Wallababy is the perfect name for the Fishers, Indiana, company that produces sling-like baby carriers, having taken a cue from Mother Nature and how wallabies carry their young. Jodi Marchal and husband, Christophe, are the brains behind Wallababy, the home-based firm the couple launched in 2001 after Jodi lost her job as a language translator. Unemployed and a new mother, Jodi carried on with day-to-day activities, all the while holding her son, David, in a sling hanging from her neck encasing the infant.
Dissatisfied with the commercial product, Marchal began experimenting with her own creations, and when other new moms expressed interest, Marchal wondered if she might have a business on her hands. After selling ten of her slings in just a few minutes at a hospital support group meeting, she had her answer. Sales of the baby carriers took off in gift shops and area boutiques, and later online. With virtually no investment other than fabric costs and her time, Marchal had a cottage industry with a real purpose.
“Research shows that babies and toddlers benefit from being closely held,” says Marchal. “They are comforted by warmth, by the sound of a caregiver’s heartbeat, even by mom’s unique smell.”
Wallababy slings are suitable for kids weighing up to 35 pounds – a one-size-fits-all sling; and a pouch, extra small to extra large. Each carrier is reversible with a colorful print pattern and coordinating solid fabric.
Jodi says the marsupial-inspired moniker came to her one night as she lay in bed. “Babies want to be held and rocked, but moms are busy people,” says Marchal. “When a child is in the Wallababy pouch, kangaroo-like, your hands are free to get things done.”
Marchal still sews each sling herself. Before the economy tanked, Wallababy sales were about $4,000 a month, and Jodi anticipates the company doubling in size within a year. But money isn’t her primary motivation. “I’m passionate about sewing and ‘baby wearing’, and I just love helping new moms figure out how to better care for children. I think it’s extremely important to hold and comfort them while also being able to take care of other things,” says Marchal.
For now, Jodi is content being home with her young children, but envisions a day when Wallababy might move into full-blown product manufacturing. “It’s not my goal yet, maybe in five years. Stay tuned.”