Trusting Your Intuition
How does someone on Maui go from living out her van to creating a multi-million dollar company? Karin Frost, founder of Ergobaby and Haleakala Solar customer did just that. Here’s her amazing story...
Karin Frost moved from Wisconsin to Maui in the mid-1990s, and took on a free-spirited lifestyle working odd jobs. Rent was too expensive, so for the first few months she lived in a Volkswagen van and showered at the beach. Frost moved back to Wisconsin, but decided to sell her home there and returned to Maui in 1997. This time, Frost, who had a master's degree in clothing design, decided to start her own business and designed two lines of clothing. Though her products were well made, the price points couldn’t work in Hawaii’s markets and she eventually shut it down.
In 2001, Frost had a son, Keala. She was disappointed with the baby carriers on the market. She sought one that was comfortable and would keep Keala as close to her body as possible for optimal early child development, an idea made popular by author Jean Liedloff called the "Continuum Concept". She decided to design her own carrier.
The first thing Frost set out to do was incorporate the principle of many indigenous cultures around the world in which mothers would carry their babies in a special baby sling while doing daily chores.
“Indigenous people didn’t stop and put their babies in a crib and watch them until they started crying. They put them on their body and went back out into the field or got back to the loom or whatever they needed to do, and the child came along. I wanted to create something that would allow me to comfortably do the same thing.”
After awhile Frost came up with the first of many versions of what would eventually become the Ergobaby carrier. She placed her baby in the new device and went about the daily activities around the home. “It allowed him to be close. I felt like he was part of my weight. I loved it!”.
As Frost went around town, people started asking her about her homemade baby carrier. They saw how practical and well made it was and wanted one for themselves. Soon she was selling them about as fast as she could make them. A friend who was having sails made in the Orient knew a company that could produce the carrier for a small minimum. She decided to take the leap. Her first order was for 200 units. As soon as she got them, they flew out the door. It was an instant success.
“Other than a website, we didn’t do any marketing for years. It all came to us. I mean, huge, big stuff. Like ‘Parenting Magazine’ had their 20th anniversary and they highlighted the 20 Best Baby Products in the last 20 years, and we were one of those - it was huge! Elisabeth Hasselbeck, from the View, got pregnant and she highlighted our product and said, ‘This is amazing!’. Things like that.”
Sales boomed. In 2010, Compass Diversified Holdings, offered to purchase the company from her. She liked the way they ran things, Karin was ready to move on and they agreed. Ergobaby, a company started with just a mother’s desire to more comfortably carry her child, sold for several millions of dollars.
Throughout the course of Ergobaby, Frost says trusting her intuition was very important when key decisions needed to be made. “Am I making that choice out of a love or fear?” Frost explains another factor in the success of the company, making the world a better place.
This leads us to why she decided to get a solar photovoltaic system for her home. Yes, there would be money savings in the long run, but there were other more important factors. “Sustainability is good for the planet. It’s good for our generation as well as the next generation. The more compassion we can give ourselves, the more compassion we can give the earth.”
And why Haleakala Solar?
“I tried with other companies on the island, getting quotes and they were relatively disorganized, and this was probably, a couple years prior to actually connecting with Haleakala Solar. That was my dad’s doing. My father took it by the reins because he’s like that. He’s much more mechanically inclined. Their response was very quick and very organized and professional and so it just really flowed from there. I had tried with a couple others and it was just not quite right.”
And getting things right is something that’s important for Frost. It’s why she created her first baby carrier. It’s what’s guided her throughout her life. When Frost looks back on the journey of Ergobaby, she is astonished at where it has taken her and how successful it truly became. It is an inspiring story of how one person, with little more than an innovative idea, hard work and determination, not only built a company worth millions, but was able to help countless others to have closer connections and relationships with their children.