Dahlia Rizk, founder. Courtesy photos.
Wrestling a toddler in out and out of a winter jacket and into a car seat is enough to drain the jolly out of any parent during the holiday season. Fresh out of a top 10 placement in a national competition, a Londonderry entrepreneur is ready to reach even more customers this winter with a product she designed to keep kids cozy and safe while keeping their parents sane.
Buckle Me Baby Coats produces children’s coats designed to close over the buckles of car seats to ensure children can be safely buckled in during cold winter months. Demand has been high, and the coats have sold out every year since Dahlia Rizk launched the business four years ago. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, coats or bulky clothing should not be worn in car seats because they prevent the harness from properly fitting. Rizk says busy parents struggle to keep up with recommendations. So, she created a winter coat that can be closed over the car seat harness.
Rizk was one of 10 finalists in the national competition run by Harmon Brothers, a Utah-based social media ad agency, which has driven more than $350 million in sales with its social media campaigns for Squatty Potty, Purple, and Poo-Pourri. She says she gained valuable experience in the Harmon Brothers “Poop to Gold Giveaway,” a contest to boost businesses hard-hit by COVID-19 with an advertising campaign prize valued at $100,000.
“They enrolled us in the Harmon Brothers University as part of the contest, and that was the real meat of the prize,” says Rizk. “I created 10 videos out of that coursework. They walk you through every step of the video-making process. I had a creative director who would edit the videos with me. I’m a small business. I don’t have a team, an editor, a graphic designer, so for me that was the jackpot.”
Although Rizk came up with the design for Buckle Me Baby Coats when her children were young, it wasn’t until years later that she launched a business. “The really pivotal moment for me was one day as I was walking into my office, on this disgusting day in March where it’s like slushy and gross and steel gray and you’re sick of winter, sick of parking lots and sick of cars. This woman had her daughter wrapped in a blanket, and she looked so defeated and miserable.”
Rizk says her own kids had long since grown out of car seats, and still no manufacturer had tackled this issue. So, she decided to give it a go. “I made a sample coat, I made a video with my nephew and put it on Facebook, and it went crazy.”
Rizk says she sold about $650,000 worth of coats this year, and her business grows between 300 and 400% every year, yet she is still a company of one.
“It’s been growing so fast. Every year, I think, I can hire people and make my life easier, or I can put all that cash toward more coats because I sell out every year,” she says.
While in the enviable position of not having any real competitors, Rizk says she would welcome greater interest as she knows she cannot meet the need alone. “I have talked to manufacturers from time to time, they just don’t feel coats need a redesign,” she says. “I’ve heard every reason under the sun, but I’m doing it and I have no manufacturing experience, no production experience, no advertising experience. I’m a mental health counselor from Londonderry, New Hampshire; I feel like it can be done.”
To help raise awareness, Rizk takes part in the KIDZ IN MOTION National Child Passenger Safety Conference and presented at the 2020 Safe Kids Worldwide webinar. But she says the most efficient way to educate people about the danger is through Facebook.
“That was one of the best things about Harmon. I had been doing videos for so long on my own and wondered how many different ways I could say the same thing … and Harmon’s response was, ‘We could talk about this in 30 different ways.’” She adds the new videos have been well received.
In 2018, Rizk was one of 10 companies to win a FedEx small business grant and placed second in the 2019 Nationwide Insurance Pitch to Win competition where she won $20,000.
For more information, visit bucklemecoats.com.