Our Story

3 minute read

In 2019, a pediatric occupational therapist working at a children's hospital in Columbus, Ohio, wanted to help parents master the skills needed for their young infants and toddlers to reach their developmental milestones. Maria (pictured, far right) understood the crucial importance of the first few years, so she began offering private, personalized teaching sessions to parents and caregivers outside of the hospital setting.

Though she had a couple of initial customers, Maria wanted to help more families and scale her business, so she reached out to two entrepreneur-minded friends, Jerry and Phillip, for some help. The challenge was that Maria could only be in one place at a time. Ultimately, the issues of accessibility and affordability made scaling her business too difficult, forcing Maria to shut it down in 2021.

A few years later in April 2023, Jerry and Phillip, college friends eager to collaborate on another entrepreneurial project together, were having dinner one evening with their wives. Phillip, expecting his first child in a few weeks, expressed his concerns about the high costs of baby essentials (toys, diapers, daycare, etc.) and the overwhelming nature of parenthood.

During their dinner that evening, the idea emerged: selling an affordable baby product under $10; designed with a developmental focus by Maria, a pediatric expert; easily accessible to moms, dads, and parental guardians through Amazon; offered in multiple languages to be more accommodating to parents and caregivers compared to what was already in the market; and a promise amongst each other to give back to the community where and when they could along the way.

Phillip purchased the domain name after dinner that evening, and The Happy Start was born.

The two began searching for a product to sell. Under Maria's guidance, Jerry and Phillip decided on two high contrast baby products: a standing board book and a set of vision cards. They focused on simplicity with a developmental approach, using engaging black-and-white images along with high contrast red and green images, the first colors infants can see.

After weeks of searching, Jerry and Phillip found two manufacturers in Asia. Being first-time sellers on Amazon was daunting, so they had to navigate the complexities of setting up their store and product listings. Phillip and Jerry hired a local photographer to create their Amazon photos. A product testing facility in Georgia assisted them to make sure they were meeting all of the children's toy compliance requirements in the U.S. They sought help from wherever they could find it.

Phillip's son, Noah, was born a few weeks later (pictured below). During Phillip's paternity leave, he and Jerry with Maria's help continued to design and build prototypes, trying to bring their side hustle closer to life. Because his office was transformed into his son's nursery, Phillip often worked on The Happy Start out of his garage, which also served as the company's warehouse.

In September 2023, The Happy Start began selling their two products on Amazon. Despite the demands of their full-time jobs, Jerry and Phillip continued working nights and weekends to bring their vision to life. Their efforts started to paid off, as their high contrast board books and vision cards were being used in several U.S. children's hospital networks across the U.S., primarily through their donations.

Jerry and Phillip (pictured, left to right) wanted to make sure they were giving back to the community. So, they established a donation pledge, promising to donate 10% or more of the total number of unit sales their company made each year. For example, if the company sold 1,000 units in a given year, they pledged to donate at least 100 units to clinics, hospitals, non-profits, and individuals in need.

As of June 2024, The Happy Start has donated to 17 hospital networks and over 20 daycares across 15 states and D.C., as well as to a handful of local non-profits and individuals the two have met along the way.

Jerry and Phillip remain dedicated to ensuring their company's products remain affordable, accessible, and accommodating for parents across all communities and socio-economic backgrounds. Community support is central to their mission, which helps to positively impact families and caregivers as much as possible.

Please share your 'THS' stories and photos with Jerry and Phillip via email - hello@thehappystart.com