Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hi, Mom’s Choice Award readers! Thank you so much for joining us today. As part of our ongoing interview series, Mom’s Choice sat down with Shanelle Johnson, Co-Creator & Co-Owner of one of our newest award-winning products, Door Buddy! When you have a little one on the move, you have to babyproof every nook and cranny! But, who wants to have baby gates throughout their home? Introducing the easier way to keep your little one out of trouble, Door Buddy. Door Buddy’s adjustable door strap is the perfect solution for parents who want to keep their baby out of no-go rooms without a hefty price tag or issues. An added bonus is that it keeps doors open wide enough to let cats into rooms with their litter box and cat food while stopping your little one in its tracks. We are so grateful for the opportunity to work with Shanelle and hear more about her amazing, award-winning product!
MCA: Hi Shanelle, thank you so much for joining us today to talk more about your award-winning product, Door Buddy. When it comes to babyproofing homes, parents want & need easy, convenient, and most importantly, effective, and that’s exactly what Door Buddy provides! Can we start the interview by finding out a little bit about the person behind such a wonderful product?
Shanelle: I was born and grew up in South Africa. After graduating high school, I got on a plane all by myself at 18 and came to the USA on a golf scholarship, and attended Jacksonville State University in Alabama. That is where Scott, my husband, and I met in our sophomore year.
After graduating college, we got married. I got licensed as a Certified Public Accountant and worked for a CPA firm for ten years. Scott worked in sales for a few different companies and worked up to Sales Manager.
We both love golf, being on the lake, and spending time outside. Starting a business together was one of our dreams; we just needed the right idea to make it a reality.
MCA: Tell us about the creation of your company, including your journey from a CPA to a new mom to an incredibly successful business owner!
Shanelle: Everything changed when our first daughter, Kaitlin, was born in 2013. Life was no longer just about the two of us. We had to navigate this whole new world taking care of a precious little girl while managing work, our two kitties, and life in general.
Like most young toddlers, Kaitlin loved to explore. No one tells you how many dangerous things pop up around your home as soon as your children start crawling! When she was about 9-12 months old, she was all about our cats… and exploring our laundry room with the cat food and litter box.
She often made a big mess throwing out the cat food and tipping the water bowl over. We knew we had to figure out a way to somehow keep her out without restricting access to the cats. That was the beginning of the journey for us, but you can read all about our family’s story over on our about us page.
After much research and persistence, we finally launched Door Buddy in October 2015. We started out of our garage putting Door Buddy’s together at night while the kids slept.
After about six months, Scott started full-time, and we slowly started growing our production team. In 2017, I had to make a very hard decision – business owner or a seat at my firm’s table?
I was an Audit Manager at my CPA firm, and I loved my job. But the stress of managing a business at night and taking care of two little girls was becoming too much. I had to choose between a stable career or take a dive into the unknown to follow our dream.
Full-time business owner it was, and thankfully we have not looked back. It has been the best decision for both myself and my family, and now we have the best team anyone can ask for!
MCA: Well I think it is very safe to say that decision very much paid off! Tell us more about the needs you trying to fill when you created the Door Buddy.
Shanelle: We just wanted to give people an easier option to give their cat back its space! Between using a baby gate and cutting a hole in your door, the only choices were spending a lot of money on something that’s bulky and troublesome or damaging our home.
With Door Buddy, parents can keep their homes intact, stop their little ones from getting into no-go rooms, and give their cats some peace and quiet. It’s a win-win for everybody!
MCA: Tell us about the research that went behind the product’s unique features, and describe these features!
Shanelle: We actually started our product development at our dining room table. My husband, Scott, and I knew there had to be an easier way to keep our little girl out of the litter box and cat food – so we got to work.
We knew we wanted something small, discrete, and non-permanent. We essentially wanted to take all of the perks of a cat door and recreate that without the renovations. The first point of call was research and lots of it. At the time, there weren’t a lot of businesses doing what we wanted. There were some permanent door latch options but nothing that allowed pet owners the freedom to pet-proof without any tools.
After taking our research, our experience, and a few product ideas, we took it to our friends. We asked them what their biggest struggles were between having kids and cats, what their ideal product would be, and how we could best create something like that. The rest, as they say, is history!
MCA: That it is! Can you give us some of your best tips and advice on how to make a home both cat and baby-friendly?
Shanelle: The best advice that we always give to parents is to create a safe space for your cat to retreat to. Whether your cat is child-friendly or not, there will come a time when they feel overwhelmed and will need to escape. This is totally natural and it’s our job to keep the whole family safe.
By using a Door Buddy, you can set up your cat’s own oasis away from the chaos. With our door strap, cats will be able to easily enter rooms with their cat food and litter box safely stashed away. Not only does this ensure your cat’s happiness, but it also keeps litter box nasties and potential choking hazards far away from little hands.
MCA: What is the importance of keeping a home safe for both cats and babies?
Shanelle: When you bring a new baby home, your cat will need time to adjust to the new smells and sounds. Of course, you will also have an influx of people visiting you during this time. These are all things that can make our cats feel uneasy.
Naturally, as your baby gets older and more mobile, the level of home safety needs to be increased. The same goes for your cat. We don’t know what it is about a cat’s tail that’s so tempting, but kids can’t resist!
Our biggest worry was having Mr. Ralphy finally lose it and scratch Kaitlin or Hailey. Having a scratch here and there is expected when you have kids and cats under one roof, but we really wanted to keep this at a minimum. That’s why you have to give your cat as much space as possible.
By creating a room or space away from the noise, the little fingers, and the chaos, they’ll have time to reset. It can be the very thing that stops a love tap from getting to a level 10 cat-astrophe.
A cat’s emotions aside, there are the more obvious concerns like the litter box and cat food. For starters, no one wants to find their precious baby in the cat’s toilet. Plus, a litter box can be full of nasty parasites like toxoplasmosis. By baby-proofing the litter box, you keep your cat happy and your kids healthy.
Lastly, the cat’s food can be a choking hazard. Speaking from experience, there’s apparently nothing more entertaining than tipping out a cat’s food bowl. It’s something to keep an eye on and far away from little ones for sure.
MCA: I’ve read some of the reviews for your product and your customers absolutely LOVE it! Can you tell us what all of that amazing feedback has been like for you and your company?
Shanelle: We’ve been selling our product for almost seven years now, and we’ve sold over 500,000 units. We feel incredibly lucky that we’ve built up such a supportive base of customers and as a result, over 18,000 5-star reviews across our Door Buddy product line.
Our customers have loved how simple and effective our adjustable door strap is. For parents, the most common type of feedback we get is “why didn’t I think about this sooner?!’ and that’s exactly what we love to hear. This means that we achieved our dream of creating a baby-proofing item that isn’t a headache and is easy to use. Being a parent is hard enough, we’re all about believing that babyproofing shouldn’t be.
Now, we’re not saying that Door Buddy is the perfect solution for every family and I think that our reviews reflect that. Something we do pride ourselves on is customer service. If there’s a problem with our product or a customer isn’t completely satisfied, we’re always willing to go the extra mile. It’s actually the reason we offer a 60-day money-back guarantee.
MCA: That is amazing and has obviously paid off tremendously! Well, we thank you for taking the time to speak with us and we hope to hear more from you and your lovely company very soon!
You can learn more about Shanelle Johnson and her award-winning product, Door Buddy by visiting their MCA Shop pages.