At Pip & Grow, our Michigan ties run deep, our friendship, partnership, and company started here. My two partners and I lived in Ann Arbor for many years (and played hard in Detroit) until jobs and life events caused us to move away. We’ve cheered on the Tigers, celebrated birthdays at Wright & Co, and enjoyed late nights at Café D’Mongo. We’ve wandered the musty shelves at the Big Book Store (tear) and filled our fridges with Eastern Market produce. We witnessed the heartbreaking bottom of the 2008 recession and the slow and determined resurgence of the city. We like to think that we picked up a little of the grit and determination that embodies the Spirit of Detroit along the way.
Allow me to introduce myself and my business partners. My name is Lauren Hughey. I spent seven years working at the University of Michigan and U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital as a fundraiser. I met Kate Barr, MPH when she moved into my Ann Arbor neighborhood to take a job with the university. Kate is a behavioral scientist - that basically means she figures out how to create programs to get people to make healthier choices. Our third partner, Amber Kroeker, MPH, was working at Mott as a child injury prevention specialist when our paths crossed.
About the Smitten Sleep System
Only true Michiganders will understand the “hat tip” to the Great Lakes State in our name. The Smitten Sleep System was born in Michigan. Smitten is changing the way infants sleep by providing parents a convenient, recyclable and safe sleep option beyond a crib or pack-n-play.
Inspired by Michigan Families
In her work as a child-safety expert at Mott Children’s Hospital, Amber noticed a pattern of parents choosing less-safe, but more convenient places for their newborns to sleep... swings, car seats, couches, etc... and babies were dying because of it. Each caregiver who lost a child to SIDS or suffocation had a crib or pack-n-play in the house, but chose to put their child to sleep elsewhere.
Amber quickly realized that parents needed not only a SAFE but a PORTABLE sleep space for infants 0-6 months - those most at risk for SIDS and suffocation. Determined to create a tool to make safe sleep easier, she applied for and won a $25K innovation grant from the university to create an American version of the 80-year-old Finnish Baby Box.
Designed by Michigan Experts
Mott is one of the top children’s hospitals in the country and Michigan State has one of the top packaging programs in the country, so Amber recruited a team of Mott pediatricians and MSU packaging professors to help her develop a Smitten prototype.
Founded by Ann Arbor Girlfriends
Fast forward two years later. Kate, Amber and I are sitting around a table in Sedona, AZ with several of our best friends during our annual Ann Arbor girlfriends getaway weekend. Amber announces that she has a prototype for a cardboard bassinet, a large grant, and isn’t sure what to do from here. We immediately recognized the value of the concept and decided to start a Pip & Grow.
Manufactured in Flint
Once we had a working prototype and a patent, we got to work identifying our manufacturers. This was one of the hardest parts of bringing Smitten to life. We discussed the pros and cons of American manufacturers and international manufacturers ad-nauseum. Although it is more expensive, we committed to producing all of Smitten’s components in the U.S., because we believe that creating stable jobs for American families ultimately provides healthier, happier homes for American children.
Boy are we glad we decided to manufacture in Michigan. Our box manufacturer, Landaal Packaging Systems, has been instrumental in helping us navigate our first years in business. We are so happy to partner with a longstanding Michigan company filled with wonderful people who have become part of our extended family over the years.
And because we are all still simply Smitten with the Mitten (see what we did there?), we’re offering you a special $10 discount simply because you live in our adopted home state and we want to show you some love! Code: DETROIT10