If you’re a parent, you understand just how crucial it is to protect your children while in a moving vehicle. When Dahlia Rizk became a single mother, she took extra care towards the safety and comfort of her child, but quickly realized just how many companies weren’t doing enough in that department.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics have reported that regular children’s coats which are worn in car seats are unsafe. In the event of a car crash, thesis coats become compressed, offering little protection to the child.
Frustrated with the lack of safe and comfortable options to choose from, Rizk decided to create a baby coat that allows seat belts to slide into the coat, keeping the child securely buckled into their seat, while also providing optimal comfort and warmth. Upon designing her product, Rizk wanted to spread the word to more parents, thus founding her company, Buckle Me Baby Coats.
Designing a Product Out of Necessity
Before launching her business, Rizk founded a multi-clinician mental health private practice. With an undergraduate degree in Economics and a master’s in Mental Health Counseling, she specialized in PTSD and recognized the anxiety that many parents experience when trying to keep their children safe.
“As a single working parent raising kids in snowy New Hampshire, I understood the dangers of using traditional coats in the car seat but also knew that keeping up with the rules was hard,” Rizk tells Starter Story. “I felt I was being forced to choose between my child’s safety and warmth while also choosing between my convenience and peace of mind, but I didn’t want to.”
Determined to find a better alternative, Rizk decided to take the ordinary winter coat and redesign it. On the outside, the design resembled an ordinary children’s coat.
But Rizk discovered that if the shoulder seams could open and the zipper was shifted to the side, the front panel of the coat could be pulled aside — allowing a seat belt to slide right through and secure the child in place. Excited with her discovery, Rizk knew that her product could help alleviate some of the worries that thousands of parents experience.
However, the coat manufacturers she contacted weren’t as enthusiastic.
“They weren’t in the trenches, though, and I was. I knew other parents struggled just as I did, but at the time, I was in the middle of my Master’s Degree for Counseling and there was no way to reach parents directly pre-Facebook.”
With no patent and no manufacturers to partner with, Rizk seemingly had nowhere to turn …
But that didn’t stop her.
Going Viral On Social Media
As time went on, Rizk couldn’t shake the idea of her redesigned baby coat. Even though her children had grown out of the car seat stage, she still found herself dwelling on the potential of her product.
So, despite being defeated in her previous attempt, Rizk decided to give her baby coats another shot. After finding a local prototype designer, Rizk had the coats tested at a crash test facility. Much to her expectations, the prototype proved to outperform the average children’s coat.
Now, with her tested prototype in hand, she took her idea a step further and filmed a demo video of her nephew wearing the coat, posted it on Facebook, and subsequently received a flood of orders.
Thrilled with the response, Rizk launched a Kickstarter campaign to capture orders while holding off shipping as the coats were still in development. Then, through much trial and error, Rizk partnered up with a manufacturing company in China and officially launched the business in 2017.
Securing a Deal On Shark Tank
While Rizk’s intentions initially were to keep the business small, she couldn’t help but notice the increasing demand for her product. Set on growing her company, Rizk took her product to Shark Tank in December 2020. After a successful pitch, she secured a deal with Daymond John at $100,000 for 20% equity and 30% equity on all licensing deals.
Fast-forward two years later, and Buckle Me Baby Coat has grown by 1100%. After expanding its line of coats to four styles, along with a snowsuit, Rizk’s company went from generating $50K per month to $200K. Just this winter, Buckle Me Baby also launched a collection of car seat blankets to meet the demand of customers who prefer not to use a coat for their children.
In efforts to make her product even more accessible to parents, Rizk started a trade-up program, allowing parents to trade gently used company coats for a partial refund on their new coat.
Then, the coats that are traded in are donated to local New England children in need. The business has also been able to expand its retail presence, partnering up with eight children’s clothing retailers in Canada.
The Ingredients to Success
“What separates an idea from a product on the market is that products on the market have founders behind them who passionately pursued getting the product on a shelf,” remarks Rizk.
This statement rings particularly true for how she’s run her own company …
Since day one, Rizk’s goal has remained the same. Her commitment to making children’s coats designed for both safety and comfort has helped catapult her business and allowed her to have stronger vendor relationships, achieve better pricing for her products, and overall greater success in her company.
Though she had little experience in launching a clothing company, Rizk used her knowledge of the industry and drew from personal experience to get her product on the market.
For other entrepreneurs struggling to get their idea on the shelf, Rizk attributes her success to two words: “say yes.” “In the beginning, it’s normal to want validation for your idea, but what happens is that your family and friends will not understand — that’s completely normal … Stick to your goals and take all the opportunities.”
Rizk’s admits that her biggest hurdle was overcoming her doubts. But by pushing those aside, following her gut, and saying yes to every opportunity that came her way, she reached unprecedented levels of success.