Capital Baby Planners: The Business of Organizing Busy Parents-to-be
Local moms start their own business to share their experience and make life a little easier for daunted expectant parents.
In case you're not a parent in-the-know, "baby wearing" is all the rage right now, but BabyBjörn is just so passé.
An umlaut and an accent aigu in the first sentence?
I'm in trouble - and I'm not even in the market for baby gear.
Before meeting Sharon Cichy and Meredith Wade, co-founders of Capital Baby Planners, at the Creative Moms DC Festival, I thought baby planning was synonymous with fertility treatments. Boy, was I wrong.
Cichy and Wade founded Capital Baby Planners just over a year ago and have been helping clients through a "rite of passage" that is "overwhelming and daunting for everyone who goes through it," said Cichy. They should know; they have six kids between the two of them.
Cichy and Wade met at their childrens' nursery school, hit it off as friends and decided to combine their knowledge and skills to start a business. Cichy has a background in early childhood special education; Wade is an attorney.
The stresses, pressures, expectations and concerns of parents-to-be go beyond the health and wellness of the mother and baby and extend to choosing the right gear, clothes, doctors and lifestyle. Capital Baby Planners works with expectant parents to make the process a little less overwhelming.
Erik Binkowski and his wife are expecting their first baby in August 2011.
"As a recent newlywed, my wife and I were very familiar with registry experiences," Binkowski said. "However, I can honestly admit I had never been more confused, lost and intimidated as a soon-to-be father walking into a Babies R Us store or buybuyBaby store to comparison shop for strollers or infant car seats."
He said, "I was completely lost about what to truly look for and what was worth saving for and what aspects of baby items and furniture were not worth the pricing premium."
That's where Capital Baby Planners has found a niche. They research products available for expectant parents and their future offspring.
There is "so much on the market, so many high-end products, but you don’t necessarily need all of them," said Cichy.
But for parents who can afford the best, it can become a habit to think, "that’s the best and most expensive, so I have to have it," she said. That's why Cichy said she and Wade "give people facts" about products and, it turns out, often the best item for their needs is "not always what they think [it will be]" especially when "they think they just want higher-end things."
Capital Baby Planners offers clients access to a magic Excel sheet that lists costs, key points about the product and explanations of why someone might or might not want to use it.
Binkowski got first hand experience in choosing based on personal needs rather than popularity. "My wife and I live in a house that starts on the third floor. (Capital Baby Planners) have helped us figure out almost everything, including what items will be the safest for our baby, but also allow my wife to carry the baby up the two flights of stairs without trouble - especially when I am at work."
In addition to overwhelmed newbies, Cichy and Wade find that many of their clients are part of the "international crowd," people who "come over to the U.S. and are working through an embassy or world bank, but are not familiar with our county or how things done here." Capital Baby Planners shows them "how we do this here."
Beyond the "things" needed for a new baby, there are also the team of experts new parents will come to rely on during the first harrowing months. Capital Baby Planners helps parents create a checklist of questions to ask and makes recommendations based on the individual needs of the parents and child. After all, a pediatrician is "not like a regular doctor" said Cichy, "in that first year, it's so unnerving, you rush to pediatrician so often," so it is important to find a good fit.
Capital Baby Planners offers a variety of options for clients, some come just for the list of products, others have CBP organize and decorate the nursery, some have in-person meetings and a dozen follow-up phone calls, others choose just two or three phone calls and a few emails as the extent of the relationship.
Cichy said depending on what clients decide they need, their services can sometimes "pay for themselves" said Cichy. How so? Relationships with vendors, mean discounts for Capital Baby Planners' clients. Two Georgetown shops are part of their network of vendors: both Piccolo Piggies and Urban Chic offer discounts to Capital Baby Planners, which passes them on to clients.
Binkowski said that though he and his wife has thus far only relied on Capital Baby Planners for registry and figuring out the house layout with a new addition, they will probably continue to use the service as new needs arise.
"Without knowing before we signed up, they have many working relationships with vendors and stores that more than help to pay for their services (assuming you use their vendors)" said Binkowski.
Though Binkowski and his wife had never heard of baby planning before they received the Capital Baby Planners recommendation from close friends, he is now a convert. "They have really been a huge assist for us."