Necessity: Literally the "Mother of Invention"
Michal Chesal, Baby K'tan: A Baby Carrier Born From Necessity
After two baby showers, Michal Chesal owned a ton of baby gear and felt fully prepared for the birth of her first baby. But then something happened that she wasn't prepared for: Her baby, Coby, was born in December 1999 with Down syndrome. Immediately after Coby's birth, Chesal entered into a whirlwind of therapies, classes and adjustments. But when the therapist told her that her baby carrier wasn't good for Coby because of his low muscle tone, it was the final straw. "I thought, 'Great, one more thing I can't do,'" Chesal said. "But that's when I started to get creative."
Experimenting with products, Chesal put two slings together to create a baby carrier that provided Coby with the support he needed. People constantly asked Chesal, who worked as a director of academic affairs for a university based in Israel, where she got the unique carrier. But she didn't seriously consider starting a business until her friends, Isaac and Aviva Wernick, borrowed the carrier after their baby's open heart surgery and encouraged her to bring her creation to market.
Now in business with Isaac, Chesal sells about $1 million worth of the Baby K'tan internationally each year through roughly 700 specialty shops and chains including Buy Buy Baby and Bed Bath & Beyond. She has even tapped that must-have market for baby businesses: celebrity parents, including Patrick Dempsey and Jenna Fischer. But Chesal's biggest accomplishment has been to provide not only physical comfort and support for babies through Baby K'tan, but also comfort and support for her own children, Coby, now 12, Noa, 9, and Ally, 7, as a single mother.
How did you find out your son had Down syndrome?
We suspected it when he was born, but tests confirmed it when he was two weeks old. He had low muscle tone, so even though looking back, it was so obvious, I was young, and this was my first kid. I had no idea that newborns' arms don't typically flop around. Those first two weeks, waiting for the test results, were a whirlwind. And when I got the news, it was like being hit on the head with a baseball bat. It was just out of left field, the last thing I expected. It was definitely a huge shocker...
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