Carol Betz and Nicola Pieters
We all know there was a time before the widespread use of the infant car seat, but no one today would consider putting a child into a car without one. Just as the car seat has become a standard safety product in the vehicle of any parent, the Guardian Sleeper, designed by Carol Betz and Nicola Pieters, is set to become a staple for the baby’s room. It’s an ingeniously simple design: a special infant sheet that secures to the bed, and a harness underneath the sheet that holds the baby in place.
Carol Betz and Nicola Pieters, the founders of Mommy’s Little Helper, LLC., created the Guardian Sleeper while pondering ways to keep babies from rolling over in their sleep. Studies show that babies sleeping on their stomach are at a much higher risk of apnea and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than those sleeping on their backs. And babies that are free to roll around the crib can get themselves into compromising situations (against the side of a crib, arms and legs through the bars, sheets over their faces, etc).
To remedy these hazards, Carol and Nicola designed the Guardian Sleeper that not only keeps a baby secure on its back throughout the night, but also helps regulate body temperature; because the sheet always stays at chest level, the face and shoulders are exposed to allow the baby to keep cool. In fact, the Guardian Sleeper keeps the baby secure enough that the mattress itself can be partially angled, helping to limit reflux symptoms. These solutions not only help the baby sleep soundly, but worried mothers as well.
Nicola and Carol, both originally from the United Kingdom and both married to Americans, met in Northern Nevada through a mutual friend who thought that they should get together because of their “Britishness”. Both were new mothers at the time, and soon the two became close friends. As Carol said, “The more we talked, the more we realized we were having the same struggles as mums. And the more mums you talk to, you realize everybody has this struggle.”
They set out to create a product that addressed their fears as mothers and provided a solution. Satisfied with their design, the two ladies were directed to the Nevada Small Business Development Center (NSBDC) in their search for financial investment. “Right from the beginning [our counselor] embraced us. She’d been through everything we were about to go through,” said Nicola. “She really helped us to think in a broader sense about the product.”
NSBDC and SCORE Counselors provided assistance with business planning and financial development, assistance that was greatly appreciated. Carol and Nicola laugh about their personal collective inexperience with financials. “Figures are not my thing,” said Carol, “and I would walk out of [the counseling office] feeling so overwhelmed, I couldn’t even grasp it.”
As with anything though, persistent dedication to their product and mission paid off. “I think after meeting about 6 times some of [the financial advice] actually made sense,” joked Carol.
Since then, Mommy’s Little Helper, LLC. has had a number of production runs of the Guardian Sleeper: two fleece runs, a cotton run, and an organic run. They have many patterns, colors, sizes, and fabrics available. They’re even testing a camouflage Guardian Sleeper for the outdoor sportsman market. But they’re not millionaires yet. Nicola laughed as she said, “We had no money then, and now we have debt.”
“But it’s been fun, and the most fun has been doing it with somebody that has the same passion that you have,” said Carol.
Said Nicola, “We potentially could make a difference. If there’s one SIDS predisposed baby out there, and this product prompts a mother to put them on their back, and it prevents that baby from apnea, and maybe from dying then it’s worth it.”
“We feel like what we’re doing is offering moms peace of mind, and as a mom, you can’t put a price on peace of mind,” said Carol.
In addition to the assistance they received from the NSBDC and SCORE, the two ladies are very grateful for the support they’ve received from the local boutiques, hospitals, and pediatric and obstetric offices that have helped by marketing and selling their product.
“[Without them] we wouldn’t have been able to get this off the ground,” said Nicola.
Mommy’s Little Helpers, LLC
3235 Eastlake Blvd. PMB 7
Carson City, NV 89704