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MOTHER, DANCER, ACTOR TURNED ENTREPRENEUR NYC MOM BECOMES SOLE AMERICAN DISTRIBUTOR OF BABY CARRIER

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by Jean Marie Strauss

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How does she do it? Like almost every other parent of young children, Madeline Reiss — actress, dancer and entrepreneur — does it two or three things at a time. So as this interviewer asked questions, the Manhattan mom held up her end of the conversation while simultaneously putting her 5-month-old daughter down for a nap. Reiss has two children and it was with the first, a son now 5 years old, that she began a quest for the perfect (or at least the most comfortable) baby carrier. During her search, she believes she tried just about every carrier on the market. Each one left her “crumpled on the floor” with shoulder pain and body and back aches. Flipping through a magazine one day, Reiss saw yet another carrier, the Hug-A-Bub. It looked interesting and she promptly ordered it; however, the company was out of the color she chose. After so many disappointments, Reiss was determined to order the carrier exactly as she wanted it. Costumer service was charming and helpful and hunted down a carrier in the preferred color. Impressed with the friendly service, Reiss struck up a casual email conversation with the owners. When the product arrived, however, the long bolt of fabric — which is the Hug-a-Bub — seemed daunting. Yet Reiss thought it was pretty and sat down to watch the accompanying instructional video. After one viewing, she felt confident enough to attempt the “wrap”. As soon as she placed her baby inside, she knew her quest was over. The Hug-a-Bub was extraordinarily comfortable. According to Reiss, the carrier takes the baby’s weight off the shoulders and back and redistributes it to the hips. She loved its versatility; a newborn’s head is well supported and an older child can face in or out. Reiss soon found that she didn’t have to walk more than a block or two before someone would stop her to inquire about the carrier. Sensing that “people really needed this,” she called Instinctive Parenting, Hug-a-Bub’s Australian creators and manufacturers, and asked if she could be their exclusive distributor in the United States. As a businessperson who stands by her product, Reiss has literally put the Hug-a-Bub, (which folds into its own pouch) through the wringer and assures that it will not run or stretch out. So far, the business is run, with a partner in New Jersey, from Reiss’ home, and the carriers, she says, sell themselves, mostly through word-of-mouth. She notes that the business is growing, adding that she has already fielded calls from major catalogs. Unlike urban parents, suburbanites find less need for baby carriers. However, Reiss and her partner hope to educate parents about the opportunities to carry their babies and the benefits of doing so. Madeline Reiss’ husband, Ron NaVarre, is the owner of Stress Defense, which provides a series of wellness programs. His company’s website now includes the Hug-a-Bub. Reiss and NaVarre have thus far been able to juggle work and family without the need for full-time help. But Reiss is quick to add, “We are not a super couple,” and they are happy to use babysitters from time to time. For now, Reiss continues to maintain her acting career, dance with Ballet Hispanico, and teach movement to actors at the Lee Strasberg Institute. However, she harbors no illusions that adding a growing business to this schedule will be easy, and that something may have to go if the business grows as she hopes. With family time paramount, teaching would probably be the first thing cut, she says, but adds, “Never acting!” Reiss hopes to bring something small and simple — but very comforting — to as many people as she can. The Hug-a-Bub carrier is $80. Call (212) 865-5709 ext. 3, visit www.stressdefense.com or email hugabubus@nyc.rr.com.

 


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