Samar Shaheryar & Alicia Wieser
The story of friends, Samar and Alicia is quite a similar one. Allie and her husband are college sweethearts and were living in NYC before moving to Asia. Samar met and married her husband in NYC before moving out to Asia. Both women were working in finance before their husband’s jobs took them to Tokyo.
While there, they founded “Tokyo Helps”, a non-profit group to raise money for special causes. In the winter of 2010, Allie moved to Hong Kong and Samar soon followed in the summer of 2011, after the Japan Earthquake & Tsunami. Both ladies loved Tokyo but have since grown to love Hong Kong as much. In Tokyo they organised fundraisers for Pakistan & Haiti and in Hong Kong they continued to do so, raising money for Japan & East Africa.
But that wasn’t enough. In 2012, they wanted to create something that was more sustainable in a business sense. Baby Hero was conceived. They had decided to create a baby product that funded maternal and infant health. And as it is when something is meant to be, all the pieces of the puzzle fell together. A friend posted on Facebook about her husband’s friend (Dr. Shaun Morris) who was looking for a grant to help with maternal health in Pakistan. The ladies immediately got on Skype with him and started brainstorming how they were going to work together.
The idea behind Baby Hero is to provide essential wearable onsies and toddler t-shirts made out of the finest organic cotton. For every onsie and t-shirt sold, a clean birth kit is given to a mother in need and life-saving medical products to her baby.
NM: Where did the name Baby Hero come from? I’m also intruiged by your website address. www.babyhe.ro
BH: We were discussing our idea over lunch with a particularly creative friend, Unum Muneer, and she suggested a social media campaign where parents could post photos of their babies in our clothes on Facebook: “My baby is a hero!” We loved it immediately especially as it not only references those wearing our clothes but also all the heroic babies who survive and thrive in unimaginably difficult circumstances around the world.
Website address is us staying true to our social entrepreneurship goals and keeping costs low. By using a little used domain (in this case Romania), we were able to avoid the high fee to purchase a .com and also generate a bit of interest/buzz around our website.
NM: What is your vision for the next 2 years?
BH: Our aim with Baby Hero is to bring giving into people’s daily life. Every time they purchase a Baby Hero product they set in motion an action that has the potential to save the life of a mother or baby. Over the next two years and beyond, we want to positively impact as many families as possible – make our Maternal and Newborn Care Kit available in all the areas in which maternal and infant mortality are particularly high due to lack of medical facilities and also continue to explore and fund other low-cost medical interventions. The way we achieve this goal is to continue to expand our product offerings, reach consumers globally and stay true to our vision for a completely ethical brand made with 100% organic fabric using fair-labor.
NM: Even with the existence of several NGO’s and charities, the infant mortality rate remains high, especially in Africa and South Asia. Why is this?
BH: This is a very good question. It is an issue of scale and weak healthcare systems especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Infant and maternal mortality solutions are harder to scale up as they often require multiple remedies, greater equipment or expertise. This is why we, and Dr. Shaun Morris, our partner who developed the Maternal and Newborn Care Kit we are funding, believe it can be so effective. While there is evidence that all the low-cost and easy to use interventions included in the Kit improve infant health, no one has packaged them together in precisely this way. We anticipate the Kit will reduce newborn mortality in the study population in Rahim Yar Khan, Pakistan by up to 40%. To determine if we can actually achieve this benefit, we are conducting a randomized controlled trial. If our trial is successful, we would then take steps to scale up delivery of the kit to a wider population. One of the problems with ‘aid’ in the past is that interventions have often not been properly studied and sometimes the impact is quite a bit different than had been anticipated. As the Kit is cheap, effective and easily portable, it is very scalable and can even be funded and implemented by the local community once aid groups step back.
NM: I love the idea behind the factory you work with. Could you tell my readers a bit about how the factory you work with also plays into your vision for women.
BH: We love the factory we are working with in India too! Assisi Garments is an organic, fair-trade factory in Southern India founded by Franciscan Nuns. Many of the women it employs come from disadvantaged backgrounds – widows who carry a great stigma in the local community, women who have been abused or are otherwise on the margins of society. They also employ disabled workers. All their employees work in safe conditions and are paid a decent living wage. When you buy one of our garments, you are positively impacting so many lives – the organic farmers and cotton producers, the workers at the factory who are being paid and treated fairly and of course the families who receive our Kit and whose mothers and children will lead healthier lives as a result of it. This to us is the perfect circle and the only way to do business – to take care of our planet by choosing an eco-friendly fiber, by taking care of our fellow human beings by making sure to use fair labour and giving back through our product and to do it all while remaining an economically sustainable business. Our goal is to eventually have our own fair-trade factory that boosts the local economy in the areas in which we are distributing the Kit. This is how you start to level the playing field and eradicate poverty – economic self-sufficiency and aid working together.
NM: For those of us who don’t live in Hong Kong, can we buy Baby Hero onsies and toddler t-shirts online?
BH: YES! We ship internationally – everywhere. And we’re currently working on our Spring/Summer line – expanding our offerings – so keep an eye out for more products!
If you’d like to get involved or donate, please visit http://babyhe.ro/pages/get-involved
To buy one of these adorable onsies and t-shirts, visit their online shop.
With Baby Hero, you can make a life saving difference to a mother and child in need.