Today is the last day of the Babywearing Bonanza, and here is my last interview and Giveaway. I didn’t discover the “mei tai” style of baby carrier until my daughter was over a year old, and so independent she hardly ever wanted to be cuddled, much less worn! If I do have another baby someday, one of my first purchases will be a Kozy Carrier. Kelley Mason created the Kozy in 2002, and it’s still considered the “gold standard” of “mei tai” carriers. No wonder, it’s marvelous! I totally covet Kozy Carriers, and I appreciate the fact that this company, like all the companies I have featured this week, was brought into being by an innovative mama who saw a niche in the market and has filled it wonderfully! Kozy Carrier is truly a family business. In fact, Kelley’s sister, Kristi, is her partner and runs the business aspect of the company. I love that these two sisters work so well together and believe so much in their product!
Please enjoy this interview, and read on to learn how you can win your own Kozy Carrier.
Andrea: I am amazed by the fact that you came up with the wonderful design for the Kozy carrier all by yourself! How much trial and error was involved? How many carriers did you make before you were satisfied with the results?
Kelley: I was definitely inspired by pictures of mei tais I saw online, and back then I didn’t even know what a mei tai was (not many people did). I started when I was desperate to get my daughter on my back. I was home alone as dh worked out of town and I had a 4mo old and 25mo old, 2 giant dogs and our only heat was a wood stove and I had to bring in the wood etc. Piper needed to be carried ALL the time, and the ring sling wasn’t cutting it with my bad back. So when I saw a picture of a mei tai online I knew I needed one, I just couldn’t afford it. So I took fabric scraps I had at home and pieced something together. After learning how to use it, I put her on my back by myself . . . that was definitely a life changing moment for me, because it gave me so much more freedom and comfort!! I wore her on my back pretty much every day after that. I worked on the design for several months and was able to try another mei tai in the meantime, which helped me realize what it was I was looking for in a carrier. I added things to mine that I hadn’t seen before on a mei tai (because they were all more ‘traditional’ in design) but that *I* wanted. I padded the straps, reversible body, padded head support, body pocket etc. Of course all those things are standard on many mei tais now, but back in 2002 and early 2003 when I made my first and was working on the design, no mei tais available had those features. I experimented with different fabrics, top and bottom strap angles, body sizes and widths, strap placement etc. over about 6mo. before I came up with what I thought would work best for me. I say for ME because I was designing it for me and Piper. I had no intention of selling them. Most of my testers ended up being used by family and friends. I did my sewing while Piper slept on my back for her morning naps (Xian was usually playing) and kept very crude notes of my likes/dislikes etc. I was still searching for the best material to use for the padded curved top when people online found out what I was doing and wanted to start buying them. I was more than a little reluctant to start a business but I knew I had stumbled onto something and moms wanted it, and I just have a very hard time saying no, LOL!! Since then the only changes I have made were to make the straps a tad wider and longer and the body about 1” taller. And mostly it was because people wanted that (well *I* needed a longer body because Piper was getting bigger). Oh and we later added some added perks like the strap pocket and embroidery etc.Andrea: Could you tell me a bit about your fabric selection process? How, where, and why do you choose the fabrics you do?Kelley: The Kozy is mostly made up of solid colored 100% cotton canvas. That is what we use for the straps and back. I am really picky about this because I want something that is sturdy, strong and will last. I don’t want the fabric to start to get holes in it where it is turned, and I want to make sure it can hold up to the tugging and pulling that the straps do to it. Canvas is wonderful for being strong and long lasting. It is good about not folding or twisting and staying flat. This is important for the straps that go over your shoulders/back and even over baby’s body . . . they stay flat well when you spread them and don’t roll etc. Canvas also makes a slightly larger knot that is easier to untie. The downside of canvas is that it is a bit stiff at first, but it breaks in really well (kind of like a pair of jeans). Also the dyed canvas can fade, which is something that I would love to remedy in the future.Most fabrics will be ordered directly from the manufacturer or occasionally from one of their distributors at wholesale prices.
Andrea: For readers who might not be familiar with the Kozy Carrier, could you tell me what’s unique about your product?
Kelley: The Kozy has often been referred to as the most versatile of the mei tais because it works well for all sizes of babies and parents. The body size of the Kozy allows you to use it for newborn to toddler and beyond. The larger body cradles a newborn and yet is wide enough to fully support the legs of a larger toddler. The fact that the straps simply tie on means that it fits a wide variety of different sized parents. The lack of buckles means that you can do any number of different things to it, scrunch the body, fold the body, wrap the straps around, tie them any number of ways. You can really tweak it to get the most comfortable fit. The sturdy fabrics mean that it is comfortable and supportive for heavier kids and that it will last for many years and through many children. You can wear your baby on your front, hip, back and even nurse in it. And though everyone is different when it comes to how easy they think a certain carrier is to use, or how much practice they need before they feel comfortable with it, carriers like the Kozy (mei tais) seem to be easier to use in general, than other types of carriers that allow you as much versatility.
I think though what makes the Kozy the most ‘unique’ among other mei tais out, is the fact that it was the first modern mei tai, has changed very little (hasn’t really needed much changing) and has still managed to last and be called by others the “gold standard” of mei tais, despite the enormous amount of competition that has emerged in the last 5 yrs since we first started selling them online. I could say I was lucky, considering that the design wasn’t intended to be one that worked well for everyone, I was just making it for myself . . . but I really think that God had a little something to do with it.
Andrea: What is the best thing about owning a babywearing business?
Kelley: The best thing is definitely being able to help others. I LOVE the praise e-mails we get and seeing pictures of moms carrying their babies . . . it is the greatest!!
What is the hardest thing?
Kelley: The hardest is trying to balance the business with family life, and it is nearly impossible. And trying not to feel guilty for time spent doing business stuff when I would rather be doing stuff with the kids (or sleeping). Something has to give, because though we don’t want to admit it, we are not superwomen! Thankfully I was able to balance by giving over some of the business responsibilities to my sister/partner.
Andrea: Do you have any personal babywearing stories/anecdotes you’d like to share with my readers?
Kelley: I keep thinking back to a picture of us at the zoo back when Piper was a baby, shortly after I started making them and back when I was still testing out the design. She is on my front and we are looking over a fence at an animal. She is right up there with a great view, able to interact etc. Around us are other mothers and babies also looking through the fence, but those babies are down low in strollers with a blocked view. We stand out for sure, and I think it just kind of summed up all the great things about babywearing in one picture. Now if only I can remember where I put that durn thing, LOL!!
Thank you, Kelley, for taking the time to answer my questions, in the midst of mothering your four beautiful children and having a computer crash! You and your sister are warm, wonderful people, and the pride you have in your product is well deserved.
To win your choice of Kozy Carrier, simply click over to Kozy Carrier and have a look. Then, come back here and leave a comment on this post, telling me which Kozy Carrier you like best.
To Obtain Extra Entried for all This week’s Babywearing Giveaways, you can do one or all of the following things:
- Grab my Babywearing Bonanza Button (see my sidebar) and place it in your sidebar
- Email five people about the Babywearing Bonanza, and Cc me at: wamcmann(at)telebeep(dot)com
If you choose to earn extra entries, be sure to let me know, so I can give you credit for your hard work!
This giveaway ends on September 13, 2008, at 11:59 p.m. CST.