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A weekend break helped launch a baby box business

When Kate Compton-Barr met a bunch of girlfriends in Sedona, Arizona seven years ago, she never imagined she’d emerge from a weekend getaway as a co-founder of the company.

Still, six months into her first child, she listened to how her friend Amber Kroeker designed and built an American version of Finnish cardboard baby boxes.

“Somehow, four days later, I was co-founder of the company. says Barr, who works at the Academic Innovation Center. as a behavioral scientist.

“It’s one of those really great situations where I didn’t know at first what it would take to actually do this. It was me, Amber, and my friend Lauren[Huey]. I naively asked for it.” .

Kate Compton Burr pictured with husband Danielle. her daughter, Winnie; Her son Max was CEO of a baby box maker called Pip & Grow before returning to his UM earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of Kate Compton Burr)

Pip & Grow is the result of that weekend and Kroeker’s first production. While none of the original co-founders are actively involved in day-to-day operations, the business, under new leadership, manufactures and sells sturdy, eco-friendly cardboard baby crates to mitigate sudden risks. We continue to fulfill our mission to Infant mortality syndrome.

Given its humble beginnings, the rudimentary appearance of the prototype, and the general lack of business experience of its co-founders, Pip & Grow is a phenomenon.

According to Barr, child safety expert Kroeker has been working on the project for a year or two while working full-time at UM as a co-founder of the University of Michigan Medical Partners. Kroeker received a grant from his UM to develop baby boxes that have been popular in Finland since the 1930s.

Prototype Cloaker showed that her friends in Sedona were not exciting at all.

“It’s like any prototype,” says Barr. “It looked kind of clunky, but it looked very sturdy and passed all the tests. But she didn’t know what to do with it.”

No one had actually done so at the time, but Barr offered his experience working as a member of the Behavioral Sciences team at UM’s Center for Health Communication Research from 2009-2014.

At Barr’s suggestion, they included three rules on the headboard for safely placing the baby in the crate. .

The company’s original name was Safe Baby Company, but Barr learned it was already trademarked. They came up with Pip & Grow after a weekend brainstorming session.

“Pipping is what chicks do when they hatch from eggs,” she said. “So we thought about the nest concept. This box is like a baby’s nest. When the baby pops out, the box grows with you.

“A baby can sleep in different environments for a while.

They learned on the fly to some extent, but many other decisions, such as where the boxes, mattresses, and sheets were manufactured, were intentional.

“One of our business philosophies is that we talked about people, planet and profit,” Barr says. “People’s role was to manufacture the boxes and all the components in the communities where those jobs are most useful. Our only goal is to help healthy children, and healthy children You grow up in a safe, stable and prosperous home – a job.”

The box was manufactured in Flint, Michigan. The sheets came from a company in Barr’s home state of North Carolina, and the mattress from a company outside of Atlanta. Pip & Grow was originally intended to sell directly to consumers with a wholesale component, but Barr and her partners quickly realized that wholesale was their primary customer base.

We sold 500-600 boxes in the first year. By the time Barr stepped down as his CEO in 2021, the company was making thousands of sales a year.

“It took a while,” she said. “We didn’t know what we were doing. It took us a while to figure out how to reach our audience. I noticed.”

All boxes are the same size and suitable for babies from 4 to 6 months old. At 31 inches long, 19 inches wide at the bottom, and 21 inches wide at the top, they stack easily.

Less than a year after leaving Pip & Grow, Barr looks back fondly on the experience and how it helped shape her professionally.

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“In many ways, those years were what made me,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many rooms there are with very nervous people. CEOs of big companies, politicians, investors, and at some point I had to get over myself. I had to learn how to speak in public, how to pitch to the media, get used to it and express myself with confidence.”

One of her final decisions before her retirement as CEO was to provide the entire organization with paid time off in August 2021. This gesture will come at a cost, but with the understanding of Pip & Grow’s partners. was included as part of an article in Forbes magazine.

Following the Forbes revelations, Barr said he was inundated with more than 100 applications to work at Pip & Grow. Leaving a company that helped me grow was not an easy decision to make, but I do not regret it.

“Over the years, I’ve been very clear about who I am, where I’m going to be flexible and where I’m going to hold my boundaries,” she said. “Ultimately, one of the boundaries I had to find for myself was that I needed to be more with my family. It’s time to turn it over.”

The company is now run by Sarah Nau, former Chief Marketing Officer of Pip & Grow, and Barr is back at UM using the Center for Academic Innovation’s educational technology tools like eCoach and Tandem.

In September, Burr and her girlfriend will get together in Charleston, South Carolina for another get-together.