Being an Entrepreneur for more than 20 years I have been involved in hundreds of different start-ups and projects as a founder, investor, or as a consultant. I love the thrill of seeing something that starts off as an idea and then comes to market through hard work and perseverance.
But from all the businesses I have been involved in in the past, this was is the one that is most personal to me. This one literally hits home.
My son Moishy, who will turn 11 on September 11th, lost oxygen at birth and hence has Cerebral Palsy and Microcephaly. His biggest claim to fame (so-far) is that he was the first Nefesh B’Nefesh baby born in Israel. My wife and I and our first child, Chaya Rochel, moved from Passaic to Bet Shemesh on the very first NBN flight in July 2002.
Because of Moishy’s CP, he has low muscle tone in his face which causes him to drool. A little more than a year ago, when Moishy came home from school one day it dawned on me that not only was he wearing a bib, but he was wearing it all day every day. It just did not look right to me and said to myself that a 10 year old child should not be wearing a bib no matter what condition he has.
So I searched and looked for something that was absorbent yet quick to dry, anti-bacterial & anti odor yet super comfortable and the product just did not exist! So I decided to create it.
I started researching samples of different materials and had them sent to me to try out. In the end it was a blend of Bamboo Rayon & organic cotton that did the trick. I decided to make it in a French Terry weave, like a thin towel, so that it would absorb. It was both Eco friendly and perfect for what I needed and so Mianzi was born!
I came up with the name Mianzi when looking up how to say Bamboo in different languages. As it turns out, bamboo in Swahili is Mianzi. As soon as I saw it I loved the name. A couple of months later I was doing some research and found that Mianzi means “A Face of Dignity & Prestige” in Chinese. Since the bamboo that my fabric is made out of is grown in China this became the perfect name for my company as with our clothing our goal is to bring dignity and prestige to the special needs and seniors market.
Now I know that I needed this product for my son, but was there a big enough need to justify the expense and effort to bring this to market?
To answer this question I decided to launch my project on KickStarter. KickStarter is a website where people can post all sorts of projects and receive pledges from “backers”. Backers not only get the good feeling for helping start something that is important to them, but they can also choose from a number of rewards. In our case we are giving out actual Mianzi shirts as the rewards since we have two versions of the shirts. We have the regular shirt which is perfect for everyone! It is an extremely comfortable shirt and pretty nice looking as well. For “the special needs” edition we insert an extra level of material to make sure our VIP customers are always kept dry.
The response so far (the project ends this Sunday 6pm Israel time) has been absolutely amazing! As of this post 432 people have backed this project and we have passed two of our seven goals having raised more than $22,000.
But even more importantly is the feedback I have received from other parents of special needs parents telling me how much this project means to them and how needed it actually is. Being the parent of a special needs child and creating something that other special needs children and adults around the world can use, makes this endeavor very personal indeed.
If you would like to see the shirts and watch the video, please click this link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kligman/shirts-to-drool-over-literally