WV mom whips up her product idea , MightyTykes, right out of her own basement
It’s mompreneur Monday and our next Mompreneur Rockstar will have you feeling beyond inspired. I just loves stories like this one! I don’t want to spoil it for you so I am not giving away any of the deets, you’re just going to have to read for yourself 🙂
Welcome to Mompreneur Media, Isabella, please tell us about yourself :
I was born Isabella Campolattaro in Southern California in 1967. My parents were Italian immigrants who came here later in life, so I have the luxury of being bilingual and with all of my family connections in Italy, have visited there pretty often since childhood.
I was raised largely in suburban Maryland and while my parents were extraordinary people, our home was deeply dysfunctional—lots of drama including addiction, mental illness and wild fluctuations between affluence and deep poverty. Partly because of this background, I started working very young and was driven to excel.
As a result, I was given a lot of interesting opportunities and worked with some demanding, but talented bosses, which helped me develop many useful skills. Though my background served me really well professionally, I felt a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction, no matter what I achieved. I was on the fast track in corporate communications with a Fortune 1000 company when I started to feel really restless. Eventually, I left corporate America, married my husband Ray, an artist and addictions counselor, and moved to the tiny arts colony of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. A few years later, my first son Pierce was born.
I shifted my focus to freelance writing, to care for Pierce and to start work on a graduate degree in management and public relations. Then, early in my second pregnancy, I learned that Isaac would have some kind of genetic condition. We declined further testing to get a concrete diagnosis, even though I strongly suspected Down syndrome from the very start.
When Isaac was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome, my world seemed to fall apart. Initially, I was angry, confused and overwhelmed…even while I deeply loved Isaac. Among many other concerns, I admit I didn’t really see myself as a special needs mom. Somehow, the turn of events seemed unjust, particularly given my challenging personal history. That was a really hard time, but it was also a time of extraordinary personal growth.
The idea for MightyTykes emerged early in this process (more later), and was a positive focus for me during a challenging time. Honestly, I believe this is how God works, marshalling all our life experiences—positive and “negative”—to achieve something bigger than ourselves…assuming we allow the process to run its course.
In this journey, in life, with Isaac and with MightyTykes, I’ve found I’ve tapped all my experiences and long-forgotten professional skills. The outcome has been nothing short of miraculous. Isaac has turned out to be an extraordinary blessing to us and to possibly countless others. And me? I continue to grow through this experience…as a mom, as a professional woman and simply as a human being. Today, I could not be happier and more deeply satisfied.
Where did the MightyTykes idea come from?
It all started when my son Isaac was born with Down syndrome. I was told that one of the challenges he’d face was hypotonia—low muscle tone and weakness common to kids with DS and many other conditions. Until then, I hadn’t even considered how something as basic as weakness could not only impair a child’s timely mobility, but in turn, their ability to fully explore their environment and connect with others.
My mommy brain promptly went to work. I used some leftover fleece and my kids’ sandbox sand to whip up a tiny pair of weights in my basement. When Isaac’s early intervention physical therapist saw them, she was really impressed, telling me they could be helpful to a lot of kids with many different diagnoses including cerebral palsy, prematurity, autism and even typically-developing children with various challenges.
So began a journey that three years later, led to securing economic development funding to launch MightyTykes™ Infant & Child Weights () and officially unveiling the product in May, 2014.
What ages are MightyTykes suitable for?
There’s really no age limit, though they were designed for an early intervention population in mind, and that’s 6 months to age 5 or so. Older kids, adults and seniors can all use them.
What type of benefits can children get from using MightyTykes?
MightyTykes were originally designed to address the weakness associated with hypotonia, but I soon learned that they’re very helpful with one-sided weakness common in cerebral palsy/infant stroke, toe-walking and sensory issues common in autism, for instance.
In fact, during our limited trial, we found that most of our testimonials were from kids using them for issues other than hypotonia, per se. A surprise for me.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a mompreneur?
Hmmm. There were lots. From a practical standpoint, there were many challenges to overcome to get a mom’s basement project to a safe, affordable, high quality and commercially-viable product for kids. It was also challenging since I really wanted them to be made in America, which these days, is harder than you’d think.
Getting financing was no mean feat either! But I had a lot of help there, too. Namely, my SBA business coach, who helped take my business plan to the next level.
From a more personal standpoint, it was difficult to let go of my secure and financially comfortable “day job” as a freelance writer and to resign several volunteer activities to make room for MightyTykes to succeed. Not only was it challenging to surrender my security blankets and identity in those roles, but it was painful that not everyone was supportive or thrilled with my leap of faith. Kinda hurt.
It was also difficult to sustain my commitment during some of the more challenging times, but I will tell you that an unseen hand would always seem to be deliver encouragement at just the right moment. One example: Hearing from a special needs mom who told me the prototype weights were being used at one of the country’s top hospitals and that they were helping her daughter. Fuel to keep the faith for sure! Another time, after a desperate rant about some problem we’d encountered, my business coach sent me an email that said simply, “keep going.” At that moment, it was enough.
What 1 tip can you share that has helped you “keep it together” as a mom business owner?
Be family-friendly by keeping your family and self-care a top priority for you, your employees and other colleagues. Make room for noisy kids on conference calls, involve your family in decisions, and “punch out” early and on weekends no matter what—and extend the same privilege to others. You’ll have more creative energy and the work will get done when it needs to.
1 website you like to browse for fun
I still prefer to read books and magazines for fun—albeit on my iPad:-)!
Founded by a special needs mom,designs and sells great gear for special kids. Its first product, Infant & Child Weights, are designed to help weakness, particularly one-sided weakness, poor muscle tone (hypotonia), toe-walking, tremors & palsic movements and sensory issues.
These symptoms are often associated with conditions such as infant stroke, prematurity, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, and autism among many others.
As important as our product is our cornerstone message that we’re Different by Design. Human value is not determined by abilities, attributes or achievements. God has a good purpose for every life. Each one of us deserves every chance to be all we can be. We think that’s a message we can all get behind.
MightyTykes products are designed by a mom, tested by therapists, are waterproof, latex and lead free, CPSIA-compliant, and made in the USA. For more information, please visit MightyTykes.com and like us on Facebook!
Connect with Isabella Yosuico
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