Our Upseat story
Shortly after our son Jack was born, we started to look for a baby seat; something that would allow him to practice sitting on the floor, explore his environment from an upright position, practice feeding himself, and free up our hands for a few minutes. We tried out available floor seats, but were’t happy Jack's posture in them, and how he was slouched over. And we weren’t alone. A lot of our family members and friends didn’t like the position that these floor seats put their babies in either.
So we went to the experts. We asked physiotherapists what we could do to facilitate better posture. They suggested that we avoid seats that were tilted backwards, and instead encouraged us to use a sitting wedge.
The sitting wedge encourages anterior pelvic tilt; a slight forward rotation of the pelvis, which engages the muscles responsible for proper, upright posture.
We tried the wedge and really noticed a difference with Jack’s posture. It was incredible! But it wasn’t really the hands-free solution that we were looking for. He couldn’t sit up on his own yet, and we couldn't attach a feeding tray to a sitting wedge. We looked for a baby seat with a forward tilt, but couldn’t find one anywhere.
So we set out to build our own seat for Jack. My background is in medical device development. When I mentioned to a medical device designer friend of mine what we were doing, he suggested that we start making prototypes out of window insulation foam. This was a great idea. The foam allowed us to very quickly and affordably put prototypes together, test and optimize various angles and configurations of the seat, and add/remove foam to incorporate feedback from our seating experts.
Jack was our first test subject. We also tested prototypes in a number of daycares, collecting feedback from parents and caregivers.
We also collected feedback from 50 physiotherapists. And they loved it!
But, they also mentioned that something else that they really don’t like about other seats is they force babies’ legs together and restrict hip movement. "When a baby is born, their hips are not fully developed, and they change dramatically over the first year of life. And you don’t want to interfere with their hip development." Their message was was consistent with the guidance offered by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute: “The healthiest position for hips is for the hips to fall or spread apart to the side…Free movement of the hips without forcing them together promotes natural hip development."
So we implemented a really large pommel, and really wide leg grooves, to place the babies’ hips in a position thats is safe and doesn’t interfere with hip development.
The seat worked really well for Jack and for other kids, and our seating experts REALLY liked it. We had something. So we were encouraged to make the Upseat available to other families. We developed tooling and started making small batches of Upseats here in Canada.
At this point, my wife Kim convinced me that we should try out for CBC’s Dragon’s Den. We made it past screening, and were selected to be filmed. The Dragon’s immediately saw the benefits of the Upseat, commenting on how well babies were “sitting upright”, how they “sit so well”, and how they were “more in control”. This is what ultimately lead to a bidding war between 5 of the Dragons.
Then, shortly after we filmed for Dragon’s Den, the President of Canadian Tire Retail surprised us at our door with a camera crew. He told us that we were one of two Dragon’s Den companies selected to be fast-tracked and launched in 500+ Canadian Tire stores across Canada….in just a few months. This was an amazing opportunity for us, and forced us to scale up very quickly.
The reception of the Upseat by the market has continued to be positive. We're incredibly grateful for all the support that we've received from physiotherapists, occupational therapists, our amazing customers, CBC's Dragon's Den, and our incredible retailers including Snuggle Bugz, Baby's R US, and Canadian tire. We can't thank you enough.
Steve Pankratz, Founder, Upseat