A lot can happen in the course of decade—especially in the baby gear business. And no one knows this better than Michael and Ellen Diamant, the husband-and-wife founders of Skip Hop, who have nurtured their brand from a single iconic diaper bag design to a full-fledged baby and toddler accessories powerhouse, selling everything from super cute backpacks and lunch boxes to developmental toys to—most recently—a clothing line.
“Parents always want something new and fresh, even if it is just a basic product,” Ellen Diamant, who generally handles the creative elements of the business, explains. “Over the last two or three years we saw a lot of blank space that we felt Skip Hop could fit into.”
The recently launched clothing line, composed of layettes for babies ages newborn to 9 months, also coincides with Skip Hop’s newest tag line, “Must-haves Made Better,” which serves to describe the sweet line of high-quality baby basics quite well.
“We’ve always loved clothing… [But] we thought: ‘So many people do clothing, so why go there?’” Ellen says. “Eventually though, we found a niche—we felt that there was a busy parent with good taste that wanted to buy a wardrobe that didn’t cost a fortune, and get it quickly. This thought prompted us to come up with this mix and match concept that is made up of basics.”
While the clothing line is the seventh product category in Skip Hop’s vast array of baby and toddler products, it is hardly an afterthought in the Diamants’ business strategy—by focusing on functional and attractive layettes, the Skip Hop clothing offerings (much like their answers to diaper bags, toys, and gear) speak to a specific niche in the baby gear market.
“We saw that when parents register for baby clothes, there are typically two options: Very basic, inexpensive clothes and then precious and special outfits that are more expensive,” Ellen says. “We wanted to provide parents with the option to buy an entire line that you can mix and match and not have to worry… You want parents to feel as if they’re creating the wardrobe and not being told how their kids should look. We feel like we are giving parents more control and helping them to feel unique.”
This creative, yet pragmatic, thought process has led the Diamants to create a vast array of other product categories in recent years as well, including products for on-the-go, mealtime, playtime, bath time, and nursery. With the exception of the layette line, many of Skip Hop’s products incorporate signature animal designs—contributing to their reputation for aesthetics as well as quality.
“We feel that parents care about what products look like aesthetically,” Ellen notes. “Although parents are sometimes only buying a bath toy,
they want it to be a really good-looking bath toy. [At Skip Hop] it’s a given that everything looks really nice and there is a well thought out design behind the products.”
In addition to championing the brand’s commitment to style and top-tier quality, Michael Diamant, who primarily handles the financial side of Skip Hop, also attributes the company’s success to recent changes in consumer trends. Due to an increase in social media usage (thanks to platforms like Etsy and Pinterest), parents have begun to embrace the roles of creator and curator when it comes to selecting products for their children. “This new curating trend is really changing the business,” Michael says. “For example, parents are moving away from the ‘nursery-in-a-box’ products. You see them buying a piece here and a piece there. Parents are moving towards mixing and matching.”
The Diamants have also learned that their customers are quite particular. “Even a little, inexpensive one-piece is important to [parents] because they are taking pictures and sharing with friends,” Ellen notes. “It’s very different than it used to be. Obviously, in every photo, parents want their kids to look great.”
In light of these trends, the Diamants believe that a little extra thought has the potential to go a long way in the baby business—especially since they’re able to offer Skip Hop’s range of distinctive wares at a middle-of-the-road price point, an aspect of their brand that has long contributed to its success.
“Our products are not at the lowest price point, but they are also not the highest,” Ellen says. “There is a lot of thought that goes into those few extra dollars. We’ve found that people will spend a little more money for a better product… We are mid-priced, but special. We always try to be innovative, taking into consideration what the parent wants.”
The attention to detail that both Ellen and Michael bring to the business goes hand-in-hand with how far they’ve come—with Ellen overseeing product design and development and Michael largely managing business matters—since launching their first diaper bag ten years ago. Despite their busy schedules, the Diamants, who are parents of a 14-year-old-son themselves, have both increasingly made it a priority over the years to enjoy quality family time.
“As anyone who is an entrepreneur knows, you really can’t ever leave work at work—you’re always working,” Ellen says. “Luckily we love it! Still, we try to tack on trips. For example when we had to go to Asia for business, we also brought our son. We tacked on a few extra days for vacation and try to do that as much as possible.” Adds Michael: “Even though we work all the time, one of our rules as a couple is to make some time for ourselves… We never wanted to be entrepreneurs that hadn’t taken a vacation in five years.”
The Diamant family also enjoys making the most of living in lively New York City—particularly when it comes to food. Not surprisingly, given their collective business sense, they are always on the hunt for top quality and value when it comes to the cuisines they crave: “We really love food, and are always looking for the best ramen restaurants,” Ellen admits.
To learn more about Skip Hop, visit skiphop.com!