Alumni Spotlight: Kelly Deimel, FMM ’09

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Kelly Deimel (FMM ’09), Bobo Buddy co-founder, with business partner and sister-in-law, Raquel Taylor

Why did you choose FIT?
I always knew I wanted to go to college in a big city, coming from the small town of Erie, Pennsylvania. After talking to a close girlfriend who was set on applying to school there, I figured it was worth taking a look myself. My Mom and I flew to New York and I fell in love with not only the city, but the school. There was no turning back.

What would you consider an FIT gem?
I would say FIT’s gem is definitely 27th Street. It’s so refreshing sitting outside watching the students and faculty express their style right before your eyes! The street transforms into a runway show during the day.

Since graduating in 2009, you co-founded Bobo Buddy which is quickly growing! Tell us about the business.
We founded Bobo Buddy in 2012 with the mission to fill a void in the marketplace and provide parents and babies with the highest quality plush toy that also has a purposeful function.

What are some of the product features?
Bobo Buddy is a small plush animal attachment that fits virtually any pacifier on the market. Babies can easily locate and maneuver the pacifiers into their mouths without assistance, thus feeling comforted by the soft and gentle texture of the animal. As the child develops, they become attached to the toy and not the pacifier so the transition down the line becomes easier. For parents, middle of the night searching for lost pacifiers is completely eliminated. The pacifier and the attachment can both be thoroughly washed separately.

How did the idea for this kind of product come about?
My sister-in-law had triplet girls in 2008. All three babies were born premature, so she relied heavily on pacifiers to soothe and comfort them until it was time for the next feeding. From the beginning there were constant issues with lost pacifiers; the girls would spit them out and not be able to put them back in their mouths. We were aware of a product on the market that had a hospital pacifier permanently attached to a plush animal, but there were several problems with that product. It was not machine washable and all her girls had severe reflux, it was expensive, and it was only available online. We decided to create a product that would meet the needs of both parents and children alike.

Talk a bit about the recognition and awards Bobo Buddy has received and some of the causes you’re involved in.
This year Bobo Buddy has won the PAL Award for inspiring kids and caregivers to engage in rich communication and interaction, the Creative Child Award and most recently the PTPA Award. At Bobo Buddy we realize that everyday in this country children are going to bed with empty bellies. For that, we are very dedicated to fighting childhood hunger here in America. A portion of the profits from every Bobo Buddy sold is donated to help end childhood hunger.

Bobo buddy Lea

The product was recently picked up by Walmart and is sold nationwide. What has that experience been like and what does this kind of reach means for your company?
We had been working with Walmart for about nine months or so before the product hit stores this past January. We were beyond excited for its debut. The Walmart team has been really exceptional to work with so we were very lucky. When I saw our product on Walmart’s shelf for the first time, I instantly became emotional and thought about my classes at FIT. I vividly remember Professor Johnson’s product development class and learning about all of this. It was a full circle moment to say the least.

That must’ve been a very gratifying moment, especially in this competitive marketplace for baby products. How has being a women-owned company factored in?
It’s very important to find a niche and unique ways to set your business apart within that niche. We view our status as a minority and women-owned company as a positive, an empowering plus providing us with endless opportunity. One of the great things Walmart and Women In Toys (WIT) has committed to doing is partnering with women-owned businesses in all parts of the world, giving women a platform to make a difference in their communities. Many of the top Fortune 500 companies are run by powerful women. As female business owners, this fills us with pride.

Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
For the longest time, I would say I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve had many, many ideas from a men’s suit rental company to an event planning business to owning a home decorating/baby store. Only time will tell what will unfold, but I know one thing for sure: You have to do what makes you happy!

Do you have any exciting ventures in the works?
To say 2014 will be filled with exciting adventures would be an understatement. For one, I am getting married in May to my love and best friend! That certainly takes the cake, but as for the business, we are reaching for the stars. We will be attending 2014’s Toy Fair as Keynote Speakers for the Walmart and Women In Toy’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative. In March we will be in LA for Big City Mom’s Biggest Baby Shower, the ABC show in October and much, much more in between. As we look ahead, store expansion and line extensions are on the horizon!

We are excited to see it all unfold! What advice would you like to share with peers and current students?
I think what I’ve learned the most is that there is never a perfect time to start something new. Bobo Buddy came about at the most unassuming time while I was juggling a full time job and planning my wedding. If you want something badly be willing to seize the opportunity when it’s presented to you, even when you least expect it.

For more information about Bobo Buddy, email Kelly Deimel at kelly@bobo-buddy.com

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