Skirting a Problem

Amanda Legbeti and her husband pursue safety – and success

No pain, no gain.” That could be the mantra for AMANDA and EMMANUEL LEGBETI, the owners of both a new product and a new company. But it was a painful accident that got them started on their new entrepreneurial path, Glider Skirt.

Emmanuel Legbeti, enjoying a rare evening at home, was reading a book with one of the couple’s three children, rocking on the glider chair in the nursery. When he reached down to scoot the chair forward, the glider mechanism pinched his finger. Badly.

“It was a significant injury; he lost a nail,” Amanda Legbeti says of her husband’s experience. “We thought if Emmanuel, with his big fingers, could get pinched, it could happen much more easily for a child.”

Thus, the concept of a glider skirt was born soon after that incident in 2018. The couple talked about inventing a product that would cover the underside of the glider mechanism and would wrap around the chair’s base, hiding the business part of the chair completely. They realized glider ottomans needed the same treatment to keep tiny fingers from exploring the moving parts or placing a finger in the wrong place.

Amanda Legbeti reports that there are roughly 700,000 glider chairs sold in the U.S. each year. Most buyers choose to purchase the ottoman as well. That was a viable market, the Legbetis figured. And although they had no experience in product development, they were business people: Emmanuel Legbeti owns a tech business and is also a business consultant. Amanda Legbeti was a business consultant before stepping back eight years ago to stay at home when their first child was born.

The couple listed their nonexistent glider skirt’s requirements: it had to fit all glider chairs and ottomans. It had to be safe and easy to install. It had to be attractive. Most of all, it had to seal off the glider’s potentially injurious moving parts.

Legbeti88 1The fact that she was a full-time mother meant there was time to chase the idea, Amanda Legbeti says.  She and her husband were excited at the opportunity to work together, which they had never done.

To get some early feedback, they contacted friends and friends of friends. They ran focus groups and formulated strategies.  They developed specifications and researched possible manufacturers. Amanda Legbeti then worked on a prototype with a childhood friend and put together a Glider Skirt business team in Wilmington. That preparation phase took them a couple of years.

One of the most time-consuming parts of the process was obtaining a patent for the essential protective panel. That process is ongoing, but Amanda Legbeti says the glider skirt now has a conditional patent, and expects the government will issue a final patent in the near future.

When the Legbetis installed their prototype, they got a pleasant surprise. It enhanced the look of the room. And by offering the skirt in a variety of neutral colors and understated patterns, they hoped potential customers would see the glider skirt’s secondary benefit of giving their nurseries a decorative boost.

Now, almost three years after that fateful pinch, the Legbetis and their team are filling orders and promoting their product as creatively as they can.

“We can’t do trade shows during COVID, but we’re marketing through Facebook and social media,” Amanda Legbeti says. “We’re not on (baby) registries yet but we have gotten an order through an expectant mother’s registry. She saw the skirt, looked it up online, and listed our website on her registry.”

The couple’s entrepreneurial journey has been a revelation to them, and Amanda Legbeti admits that she and Emmanuel have been bitten by the bug.

“We tell ourselves now we could actually do this – develop products where we see a need and a market. We’re looking at things we would do differently next time.”

Meanwhile, Amanda Legbeti thinks her “enriching and empowering” success might inspire other women to develop their ideas into products.

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Categories: Women to Watch