News from Kolcraft Category
It’s Kolcraft Thursday and today we get to have a behind the scenes chat with Traci Barron, Senior Project Engineer. For the past 14 years Traci has engineered everything from pharmaceutical delivery devices to strollers. We were able to catch up with her & get a glimpse of her world.
You don’t always see women in this role as an engineer. How did you pick this as your career path?
As most kids do, I struggled with choosing a college major and career. I was good at math and science, so many people suggested engineering. At Purdue University, the first year of coursework in engineering exposes you to all the different types of engineering. I ended up choosing Mechanical Engineering as a major because it seemed like the career choices for that degree were very broad—and I still was not sure what exactly I wanted to do! It was not until I took a couple of Product Design and Mechanism Design courses in my junior and senior years that I really felt I had a definitive career direction in Product Design. I like to think of myself as a creative person—and I am interested in design and aesthetics as well as engineering, so it seemed to be a perfect match for me.
What exactly goes into engineering a product? Where do you even start?
Every product starts with an idea—some of those ideas are new to the world, while others are just variations of products that already exist. The average person does not look at a product and think, “That is great engineering.” They might think, “That product has a great design.” I think design and engineering are so closely intertwined that it is difficult to talk about one without the other. In ideal product development, engineers and industrial designers work together to ensure that a product meets all functional requirements and is aesthetically pleasing. Engineers and designers collaborate on how the product functions, how the product will be assembled, and how it is adjusted (i.e. height adjustable products and reclines). Engineers are responsible for making sure a product can withstand weight and forces that will be put on a product through any and all foreseeable use. Engineers also develop tests to provide confidence that products are safe for any foreseeable use. Engineers have to ensure parts are made out of the correct materials and that the components will always assemble even considering typical manufacturing variation.
You just had baby #2. Can you tell us some of the challenges & benefits of being a mom who works outside the home?
The biggest challenge is that there is never enough time in the day. No matter what I do, I have to work through some level of guilt about not having more time to spend with my kids. When I am not at work, the kids get near 100% of my attention while they are awake. As you might imagine, that does not leave much “Mom time” or “Mom and Dad time”—especially when you also factor in upkeep of a house with a 3 yr old, a 6 mo old, and a dog living there! It is a constant struggle to find balance. For me I know it is the right choice—it is something every mom has to evaluate for themselves. I get great fulfillment out of both of my jobs (Mom and engineer), and I cannot imagine my life without one of them. I also like the idea that I am teaching my daughter that a woman can have a career—just like Daddy.
Has working at Kolcraft informed how you look at baby gear for your own family?
Definitely. Part of my job is to stay on top of new product ideas and categories. I have a much higher consideration for the value of baby gear products—every purchase becomes an evaluation of product cost vs. features that are useful to me.
And how has being a mom affected being an engineer?
In a way, I never stop working. Every day life caring for my kids—and watching other people care for their kids—highlights so many challenges. My mind is always taking note of those challenges and thinking of ways to make life easier on caregivers. I also have a lot more personal experience to draw upon when I am considering how babies/toddlers might behave in a product—or how older siblings interact with a baby/toddler in a product. This really helps when I am considering the safety aspects and foreseeable use of the products I help to develop.
Traci at a glance:
Favorite part about being a mom?
The smiles on my kids’ faces when they see me, the hugs and the “I love you Mom’s”. I cannot get enough of that.
Favorite time of day?
Morning. The kids are always so happy in the morning—and any frustration from the day before has subsided over night.
Favorite Kolcraft product?
Best “sanity” break to recharge your mom battery
A glass of wine (or two) after the kids are asleep
Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to talk with us Traci.
If you have a burning question for our “engineering mom,” feel free to leave it in the comment section!
This week we are taking a “behind the scenes” look at Brent Borhauer, Graphic Production Manager for Kolcraft. For the past 10 years Brent has designed everything from product boxes to web graphics for Kolcraft. As a new dad, his view of life has changed a bit. We were able to catch up with him so you could have a glimpse of the guy behind the graphics.
Were you an artist when you were little?
Yeah, I always loved to draw. As a child I had quite the collection of instructional drawing books and made good use out of them. In school when I should have been taking notes I was usually doodling.
When did you know you were going to be a graphic designer?
In high school I took a graphic design course and knew it was my calling when my design projects became more of a priority then my math and science homework. Also, my sister and her husband were working as graphic designers. I really took an interest in learning about their field and decided to major in Graphic Design.
