July, 25 2014
by Mike Dahl
Imaginative, Problem-solving Products for Families
Leave it to a mother in need to prove that necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
Faced with a challenge posed by her infant son and unable to find a workable solution, Pazit Benezri designed her own, which then led to the creation of her burgeoning company LulyBoo.
“My second child slept well at home,” says Benezri, “but every time we went out, he became irritable because he wanted to sleep but couldn’t.”
There was nothing medically wrong with her son, Ron, he just could not get comfortable enough to sleep well in anything besides his own crib. This would not have been as big of an issue if he was Benezri’s only child but he had a sister, Meshi, who was 4 years older, which meant that there were many outings – to the park, to classes, to play dates.
“I realized that he needed some place to sleep that would make it easier for me to take him with me,” remembers Benezri. “So I searched but I couldn’t find anything that met what I was looking for, which was something the size and shape of a bassinette, but very light and portable and easily set up and collapsed. I woke up in the middle of one night with an idea to create something.”
That nocturnal inspiration would eventually prove to be the bridge to Benezri’s entrepreneurial endeavor but the road leading up to it was built much earlier.
Her mother owned a home-based preschool in her native Israel so Benezri grew up surrounded by children, an experience she thoroughly embraced and enjoyed. In college, she studied behavioral science, which she combined with business management for her degree. And to help with the cost of school, Benezri babysat and on weekends returned home and assisted her mother. After graduation, Benezri worked as a preschool teacher.
She also married and had her first child. Then nine years ago, the import/export company that her husband, Nati, works for, transferred him to Southern California and so the three of them left Israel and resettled in Corona, then moved to Orange County a year later where Ron was born.
When he started to show an inability to fall asleep anywhere outside of his bed, Benezri researched the condition looking for answers.
“I read many books about it,” she says. “And from that and what I had learned in school and in my personal experience being surrounded by babies all my life, I realized that the different places, different sounds, different beds were over stimulating him. I wanted to help him by finding the right environment to sleep.”
Once the idea for a solution struck her, she wasted no time putting a plan into action.
“I’m not a designer and I had no experience with sewing but I am a creative person,” says Benezri. “I wanted to make it from foam so that it would be cushioned. No plastic or wood or heavy materials. So the next day I went to a fabric store and I bought some foam and fabric and safety pins and started to put things together.”
After creating a mock-up, Benezri bought a sewing machine and practiced with it for a couple of days until she felt confident enough to tackle the task of assembling her design.
“I was so excited,” she says. “I remember my husband waking up at 5 in the morning and I was still working. I had a real passion inside me to complete this creation.”
Upon completion, Benezri was proud of her work but the only thing that mattered was if it would work – would it be the cozy surroundings that her son seemed to crave. Happily it was.
“It was small and cuddly,” Benezri recalls, “and he would fall asleep inside it.”
Besides the joy that this brought Benezri, she also enjoyed the convenience that she had built in. It weighed only two pounds and would easily fold up. Friends, family and complete strangers were very impressed when they saw it.
Benezri states, “Wherever I would go, people would say ‘wow that’s nice. Where did you buy it?’ And when I told them that I created it they said that I should make more and sell them. I decided that since it made my life so much easier, I would love to do that for others. And this is what drove me – to make a difference for others.”
And so in 2008, Benezri became an entrepreneur. Her first action was to get on a waiting list for the biggest trade show for baby products. Then she started to prepare for the show by creating a company – giving it a name, building a website and so on. She also made more of her creations and gave them to friends to get feedback on how to improve them. Then she made a few more and went to the show where she received her first orders for what is now called the Baby Lounge.
After the show, Benezri looked for ways to grow. She found sales reps and started making sales online. And based on input from her homespun market research, she enhanced the product: using waterproof material for the bottom, introducing different designs, adding a canopy and a toy bar with plush toys.
And grow LulyBoo did; tripling sales in 2009 and doubling them in each of the following years. The company also expanded their product line.
“Many buyers have told me that it is very hard to grow with one product,” says Benezri. “So I’ve designed more products that I see as missing in the market; products that can make it easier for moms with babies, for families.”
To that end, LulyBoo relies on a focus group of around 300 moms who are engaged at the idea stage and the design stage. And Benezri continues to be a mom, having added another child, Myli, to her family, while at the same time working “more than full time on the business.” Her husband has not only been very supportive of her efforts, he has also been a great professional resource.
LulyBoo’s products are sold through Babies R Us.com, Target.com, Baby.com, and Amazon.com which actually buys inventory from them, as opposed to relying on a drop-ship arrangement. They are currently negotiating with distributors outside of the U.S.
Locally, the products are available at the well-known children’s retailer, Bergstroms. And soon they will be on the shelves at some Babies R Us stores.
“If it sells well, we will get into more and more stores,” Benezri states excitedly.
One ironic aspect of this success story is that LulyBoo was founded and expanded during the historic economic downturn. Benezri actually credits the downturn as having a hand in her accomplishments; concluding that there were special resources available to her that might not have been available in a good economic climate.
As impressive as her entrepreneurial journey has been, Benezri admits that in retrospect she would have done some things differently.
“There are so many aspects that I didn’t think about in advance,” she says. “But it just kept me working and working and I financed it as needed and got help from professional people around me, step by step.”
And so out of necessity, Benezri has created an inspiring enterprise and a desirable lifestyle for herself and her family.
“I’m really enjoying it,” she enthuses. “My mom told me that if you love what you’re doing, you don’t need to work one day of your life. And I’m lucky to be able to do that. And I’m lucky to see that my creation is being used by thousands of moms with babies. This is what really drives me.”