Here at Belly Bandit HQ, a women-owned and operated company, we believe in celebrating the success of all women in business! Our "Moms Who Made It" series is our way of honoring mompreneurs who inspire us every day.
This month we're featuring Umma Shekhani, the founder of Swaddle Sleeves by Two Baby Bears and Co. These innovative weighted sleeves are designed to be used as a swaddle alternative or once your baby is rolling over or is ready to transition out of a traditional swaddle. The sleeves are gently weighted to help baby feel snug and secure - helping them get some serious Z's!
Describe your business philosophy in 5 words or less:
Keep going. Don’t give up!
What inspired you to go into business?
Funny story: I had always hoped to start my own business since the third grade, actually, when the word “entrepreneur” was in our vocabulary list one week. I just never believed that I could do be that person. But growing up, I always looked up to a family friend of my parents, who later went on to have 14(!) kids (don’t worry, I’m not having that many, haha!) and was one of the pioneers in organic skincare back in the ‘90s. She went on to create a multimillion dollar business while homeschooling her kids and traveling to Africa to source her raw ingredients from only women-owned farms there. I’ve always loved how her business was multi-faceted. She was not only providing premium, natural, organic skincare to her customers, but she was also living her feminist dream of empowering other women and making sure that they succeeded, too, alongside her.
So that’s always been in the back of my mind as I’ve started my own company. But here I was, back in April of 2016, with a 5-month-old who had developed a behavioral feeding aversion and would only sleep if he was held; I was suffering from undiagnosed PPD, crazy sleep deprived, and pregnant with Baby # 2, when I spoke with that same lady again, and in passing, she told me that lack of time had never been an issue with her. I still remember sitting there baffled over what she had just said and decided right then that I wasn’t going to let the excuse of “I don’t have time” stop me, either. If she could do it, so could I! I realized that I was never going to get a good chunk of time to do anything independently anymore, especially as a SAHM, but what mattered was being efficient in those little pockets of time that I did have, and the only way I would be able to do that was if I found something I was truly passionate about. And so I started dreaming again, and eventually, the idea for Swaddle Sleeves came to me as a result of my own real-life challenge in trying to get my daughter out of her swaddle.
I knew that I not only wanted to create a product that would address a specific pain point that parents were experiencing, but also cultivate a community of support and a safe space for moms to share their own stories with each other. And so we have been able to launch our full Swaddle Sleeves product line this year and Mama Bear Village simultaneously, and so far, it’s garnered an incredible response from mamas in our community!
You can read the special story behind our company name, “Two Baby Bears and Co.” and how Swaddle Sleeves came to be on our website, www.swaddlesleeves.com.
When did you know you “made it?”
I still don’t feel that I’ve made it just yet, but I truly believe that having learned all that I have in this first year of business is prepping our company for “making it” over the next few years! One moment that stands out, however, is when we got approval for our products from not only pediatricians, pediatric nurses, and industry-level safety tests, but also from arguably the most well-respected baby sleep expert in the world! That’s when I knew that we were really on to something and that we were just at the start of our successful entrepreneurial journey, especially because my “why” is larger than life itself—to honor our son who passed away in 2017.
Who is your mentor?
That’s a tough one because I can’t just name one! In general, I am completely in awe of women—moms, specifically—who are living intentionally and with passion and purpose, whether it’s a stay-at-home mom or a CEO of a major company. I would say, though, as an Indian/Pakistani American woman, I am super inspired by other female founders who are from a similar background as myself, like Payal Kadakia of Classpass, Suneera Madhani of Fattmerchant, and Deepica Mutyala of Live Tinted.
In my own industry, I am continually inspired by Hindi Zeidman of the Ollie World, Elle Rowley of Solly Baby, and Cara Dumaplin of Taking Cara Babies for the incredible amount of heart, passion, and purpose that they’ve put into their businesses and building their community.
And, of course, my husband. I would be remiss not to mention his unwavering support. He’s been my #1 cheerleader from the very beginning and believed that I was capable of launching my own company even when I didn’t believe it myself.
What’s your #1 tip for moms interested in starting their own business?
Be a self-starter. You have to begin somewhere, and direction or a “sign” of some sort isn’t just going to fall into your lap. I mean, it might, but chances are it really won’t be happening that way. For example, you can start by keeping an idea journal. If you have an idea, jot it down and then do something about it. Start a focus group. Make your own samples. Pass them out to friends and family to get some feedback. Then network. Make connections, and so on. YOU have to take the first step, and the next, and the next, and just keep going. Eventually, something will click and make sense. There will be some setbacks, and you will hear “no” over and over and over again, but you have to be your biggest champion—because it IS hard. Believing in yourself and your endeavor is the one thing that will keep propelling you forward, even when no one else believes in your vision. You are worthy of creating that company that you’ve been dreaming of for years. Give yourself permission to believe in yourself like you would for your friend. I believe in you. If I can do it, I promise you can, too.
Also, in this age of social media, learn how to use Canva for your graphics! Trust me—it’s a lifesaver and the ultimate tool that you need as you’re starting out and don’t have capital to hire tasks out. I’ve literally designed our whole website on my own using different online tools like Canva and YouTube tutorials. Play to your strengths and at the very least, familiarize yourself with the different aspects of running a business, even as you do start hiring and building your team later. There’s so much you can do and learn on your own when you start out!
What does “me” time mean to you?
Well, I had 4 babies in 3 years, so “me time” is a bit hard to come by, LOL. But I would say “me time” for me is more about recharging, and that might entail hanging out with friends and having a nice dinner together while getting some good, thought-provoking conversation in, or going to Target all by myself in the evening as my husband wrestles the kids into bed, or just spending some quality time with my twin sister on her porch swing with a coffee in hand.
What‘s on your bedside table?
A book of short prayers/supplications that I try to memorize weekly, water, lip balm, and “The Confidence Code” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.
Words To Live By
“Well-behaved women never make history.”