What is a typical day like for you?
I’m a creature of habit so my mornings always start off as a routine before I get into work, but once I get into work my day is anything but routine. I usually work on the most urgent projects which can consist in the design of: packaging, logo development, product instruction manuals, point-of-purchase design, mattress label design, website projects, photo shoots, catalogs, etc. I do this type of design for Kolcraft products and I also get to work on projects for Jeep, Sesame Street, Sealy and our Contours brand. My job is anything but cookie cutter.
Where do you receive inspiration for your work?
I’d have to say the best place to find inspiration is on the internet. I’ve recently begun to utilize Twitter which is a great resource to learn about other designers, their blogs and online portfolio’s. I also subscribe to 6 different graphic design magazines that are filled with all sorts of great design and tutorials. They’re a great resource to keep up with the trends in design.
You have been at Kolcraft for 10 years. How have you seen Kolcraft change?
I’ve seen many of our departments grow in size, as well as a few new departments created. One of the most needed changes was moving from our tiny office building on the South Side of Chicago to a much larger building in the West Loop of Chicago. Also, our product selection has evolved quite a bit. When I first started, Kolcraft designed and manufactured only about 6 different types of products. Our product selection has more than doubled since I’ve been here.
Obviously you are living & breathing baby products at work, but you recently became a first time dad. What did you learn about parenting that you didn’t know before your baby was born?
I learned that baby’s finger nails grow extremely fast….and that I’m not capable of cutting them properly. I learned about a baby’s fontanel and its clinical significance. And that the lingering smell of baby spit ups on clothing can be quite repulsive.
What were your first thoughts when you brought Ellie home from the hospital?
Since she slept so much at first (like all babies do), I constantly worried if she was breathing. I’d get up several times at night to check on her in the bassinet.
What has been your greatest joy & greatest challenge to being a dad?
My greatest joy is simply watching Ellie grow and develop. Every day she’s learning and doing something new. She makes my wife and I so happy. We get such a kick out of her silliness.
My biggest challenge usually occurs on the weekends my wife works. Ellie still nurses and in these first 7 months we’ve never successfully got her to drink from a bottle. So when it comes to our weekend’s together while her mom is at work, getting her to eat and sleep tends to be a real challenge.
Brent at a glance:
Funniest thing that has happened since Ellie was born?
The funniest thing related to Ellie was at about 3 months old, she discovered that she could do “raspberries” with her mouth and would do those on a fairly regular basis. But there were two types of “raspberries”….the first being the “casual everyday” raspberries and then there are the “I’m pretty ticked off right now” raspberries. Either of these usually gets a pretty big laugh from me.
Favorite daddy daughter activity with Ellie?
I love to feed Ellie solid foods in her high chair. Just after I get home from work, I prepare Ellie’s meal, sit down and enjoy that time with her…..as she spits her food all over me. We even get to play tug-o-war with the spoon. Her tiny hands really have a death grip on that spoon. How is it that she’s already stronger then I am?
Favorite Kolcraft product?
Ellie’s favorite is definitely the Baby Sit & Step activity center, but my wife and I love our Contours Options 3 Wheel stroller. It’s been the only stroller we’ve needed to use since we came home with Ellie from the hospital. The infant car seat attachment made it so easy to simply transfer her quickly in the cold from the car to the stroller, without fumbling with restraint straps. Now that she’s older and the weather is nicer, we use the stroller seat, and we’re able to face her towards us as we walk, so we can keep our eye on her. In the coming months as she gets older, we’ll be able to face her outwards so she can look around and see the world.
And since Brent now has “baby on the brain” 24/7, a little fun mind game with Brent. We asked Brent what is the first word that comes to mind when we say:
Baby – Big cheeks
Sleep – Yes please
Morning – Refreshing
Broccoli – Stains
Beverage – Guinness….I mean apple juice
Lady GaGa – Who?
Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to talk with us Brent. If you have a burning question for our “graphic’s guy,” feel free to leave it in the comment section!
These past few months Kolcraft, KIDS and Operation Homefront have joined forces to help struggling military families who daily put their lives on the line for our country. We see heart-wrenching photos of parents leaving their children and spouses because they are being deployed overseas. What happens to the families who are left behind? Like many other Americans they often are struggling to make ends meet, but they have the added stress of knowing their loved one can be in harm’s way.
