Warning: This post may make you want to have another baby, steal a baby or bug your daughter to have a baby and/or give you flashbacks of the smell of Desitin and Johnson’s Baby lotion
As a continuation of our series on mom entrepreneurs, I want to introduce you to my fearless entrepreneurial friend, Kristi Ison. I have had a great time getting to know some amazing women who are following their passions while raising their families…like Laura Grinstead of Love Muffins and Michele Clements of The Well Ordered Life home organizing company. My mail and desk have never looked so good after that 2 Part Series!
So, meet Mrs. Determined. Kristi Ison had an idea. She came across an article about a Baby Spa in London and was fascinated by research that showed faster growth, better sleep and improved motor skills in babies that were participating in water floating and massage therapy as newborns.
As a former medical sales representative, Kristi had always enjoyed bringing new and helpful things to the marketplace. At this point in her life, she was searching for something new. Something of her own. She decided to do some reconnaissance to see if this could be something she could bring to the United States.
Kristi is the mom of 8th grader, Ben and 10th grader, Olivia Stuart and she knew well what it was like to be a new mom. She remembers the “dark days” (as she calls it) when new moms are stuck at home with a crying infant trying to figure it all out and thinking “What do I do? How am I even going to keep this thing alive?”
The more she researched, the more benefits she found for both mom and baby….relaxed and happy babies helped make relaxed and happy mommies and relaxed babies slept really well! Which really made for happy mommies! The water movement and massage helped with gross motor skills, sensory maturation, brain development and digestion to name a just a few.
The idea was to create a location where parents could bring their newborn to be weighed, fitted for a floatation neck ring and placed in a long tub of warm water to float their limbs and move freely.
After floating, the infants would be wrapped in a warm bamboo towel and massaged under the teaching and direction of Kristi, by their mom or dad. Parents would be able to connect with their baby in a quiet, peaceful and supportive atmosphere and have a place to escape the “dark days” of isolation to be with other newborn parents.
Would moms of infants in Houston be interested in this radical idea that flotation and massage therapy could improve the development of their babies? It was just strange enough for her to decide to figure it out.
And figure it out she has.
Kristi Ison launched Float Baby in 2014 after much research, thought, and business planning. She became certified in infant massage instruction and began Float Baby like many great entrepreneurial endeavors ….right out of her house. With a huge inflatable tub and specialized neck rings, she began with seven clients. Kristi originally thought the babies and moms would really like the massage part of the hour most and then the customers started coming back saying …”My baby sleeps…like a lot. We really like to float.”
But what would other people say? For heaven’s sake, who in their right mind would take someone else’s newborn baby and float it in a tank of water? Wasn’t that dangerous? What Kristi knew and read told her otherwise and she pressed forward against consistent criticism. Once the media found out about Kristi’s Float Baby then more and more people were intrigued and the story spread. She was even the subject of one of Jimmy Kimmell’s jokes. A baby spa?
But, Kristi knew moms and Kristi knew babies and the research that supported this whole idea. All this interest sparked more business and pretty soon she was looking for a space to lease. And the customers LOVED it.
“It was a very scary venture at first because really my little clients are only there from age two weeks to six months. After that, they are crawling and moving and don’t want to be massaged so I had to figure out if I could help people in just six months. I would listen to every person that was willing to talk with me about my business and give me feedback,” said Ison.
“I met with lots of other entrepreneurs and anyone who had an idea for me to build on,” said Ison, “Every next thing I needed just came along when I needed it. Financing? There it was. A physician from Texas Children’s Hospital…well she was a client who offered help. The right space?….it was all there. ”
One of those next things that came along was Shark Tank. Yes, the TV show Shark Tank came to Houston searching for entrepreneurs for their show. “I tried out on a dare,” says Ison, ” I did all of the work (lot’s of work) to get ready for it and I just kept passing through each phase of the process. When I finally made it, I couldn’t believe it.”
She flew out to L.A. to tape the show and tells funny stories about how they worked everything on the set to get every angle of each person’s expression. With her heart beating in her throat she began her speal to the Sharks under the bright lights.
“Shark Tank was surreal. It forced me to put on my Big Girl pants to see if I was going to make this work,” says Ison.
Ummmm Ya! There she was in front of the Sharks getting grilled and drilled with questions about why in the world anyone would want to go to a Baby Spa and float their baby. She did not make a deal with one of the Sharks but not because she wasn’t prepared or showing success.
