A few years ago, when Kaitlyn Pierce’s oldest daughter was just about to turn three, the Pittsfield mom set a goal to reach by milestone birthday: ditch the pacifier. At 2 years old, Sylvia had her binky at bedtime only – but she was pretty attached.
“It was her favorite thing so I was pretty anxious to mess with that,” said Pierce. “I knew this would be a battle for the ages if I couldn’t find a way to ease the transition.”
As many moms and dads can attest, pacifier weaning can be stressful for children and their parents. For many babies, that chunk of plastic is their first love – and the breakup can be tough. So instead of stealing her daughter’s beloved binky away, Pierce started to brainstorm about a gentler way to lose the pacifier.
Pierce had the idea to put Sylvia’s pacis inside a stuffed animal; tucked into the paws of one her favorite bears. This way, she’d be able to feel them, but she wouldn’t be able to put them in her mouth.
To Pierce’s delight it worked, and with that, the concept for Binka Bear was born.
Pierce sat on the idea for over a year, but she couldn’t get it out of her head. She thought about adding a storybook about the bear, explaining how the cuddly friend was waiting for his magic powers to arrive through the gift of a binky.
Finally, after mulling it for months, it all came together on a Thanksgiving-eve.
“I remember I had to get up the next morning to make dinner, but there I was, up at midnight, laying in bed making a logo on my phone,” said Pierce. “The next weekend I made a Facebook page and website.”
With the help of some early investors and a Kickstarter campaign, Pierce started prototyping. She went through mountains of stuffed animals to figure out how to engineer pockets in the bear’s paws where parents could get the pacifiers in, but kids couldn’t get them out.
Next, she put a call out in a Facebook entrepreneurs’ group, asking if anyone had experience launching a product with a plush toy and a book. Neal Hoffman, the creator of Mensch on a Bench, reached out and took a phone call with Pierce to offer her some advice and connections. Hoffman’s product also includes a doll and storybook, and received funding from investors on the television show “Shark Tank.”
From there, Pierce hired a copywriter to polish the story she’s written when she weaned Sylvia, and an illustrator to bring her whimsical vision to life.
Binka Bear launched in May. The plush, big-eyed bear has lace-up pouches on each paw to hold two pacifiers, and comes with the story, "Binka Bear and the Magic of Willowspring," which guides children through the journey of how the bear gets his magic through them sharing their beloved pacifiers. It’s $39.99, and available at binkabear.com.
Pierce used Binka Bear to wean her second daughter, Delilah, from her pacifier. Since both of her kids have said bye-bye to the binky, she loves seeing other toddlers passing theirs off to a snuggly friend.
“Parents have sent pictures or videos of their kids with Binka Bear, and it’s pretty cool to see,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see it working.”