Success Through Play™ had the pleasure to talk with Bill Devin, who together with his wife Dee-Dee co-founded the Over the Shoulder Baby Holder Company in 1987

Please can you share with our readers your journey that led you to develop the Over the Shoulder Baby Holder™ and establish your company in 1987?

Back in 1981 Dee-Dee joined our local La Leche League (LLL) while expecting Elsa, our oldest of 4. I had studied child psychology and child development and earned teaching credentials in special education (learning disabled) and regular education. My education was valuable, but did not prepare us for the reality of, and decisions to be made regarding pregnancy, birthing and nurturing an infant. Fortunately, LLL was there. Our new LLL friends shared with us many loving and healthy parenting principals including, healthy choices available in growing our baby in the womb, healthy options in birthing our baby, breastfeeding our baby, co-sleeping, and though the terms used were different at the time, attached parenting and baby wearing, and in general bonding with and loving our babies to the max. Jean Liedloff's '70's classic, The Continuum Concept was influential for us. As a couple, we made the commitment to "carry and be in touch with" our babies every moment they were awake for at least the first 6 to 12 months, love them in our family bed, and breastfeed on demand for as long as they desired.

Rayner Garner and Sachi Yoshimoto designed the two-ring sling that they called the "Baby Sling" in 1981 to use with their daughter Fonda who was just about our first daughter Elsa's age. They were sewing them on a one-of basis. When Aubrey, our second was born in 1986, a close-by neighbor, Michael Weaver, stopped at a yard sale we were having, and was wearing one of Rayner and Sachi's slings. We immediately got one through him for Aubrey, and Dee-Dee and I fell in love with it. We thought, why not manufacture them since no one else is? We were both from large families of self employed parents so it seemed only natural to follow in their footsteps and start our own home business. Several months after starting production, we discovered that our near neighbors Dr. William & Martha Sears had been buying and selling (via Michael Weaver) Rayner & Sachi's slings, and we briefly discussed the possibility of a joint venture with the Sears. About 6 months later Sears obtained a licensing agreement from Rayner and began marketing what later became know as the SlingEzee. About a year after that Sears sub-licensed the "Original Baby Sling" to Nojo, and increasingly over the years, a vast variety of slings have become available to our precious babies.

Taking it one step further, we began to offer distributorship opportunities to others to not only benefit their babies, but help support their families as well. Our motto has evolved into ‘Families helping Families’. We are small, but we are proud and blessed to have grown from our very humble home where we personally hand made the first OTSBH’s in our second bedroom. We marketed them first from a garage sale, then loaded up our VW station wagon and headed out at 5:00 a.m. to our local swap meet. From there we hit every art and craft show, baby faire, asparagus festival, strawberry festival, ocean festival and pumpkin festival etc. in the west coast. It wasn’t long before we had to move into a bigger house, then to a small shop with our first employees.

Our business was not only built on a good thing, but believing in a good thing. We are thankful daily doing what we love best. However, it doesn’t quite fit into the mold of what others call work, it’s more like a labor of love~

Can you comment on the design of your nylon rings?

We have tested our rings at over 1,000 pounds of lift strength. In the past we used a 6 6 nylon material which is the industry standard for applications such as ours where a high snap strength is required. We used many tens of thousands of these rings successfully. But moving forward, almost a decade ago, we changed to an even stronger and more exotic material that was developed for applications such as BMX (bicycle moto-cross) wheels (these bikes are raced and ridden off of jumps at high speeds). The material suppliers, the mold & dye maker and injection molder all feel that we go overboard in insuring that our rings will be fail proof. All of these safeguards add to the cost of the rings, but we feel it is money well spent. Our diligence has paid off; we have sold many tens of thousands of rings with this more exotic material described above, and have not had one failure. Your baby's safety is our priority.

Where are your slings made and in what type of environment?

Each sling is made in Orange County California, USA. Both our family and business are environmentally conscience. The sewers are all moms and each mom is supplied with a professional sewing machine and training as needed. We are proud that we have a good working relationship in that over half of them have been sewing for us since we started in 1987, and our "newcomers" have been around a long time by employment standards".

A personal note from Bill and Dee Dee Devin note:

When we first began making sling, we hoped that a majority of parents world-wide would recognize the value of slings as they so aptly facilitated raising babies "in touch" with their parents. We hoped parents who overuse the baby buckets, strollers/prams and other devices that raise babies "away" from their bodies would use them more discerningly. Well, by and large that has not happened yet, but today there is a following for slings and hundreds of thousands of babies in western cultures have had the opportunity to be raised attached to people the way babies in other cultures have since creation-the way it was meant to be. Over all these years many of the babies that were raised in the OTSBH have grown into young adults and becoming-young-adults, and the results are very heartwarming. The magical bonding that occurs when a baby is raised attached optimizes connection between people, and that connection produces characteristics that make a difference for a lifetime. We are seeing young people grow up who are showing love and consideration for others-they are showing maturity that is beyond the cultural norm for their age group. They are showing healthy confidence in themselves that allows them to develop more to their potential, and to build relationships with others that are based on healthy values. Dee-Dee and I are the proud parents of 4 such young people, and we are very aware that it is not because we are extraordinary parents (we have plenty of faults that we are still working on), but because so many special people unselfishly shared with us this beautiful way to parent our children, we have been blessed in so many ways. We see Success Through Play™ as having the same vision for our children as we have, and it is our pleasure to partner with you in making our planet a better place for all.

Carry On,
Bill & Dee-Dee Devin/Over the Shoulder Baby Holder™ baby slings/parents of Elsa, Aubrey, Hana Lei and Josiah (natural, natural, natural-frank-breech & natural-at-home) (breastfed 10 years total)

"To the world you might be just one person, but to one person you just might be the world"

"You must be what you want your children to become"

Stay tuned for Part II.

1 comment:

Cara said...

Great article. It is always nice to get behind the scenes and learn more about the people behind the products!