July 25, 2012 - Want to grab people's attention?
Kerri (Linto) Smith (click for larger version)
How about making a funky music video featuring two pregnant women rapping a song about removing the legally-required tags on pillows?
That's what Kerri (Linto) Smith did to promote her new maternity pillow and solicit contributions to help get her on-line business off the ground by paying thousands of dollars in government registration fees for pillow tags.
"I can't even tell you how much fun we had making it," said the 1995 Oxford High School graduate who lives in State College, Pennsylvania. "It was like this great sleep-over with a whole bunch of girls goofing off. It was wonderful."
Her product is called the Belly Rest and the catchy rap is entitled "Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law," a reference to the tag that pillows are legally required to bear in some states in order to be sold.
It was written and performed by Smith and friend Julie Kosoglow.
To view this hilarious rap video, visit www.indiegogo.com/bellyrest – you'll thank us later.
The Belly Rest is a small maternity support pillow for pregnant women who are uncomfortable and having trouble sleeping.
"It improves sleep," Smith said. "It takes the pressure off of your belly. I did 14 prototypes of the pillow and I had a bunch of testers. They all said it reduced hip pain, it reduced lower back pain and it reduced sciatic and nerve pain."
Necessity being the mother of invention, Smith came up with the innovative idea while she was pregnant in 2010.
"I was using a small pillow all throughout my pregnancy, like a decorative (throw) pillow," she explained. "I'd shove it under my belly, roll over, then shove it onto the other side. I'd do that all night long.
"I thought, 'What if I cut it in half and put a piece of fabric in the middle?' It worked immediately. I slept better that night."
Eventually, Smith decided to turn her invention into a business opportunity.
"I get so many ideas. I got tired of not (pursuing) them," she said. "It was time to take an idea, make it a reality and see if it works."
What separates the Belly Rest from other maternity pillows is its small size and the fact that it's really a two-pillow system.
"Most pillows are huge, (it's like having) another person in your bed," Smith said. "The Number One complaint that women have about maternity pillows is that they're huge."
As a two-pillow system, the Belly Rest features one pillow that's positioned in front of a pregnant woman's belly and another pillow that lays on the other side of her back. The two pillows are linked by a piece of fabric. It allows a woman to roll over on either side during the night and always have a pillow in place to support her belly.
"It stays in place in bed and doesn't take up a lot of room," Smith said.
Smith would like to see her product become "accessible to every pregnant woman in the U.S."
"I would like to see the Belly Rest become the top, preferred maternity pillow out there," she said.
But in order to do that she has to come up with enough money to allow her pillow to be sold nationwide via the internet.
Right now, she can't do that because 15 states, plus the City of Detroit, require her pillow to have a tag on it listing the materials from which it's made.
These tags, called law labels, describe the fabric and filling in mattresses, upholstery and stuffed articles such as pillows, plush toys, comforters, etc. Typically, these tags begin with a phrase such as "This tag may not be removed under penalty of law except by the consumer."
The law label was born in the early 1900s to prevent the aforementioned items from continuing to be made using materials such as horse hair, corn husks and whatever else a manufacturer could use, but the consumer would never see.
"It guarantees to the consumer that what the manufacturer says is inside the pillow is really what's in there," Smith said.
In order to have these tags, she must also pay each government a registration fee.
"To sell the pillow on the internet, on a site like Amazon that ships to all 50 states, I have to pay the pillow tag registration fee in the (15) states that require pillow tags," Smith explained.
And don't forget the City of Detroit.
"Really? Detroit? Don't they have better things to do?" she said. "I was so mad the day I found out I had to raise this money for the pillow tags."
The fees for the 15 states, plus Detroit, total $3,660. They range from $5 per year for Oklahoma to $720 annually for North Carolina.
Most of the fees require annual payment with the exception of three states. California and Texas require $650 and $220, respectively, up-front payments for two years. Rhode Island charges $630 in advance for a three-year registration.
"I think it's ridiculous," Smith said. "All you hear about in the news right now is (the need for government to be) pro-economy and (help with) job creation, and these state regulations are so anti-small business."
She's already paid the $50 fee for Pennsylvania, leaving $3,610 for the remaining 14 states and Detroit.
In case anyone's wondering, the Motor City charges $80 per year for tag registration. The State of Michigan does not have a label law.
On top of this, Smith is planning to spend an additional $1,000 to have a company help her keep track of the registration renewals and forms.
Smith is using her "Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law" rap video to solicit contributions to help her cover the aforementioned start-up costs.
"As of today, I'm up to $510," she noted. "I had hundreds and hundreds of views on Facebook and YouTube. Tons of people are seeing it and it's starting to pick up traction with contributions to help get the registration fees paid for."
Contributions can take the following form:
n $5 for an MP3 copy of the pillow tag rap.
n $25 for a reusable tote bag featuring the phrase "Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law."
n $50 for a pre-ordered Belly Rest.
To learn more about the Belly Rest or contribute to the cause, please visit www.indiegogo.com/bellyrest
Smith already has a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer lined up to mass-produce the Belly Rest.
"They're ready to go as soon as I give them the go-ahead," she said. "I'll be able to keep the business local."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.