In an effort to lighten this burden Kolcraft has donated thousands of high chairs to military parents in need. Kolcraft and KIDS believe it’s imperative to give back to the community by helping those who are most in need. Both companies feel that a partnership with Operation Homefront is in alliance with their missions.
“On behalf of Kolcraft and Kids in Distressed Situations, Inc. (K.I.D.S.) we are delighted to be able to provide high chairs to the children of military families. We believe that families struggling while their loved ones are fighting to protect our country should have available to them all the resources they need to raise healthy and well adjusted children. We thank Operation Homefront for all it does to provide a secure and comfortable environment for our most precious citizens.” Tom Koltun, President, Kolcraft Enterprises, Janice Weinman, President, K.I.D.S.
High chairs were distributed at Fort Bragg during the holidays and at Camp Pendleton in February. This May Kolcraft will again be joining forces with the military through Operation Shower to help expectant military moms in distressed situations.
Teaching your children to help other children in difficult situations is a life lesson that they are never to young to learn. You can bring your children with you to a store to help pick out items to donate. You can talk to them about saving a portion of their allowance or doing more choirs, etc. to earn extra allowance to give to children in need. These “small lessons” learned can help teach valuable lessons about sharing and reaching out to help others. How do you teach your children about sharing with the less fortunate? Please share your stories with us by leaving a comment.
For some, watching a show on parenting is anything but relaxing. For others it’s a welcome break to laugh at scenarios that are vaguely similar to their own life. Here at Kolcraft we know that as a parent, grandparent or caregiver, you have real-life advice as well as tried and true tips to share. Here is you chance to debut your parenting skills!
Kolcraft is hosting Parenthood – the Real Story Facebook contest. You are in the “director’s seat” and get to craft your version of what the world needs to know about parenting. To enter the contest:
- Fan Kolcraft on Facebook (if you already are a Kolcraft fan, pat yourself on the back because you are one step ahead!)
- Post a two minute or less video of your “killer real-world” parenting tip
- If you are not very video savvy, that’s okay because you can post a photo collage with a 300 character (or less) “killer real-world” parenting tip
- Entries will be judged by creativity, originality and “real-world” application
- Contest ends March 13th at midnight CST. Winner will be announced on March 15th.
We look forward to seeing new parenting stars rising on our Kolcraft fan page!
With all the parenting blogs and baby sites “out there” you may be wondering what you will find at Baby Matters. Here is a sneak peak into how our little baby blog will grow with lots of love and care.
Mom Mondays where marvelous moms from all walks of life will be featured on our blog. We truly believe that each of you holds a wealth of wisdom and here at Kolcraft we want to support that and share it with the world. (Don’t worry dads, we won’t forget you. We will feature dads too!)
Tip Tuesdays where we will have short tips on a variety of parenting topics. We hope you will burn up our comment section with all your great ideas and tips.
Wednesday Wonders where the sky is the limit on the latest & greatest trends in the parenting world and other things that get us all to wonder and marvel at the amazing journey of parenthood.
Kolcraft Thursdays where you will be getting a sneak peak into the people & latest products of Kolcraft. It will be a little like a “behind the scenes” tour that you can get at Disneyland, but it’s free! We will also be keeping you up on the latest contests that Kolcraft is hosting.
Fun Fridays where we will have random fun posts because who doesn’t look forward to a little fun on Fridays?
Welcome to Kolcraft’s New Website! Born February 17th, 2010 and weighing in at 31 pages, our new website gives us an opportunity to engage more with you. Through our new Baby Matters blog you will hear from different parents who share their wisdom with us, meet fun and knowledgeable people from our team at Kolcraft, learn about the newest baby gear products and receive the latest news on parenting.
You may have noticed that in addition to our blog, our website has another new sibling, our new Parent Resource Center. Our Parent Resource Center contains parenting tips, a family photo album where you can share your magical moments, guides to help you select the perfect product for your baby, and much more!
Through these online avenues, we want to get to know you and we want you to get to know us. Please help us “feed” our new baby with your thoughts and ideas so this blog and our other social media sites become your “home” where you feel free to talk about your amazing parenting experiences. By listening to you, we know we will continue to create innovative “must have” baby gear for your family and learn so much more along the way.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you and going on this online parenting journey with you…no stroller necessary for this ride!
Tom Koltun, President of Kolcraft