She learned a ton and the show blew up her Facebook page and social media accounts. Soon people were calling from across the country begging to franchise while others flew to Houston to float babies who suffered from Down’s Syndrome and other weak muscle disorders.
Kristi says that Shark Tank caused her to look at her longterm goals really hard and to ask herself some tough questions. Did she want to franchise, build a flagship store, sell the tubs and rings?
She was wearing all the hats in her business too and Shark Tank showed her that she needed to farm a few things out to grow. “Damond was my favorite Shark. He said money is not going to fix your problem. You need social media to get your brand out there and then you will have legs to stand on,” Ison told me.
She hired a boutique marketing firm called A Brand Strategy to handle social media and Float Baby took off. Float Baby today has nearly 66,000 Facebook followers and 11,800 Instagram followers! Follow Float Baby on Facebook and Instagram to see cute babies regularly!
“I knew my audience was on their phones in the middle of the night nursing or rocking a colicky baby back to sleep so I threw my money into Facebook and Instagram. Everybody loves the videos but the best….naked baby butts! Those get thousands of hits! Ha! Who doesn’t love a naked baby butt? Right?!” laughs Ison.
Kristi also told me that sometimes dad’s are just not really sure how to get involved and yet mom’s need their help. Float Baby has been a place that she has seen dad’s connect and get involved with their new baby, support their wife in her new responsibilities and generally just not feel out of the whole picture.
At Float Baby, grandparents, dads, sisters and friends often join a new mom. They have fun watching their baby float and enjoy the whole experience. New moms end up asking Kristi ALL kinds of questions and helping each other with tips and support. It’s just a natural part of the atmosphere that she creates. “They talk everything from breast pumps to Insta Pot recipes to “how am I ever going to have sex again?”. It’s hilarious and it’s bonding,” says Ison.
“I have clients with all types of occupations …physicians, Houston Texans, lawyers, oil and gas corporate professionals, marketing and entertainment….but my favorite job ( and I always ask because I think its interesting to learn what people do) was this precious mom…very petite and pretty, said she was a fork lift driver on the night shift down on the docks…very cool,” Ison told me.
I asked Kristi where she wants to go from here and she told me that they are now offering instruction courses on how to open a spa of your own worldwide. Check the Float Baby Facebook page for details. She already sells her own private blend of organic massage oil, a float baby scented candle and roll pillow that the babies hang over for their back massage.
Word to the mothers:
What’s the hardest part of parenting your own kids who are teenagers?
When you have a baby, you think Ok, I’ve got this figured out and then they become a toddler and you don’t and the stages are endless. You never have it figured out. It’s all new every day.
What’s dinner like at your house?
Dinner at my house is a disaster. Sometimes on Sunday I get all super mom ish and go to the grocery store. But the Insta Pot saves me. It’s like a modern crockpot and I learned it ….like I do all hip things…from the young moms that come in. They are all so into their Insta Pot too. Get on Pinterest and look it up. All my moms talk about it constantly.
Do you have any productivity advice or hacks?
Think ahead and buy early for events. Like if I see something when I’m out running around, I try to think ahead that oh we are going to need a blazer for that orchestra concert in the spring or a dress for whatever. Then I just get it. It’s saved me so many times to get things for my family ahead as soon as I see it rather than wait until the week of an event.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about starting a business?
Go for it but be prepared to work. It’s so rewarding. You could be helping improve the lives of others if you do it but it’s a miss if you don’t. And….unless you know how to do social media, pay money to someone else to do it. The money it takes to hire a professional is worth it because otherwise you could be losing sales dollars by not reaching people that are potential customers.
Thank you Kristi for sharing your story with our Ivy and Sprig readers.
Do you know a new mother and baby that would enjoy Float Baby? Float Baby gift certificates are a great gift for grandparents to give and awesome baby shower gifts as well! But, Kristi says they come with a warning and a promise…babies really sleep 3-5 hours after they float AND sleep better at night! I’m sleepy just watching them get massaged in this post!
I’ll leave you with at least one more adorable baby photo! I think this says it all…….the sweet connection that you see going on between parents and babies at Float Baby.
Do you have an entrepreneurial idea rolling around in your brain? What would it take to get you started? I hope this post has been inspiring to you. Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.