Twenty-first century parents have some prodigious products to choose from. Technology, engineering, ergonomics, design and innovation – the concepts you think of when looking at the latest automotive breakthroughs – are now used to create streamlined, multi-functional, multi-use baby travel systems. For those of us in “non-baby” years, (kids in the family way past infancy but no new generation on the horizon yet), it’s stunning to see how times have changed.
The latest offerings from Ventura, California-based Orbit Baby are other worldly for those out of the loop for some time. This California-born brand went through some mergers and changes since its founding by two engineers, who were Stanford undergrads when they met. Most recently, it combined forces with an investment, branding, and distribution company to form Orbit Global, Inc. The owner, baby-industry expert Braden Jones, is now at the helm of Orbit Baby and the company is making its mark with a direct-to-consumer focus and an emphasis on personalized customer service.
The concept started when Bryan White and Joseph Hei developed the SmartHub™, a metal ring apparatus that enables a stroller seat rotate 360 degrees when used with a customized seat. This allows individuals to easily face the baby in any direction. Put their backs to the sun or rain, let them see something to the left or right, or have them face you or face out. For dining out, you can angle the stroller so it’s the most out of the way and then rotate the baby to face the table or face you.
The company has gone through some evolution over the past 18 years, including merging with the Safian Group, a South Korean company, but it has now returned to its California roots where its product lines continue to grow and are available direct to consumer via its website and have an exclusive showroom arrangement with Nordstrom.
“We’re not the original founders but we wanted to bring back the existing brand to the U.S.,” says Jones, CEO, Orbit Baby. “It has a huge, very passionate following and it was largely because of who the founders were. They’re engineers and did a great job developing and creating the technology, with 12 different patents. We give a lot of props to them because they have done so much. The design and quality are the reasons the business has been so successful.”
Jones and his team were excited to bring a California brand back to California as so much of the innovation in the industry comes out of Scandinavian or European companies.
“Orbit Baby is a very high-end product, and we understand it’s not for everybody,” he told California Business Journal. “These are luxury strollers and parents have varying needs and there are many different options and companies doing amazing things. We’re the only California-based high-end stroller. We own our niche, the luxury market. Not everyone can afford it and not everyone will even want or need to afford it, but our goal is to provide an excellent product and personalized service those families who want such an option.”
The company offers a bassinet, an infant car seat, a toddler car seat, a stroller and a jogging stroller, and an attachment to make a double stroller, all with the hub. The G5 travel system is the latest offering, with Stroll, Sleep and Ride the full system (bassinet, car seat and stroller frame). The infant seat can easily click and lock in and out of the stroller (or jogger) base and attach to a hub or car seat base already positioned and locked in your car. No more trying to properly fasten the car seat every time. Additional car seat bases can be purchased so Mom and Dad and anyone else who drives the baby or toddler around can click and lock them in with ease each time.
The fabrics and frames are durable and lightweight and come in a variety of colors so you can customize upon ordering. The stroller with the infant car seat can accommodate children from 4 to 30 pounds and has three different reclining positions so the child can be upright, lying down or in between.
“When you look at the design and colors, in addition to the engineering, you can see why we wanted to bring this back to California,” says Jones. “The main functionality is the twist and release that nobody else has and can’t have because it’s patented. Another great innovation to is the ability to pull the stroller right up to the table and twist the seat so the baby is part of your table’s interaction and not facing your next-door neighbor’s table.”
The company made a conscious decision to sell direct-to-consumer through its website and it also offers personalized product demonstrations and wants to maintain the relationship with its clientele long after purchase.
“We want to ensure the customer has a great experience and we want them to feel free to come to us at any phase of their relationship with the products,” Jones says. “But we do understand that buyers – particularly of such a high-end product – want to ‘kick the tires,’ literally. They want to feel the quality of the materials, know what it weighs and how it feels in their hands, so we partnered with Nordstrom and now have 16 of their top stores as showrooms. We are in downtown New York, five in California, Dallas, Chicago, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon.”
If the buyer places an order with Nordstrom, it still ships from the Orbit Baby warehouse in usually a couple of days. Though this model is working very well for the company right now, they may consider partnering with other retailers or possibly opening a retail location of their own in the future.
“Our main goal is to choose the right situation, such as a boutique location in Los Angeles or Beverly Hills, that could support our business,” Jones says. “But we have to be able to service them very well. Since personalized, customer service is one of our main strengths, it would be difficult to be in all places for everybody without losing some of that.”
Orbit Baby is also deeply committed to the highest safety standards and lists all the safety requirements the products adhere to, including materials, design and construction.
“We have a car seat safety expert and you can schedule time for him to help set up your car seat via video chat,” he says. “As a new parent you’ve got a lot of worries and we want to check off one of those worries and we’ll make sure your car seat is properly installed – even if it’s from a competing brand.”
Infant car seats are considered part of a vehicle so they’re governed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards, with multiple safety measures manufacturers must pass.
“We also have to pass Proposition 65 – which monitors any exposure to a list of harmful chemicals in California,” Jones says. “Our products are also Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association (JPMA)-certified. To earn that, products must go through rigorous testing in addition to standard requirements, that evaluate quality, safety, performance and functionality.”
Parents – and their support systems – have a lot to consider when choosing products for the new addition. Considering how much use one can get out of a multifunctional product such as Orbit Baby may inspire them to reprioritize where to put the budget for baby.
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