We recently interviewed the founder of the Sleepyhead, Lisa Furuland Kotsianis to find out what inspired her to create this must have product which so many mums cannot live without, plus how she balances being a working mother and her recent work with the NHS.
What was life like before Sleepyhead?
I’ve always been interested in art and design. I studied art history at Stockholm University as well as professional photography and architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Sleepyhead is not my first business venture. And although no two businesses are the same, my first business prepared me well for running Sleepyhead. One of the key differences when launching Sleepyhead is that I was running it at the same time as I stepped into new motherhood. I developed the product due to a need I had as a new mother and to fill a void in the marketplace. I had to adapt to working motherhood quickly, and I’m sure any working mum will tell you that the balance between work commitments and family life is always the biggest challenge.
What inspired you to create the sleepyhead?
When my first son, Ilias, was born in 2006, I searched unsuccessfully for an alternative to a blanket, a cot and a baby lounger. Something that essentially mimicked the womb. I wanted something more cozy and that was also versatile and completely safe. We were (and sometimes still are!) a co-sleeping family. I wanted something that would enable us to comfortably and safely co-sleep with our children. That’s when I was inspired to create something new in the baby and children’s industry and Sleepyhead was born. It’s a safe and snug spot for mums to place their little ones at any time of day. I took all of the functionality aspects and paired them with exceptional materials sourced from top suppliers. I also wanted this product to multitask, so we could use it any time and in any room of the house. The Deluxe is great for co-sleeping and as a crib insert, and the Grand eases crib-to-big-bed transition. Lastly, functionality aside, being that I am passionate about design, I wanted to create something within the baby space that even design aficionados would embrace.
What was your greatest challenge when launching the product?
Marketing and getting into stores is always the biggest challenge for a new business. I was always very hands on with marketing and not afraid to pick up the phone personally to contact media. We also picked up some big retailer accounts early on with John Lewis, as well as winning some awards for being innovative, which I was so thankful for. Gradually, the word began to spread with mums sharing their experience with Sleepyhead with each other. You can’t beat a personal testimonial from a fellow mum friend, which is why the quality, practicality and construction of the product was always my key focus.
How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance (if you have one!)
Like most mums, I am very busy, but as much as I can, I try to prioritize family time before work. I know that these days when they are so young won’t last forever. I think it’s important to take a long-view of our lives even when the days seem long and hard, and I try to stay in the moment and be present with the children as much as possible. That said, I am a big believer in self-care for mothers, and I believe getting enough sleep in the early days is so essential for both mother and baby to bond.
Best piece of advice you have been given? And the worst?
Best advice is always “Don’t be afraid to take risks.” I always do something I am a little not ready to do. And it seems to work. That’s how I pave the way for things to happen. I stumble and fall at times, but what’s a small bruise in the big scheme?!
The worst advice I ever got was when it comes to parenting. Any variation on cry-it-out or separating babies from parents during the night was always something I instinctively rebelled against. I think it’s so important to keep them close for bonding.
Who/what are you most influenced by?
I draw my inspiration from art, design, architecture, photography and fashion. I take inspiration from the world around me and I’ve been fortunate enough to move with my family to Athens which provides a plethora of inspiration. The history, architecture, flora and fauna found in Greece has contributed to my new collection for Sleepyhead which launches early 2019.
How do you pass on your knowledge and experience to other women in a similar situation?
I work with entrepreneurial women around the world from all different backgrounds and disciplines including manufacturing, distribution, marketing, and design – just to name a few. By creating opportunities for women through my own venture, I share knowledge and experiences every day in practice. I have a great team which includes a lot of entrepreneurial women who bring a lot to the table, and I learn from them, too. Steve Jobs was right; it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we must hire smart people so they can tell us what to do. You are still ultimately in charge and the person held responsible, so the pressure is on 24-7, but support, a good team, is so important.
What other baby products could you not live without?
- A Sleepyhead, of course!
- A big family bed, as we are passionate bed-sharers. We’re all in on attachment parenting.
- A good nursing pillow.
Tell us about your experience of working with the NHS?
I am very proud that Sleepyhead is being used in a number of NHS hospitals and we are in touch with the hospitals regularly who keep us informed in regards to how they are using Sleepyhead. Our initial thoughts when working with the hospitals is that we could create a much cozier space inside big hospital beds, especially for children who may have prolonged hospital stays. However, we have been delighted to learn that Sleepyhead pods are being used during procedures and scans, especially with younger babies, as the pods help to calm them during examinations and procedures that may cause them stress. It’s also a wonderful tool since it lets them recover and rest. Sleep is such an essential part of recovery.
Additionally, we have been producing MRI and CT scan compatible Sleepyhead pods to provide children and babies a little more comfort during scans which might seem a little scary. Staff who have been using our MRI pods have been very impressed, explaining that the pods help to keep the children calm and relaxed, resulting in clearer scans in less time.