Like many first-time moms-to-be, Kate Marie Grinold Sigfusson, ESIA BA ’08, is in serious preparation-mode as her due date (April 2014!) approaches. She’s also in serious entrepreneur mode, having recently launched Babies4Babies, a luxury baby brand with a social impact mission to save lives.
If you’ve ever purchased a pair of Tom’s shoes, you know that “retail philanthropy” can make a huge impact on the world. And that’s exactly the philosophy behind Babies4Babies.
Through a “buy one, save two” model, the company empowers its customers to provide life-saving medical treatments—to babies around the world—through everyday purchases.
Babies4Babies offers premier baby swaddling blankets that are handmade and assembled at a fair wage, family-owned factory in Chicago, IL. When customers purchase one blanket, two babies in need will receive critical medical treatment as a result.
Sigfusson, who is founder and CEO of the organization, first had the idea during Thanksgiving 2012. A self-described “wantrepreneur,” Sigfusson had logged countless hours coming up with business ideas and conducting market research, but nothing really clicked—until Babies4Babies.
“I just was so passionate about it!” recalls Sigfusson, who has a background in non-profit work. “As a newlywed, I was trying to figure out how harmonize having a meaningful career and a family. Babies4Babies is my response to that challenge.”
It’s also part of promoting global child survival, a cause that is close to Sigfusson’s heart. With a background in international affairs, Sigfusson has been immersed in making a difference since graduating from GW in 2008.
A director on the FAIR Girls board, Sigfusson is the recipient of the 2011 Envest Foundation “40 Under 40” award and has been a World Economic Forum Global Shaper since 2010, co-founding the Chicago Global Shaper hub in 2012.
Now, she’s applying her expertise and passion to her own company.
Sigfusson credits her time at GW for not only inspiring her to change the world, but also for teaching her that the model for change need not be traditional.
“With Millennials, who are very innovation driven, rising into positions of economic and social influence,” explains Sigfusson, “I believe there’s an opportunity to create a powerful difference in the world through new social impact business models—GW was a big part of that.”
Today, Sigfusson is part of that difference through her hands-on approach to running Babies4Babies. From being on the factory floor to working with her diverse group of “mommy advisors” in order to test products, Sigfusson is involved with all aspects of her business—and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m learning something new every day,” she says. “This process is an education in and of itself, and it’s been fascinating.”
The learning process is likely to continue as Babies4Babies grows. Sigfusson’s vision is not only to provide both a superior product and aide to babies in need, but for her company to become a unique educational resource.
“I want our site to be a place to learn about global child survival, and to find out what you can do beyond retail philanthropy,” says Sigfusson.
Babies4Babies will also provide mom-to-mom advice and create a forum for parents to support one another as they care for and support their children.
With big goals ahead, both personally and professionally, Sigfusson is excited for what the coming year will bring. “I want my baby to grow with the brand and inspire it,” she explains. “Learning to be a mom will help me create new ideas and products.”
Sigfusson also has some ideas for aspiring entrepreneurs with a passion for social impact.
“When an idea or passion grabs hold of you, pay attention—then talk it through with the smartest people you know, regardless of what industry they’re in, and ask for advice,” she says.
“The reason I knew that Babies4Babies was an idea I needed to pursue was because it didn’t leave me. So, I did my market research, shared the business idea with mentors and friends, and welcomed feedback. The people I’ve met through the startup process – whether in technology or textiles —have all been willing to share their experiences and advice.”
It is this supportive spirit that both inspires Sigfusson and drives Babies4Babies’ work.
“Giving back is woven into who we are and what we do,” Sigfusson says. “Babies4Babies celebrates the joy of every baby born and it is our belief that together, company and customer, we can help mothers around the world keep their babies healthy and happy.”