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Grace Welch

October 14th, 2008 · 121 Comments

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Founder, Patemm

The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round. Not baby changing pads. At least not until Grace Welch invented Patemm. Grace’s curvaceous idea took shape in April, 2004 when, struggling to diaper her daughter on an awkward, rectangular strip of plastic, Grace found herself fed up with its straight sides, small size and lack of storage space. Instead of settling, she immediately fashioned a perfect circle prototype, hired a manufacturer and started selling Patemm circular changing pads online three months later. Grace has since appeared on The Big Idea with Donny Deutch, the Today Show, Oprah, and has partnered with Target.

Patemm pads are practicality in motion. They’re equipped with pockets, they fold, and they let Li’l Britches wriggle and scoot and still stay centered. But though Patemm has earned 1.2 million in online sales, Grace didn’t start the company to reap big bucks. From the very beginning she was happy just to make motherhood easier. Like her Patemm pads, she never had an angle.

What we learned from Grace: Good things come to those who ask a lot of questions, persevere and set clear priorities. A production meeting can wait 24 hours. There’s only one first day of pre-school.

Building From The Bottom Up

In April 2004 I was changing my 2nd child’s diaper while talking to my sister about possibly starting my own business. As my daughter squirmed all over her rectangular changing pad I barked orders at my sister to get the diaper bag, find the wipes, and pick up the pad which had fallen on the floor. I said, “Wouldn’t it be great if someone made a round changing pad with pockets for storing wipes and diapers?” And that was it. I changed a diaper and, boom, there was my business.

Time For A Change

I started doing research and realized there wasn’t a round changing pad out there. Within weeks I created a prototype out of red construction paper. Then for Mother’s Day my dear mom bought me a basic Singer sewing machine. I vaguely remembered 5th grade home economics and knew the term “bobbin,” though not what it did, but I started sewing anyway. I bought fabric scraps and sewed at night on the floor. I looked like I was playing Twister.

Limitations Aren’t Limiting

I’m a horrible seamstress. I realized I had to find a professional, so I picked up the Yellow Pages, contacted a pattern maker, and she made my product. My husband looked at it and said, “You need the best patent attorney in the city.” He’s a parent. He got it.

Connecting With Customers

I found a local manufacturer in June of 2004, hired a web designer and started learning how to run a business. But I was never interested in putting Patemm in hundreds of stores; I was all about selling a quality product and building the Patemm brand. I did it by taking my kids and my samples to the park and handing out Patemm pads to moms. I asked them to contact me with their thoughts. This was my market research. I knew I wanted to sell my solution-oriented invention exclusively online, directly to the people who would actually use it.

Birth Of A “Baby”

We launched the Patemm Web site in July, 2004. Then I rolled up my sleeves and sent out press releases and product samples to baby and parenting magazines. I emailed everyone I knew saying I’d had another “baby.” Almost immediately after my first write up in Urban Baby my cell phone started buzzing with orders.

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