Chelsea Hirschhorn can recall the moment she came up with each of the gadgets she has developed for her company, Fridababy. There was the time she was cleaning her dog’s teeth with a canine wraparound toothbrush and wished she had one for her 3-year-old; a few months later, she launched a three-sided child toothbrush that is now available in 18,000 Targets. Or there was that night when her 16-month-old was sick, and Hirschhorn woke him every hour to check his temperature; that inspired a patch that sticks under a child’s arm and sends temperature data every few seconds to a smartphone app.
These tools might not be revolutionary, but Hirschhorn’s focus-group-of-one strategy is clearly connecting. In the three years since she became the CEO of a small business with a single cult product, the NoseFrida, Hirschhorn has tripled sales—with 2.5 million units sold last year—and turned it into Amazon’s top baby-care brand. Its wares are also available in stores such as Walgreens and Whole Foods.
Fridababy now offers 15 gadgets that tackle all kinds of sticky situations. The company is best known for the NoseFrida, a tube that enables you to suck mucus out of your baby’s nostrils. (Sound disgusting? You probably don’t have young kids.) Other offerings include the SnipperClipper, which makes it easier to cut and file a newborn’s nails, and the aptly named ButtWasher, which helps keep toddlers’ bums clean while they are toilet training. This summer, Hirschhorn is introducing the MediFrida, which helps parents accurately administer medicine using a combination pacifier and syringe. Also in the works is a line of infant skin-care products and gadgets that will help avoid excess sun exposure.
Much of Fridababy’s recent success has come via a clever bit of market positioning. The company creates products for the kinds of snotty, poopy, sick-baby tasks that only a harried parent can understand. At the same time, the brand’s trendy packaging and tart humor are carefully shaped to speak to millennial moms and dads. “We think of ourselves as the best friend every parent wishes they had,” says Hirschhorn. “No other brands are this focused on being there for you when it’s 3 a.m. and your hands are covered in baby shit.”
Hirschhorn never planned to build a baby business. Formerly an in-house attorney for the New York Mets, she moved to Florida in 2014 with her husband, Eric; he had been hired as the CMO of Burger King, and she went to work as a lawyer for the Miami Marlins. The Hirschhorns’s new next-door neighbor, Kaisa Levine, owned a company that imported a mucus-removing medical device and packaged it as the NoseFrida. Levine had been selling it since 2007, with some success, and she was looking for somebody to take over the business. “I saw an untapped opportunity to expand beyond snot-sucking solutions,” Hirschhorn recalls. She signed on as CEO in 2014. (Last year, she bought the company with the help of private equity partners.)
As she studied the market, Hirschhorn noticed that the baby industry is full of gadgets designed to solve imaginary problems, such as duckies that indicate if bathwater is too hot. She suspected that many brands avoid the unglamorous parts for fear of grossing customers out. Hirschhorn revamped the company’s image, adopting a tongue-in-cheek tone. (The message on the side of a gift box: “Calm the fuss down!”) Within 18 months, Fridababy had gone from 2,000 stores to more than 28,000.
Now Fridababy is looking toward its next growth opportunity: As its fans age out of the baby category, the company hopes to develop with them. “You have to think how to turn the business into a broader platform,” says Eurie Kim, a partner at Forerunner Ventures, which has invested in baby brands. “A great product that solves a problem is the beginning of a relationship that can extend to other things.”
And there are, of course, plenty of child-rearing challenges to tackle. “If we keep this up,” Hirschhorn says, “we’ll soon be making Frida-tween products.”