincts are strong and will often guide you in the right direction. Everyone will have an opinion but stay true to what you know and believe.
9. Where in the United States (including here in New York) can people buy your products?
UnbuckleMe is available on Amazon (US and Canada), and at all buybuyBABY locations across the US and Canada. It is also available at about 50 Nordstrom locations across the US, and at Nordstrom.com. You can also buy it at many independent retail locations, including Albee Baby and Brooklyn Baby World in NYC. Visit https://unbuckleme.com/find-a-store for a store locator.
10. And final question: What would you want yourself and UnbuckleMe to be remembered for in years down the road when people look back?
I would like UnbuckleMe to be remembered as a little tool that made life easier. We literally unbuckle our kids thousands of times throughout their childhood, and if I been a part of creating something that has made this process better—less painful, more comfortable, more convenient—then that’s a pretty good thing.