Monica is a mother of four, surrogate, RN maternity nurse, certified newborn care specialist and inventor of the Butterfly Swaddle, which is a newborn swaddle and transitional sleep training system all in one!
Intro: Welcome to Becoming a Sleep Consultant! I’m your host Jayne Havens, a certified sleep consultant and founder of both Snooze Fest by Jayne Havens and Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. On this podcast, I’ll be discussing the business side of sleep consulting. You’ll have an insider’s view on launching, growing, and even scaling a sleep consulting business. This is not a podcast about sleep training. This is a podcast about business building and entrepreneurship.
Jayne Havens: Monica is a mother of four, surrogate, an RN maternity nurse, certified newborn care specialist, and inventor of the Butterfly Swaddle, which is a newborn swaddle and transitional sleep training system all in one. Monica, welcome to the Becoming a Sleep Consultant Podcast. I’m so excited to be chatting with you today.
Monica Bykov: Thank you so much, Jayne, for inviting me. This is really exciting. I feel really honored to have this opportunity.
Jayne Havens: Sure. Before we get started, tell us a little bit about you. Maybe share a little bit about your career path, and what ultimately led you to invent The Butterfly Swaddle?
Monica Bykov: Yes, I’d love to share that. I mean, to make a long story short, really, I was lucky enough to come across what it is that my passion was going to be, which was having my child at 19 — my first beautiful daughter. I was exposed to the whole world of maternity and caring for people with newborns. I knew immediately that that’s where I was going to pursue my career.
Shortly after she was old enough, I went right back to school. I pursued and have always worked in maternity, OB, postpartum labor, and delivery NICU, and baby nursery. So, I’ve always worked with new families, new babies.
After a decade of doing all of that, over a decade, really, of working in the hospital care, I just really wanted to focus in on the care of people and teaching them how to care for their newborns. I felt like I was just so taken away from my focus, from my passion with all the bureaucracy, all the paperwork, all the other hospital related things that I needed to attend to. I never really felt — unless it was really slow — that I could focus in on my care and the teaching.
So, oftentimes, I did feel like I didn’t do my job completely. Because parents were going home with their new babies, and you could see they were completely scared that they were taking this little child home, and they didn’t feel prepared.
So, with the support of the doctors and the relationships I had developed over the years, I was able to start my own private business, and caring for newborns and new parents. As we know, a big huge part of — I thought initially. Actually, I should start with I thought it was going to be postpartum care, where it was going to take care of many parents, help them recover, and just go through the steps of how to care for your newborn.
It quickly came to my attention that most people were hiring you until you were able to sleep train their babies, if they wanted you to stay until you had their baby sleeping through the night. A huge tool became using swaddles to help those babies learn how to sleep.
Jayne Havens: What was it about other swaddles that — what wasn’t working that led you to ultimately create your own product? Then, I guess, tell us a little bit about the Butterfly Swaddle — what it looks like, how it works, and why it’s superior or more effective than other swaddles that were on the market before yours.
Monica Bykov: I think working with dozens of different swaddles, at the beginning, I used whatever the clients would have for me. Then I learned that I had my favorites. I still have to focus in on finding something that was easy enough for the new parent to feel comfortable using, especially when I wasn’t there, but also something that worked for both those early stages. We know that babies are more malleable — you can just do whatever you want — even with a loose receding blanket, and they’ll stay.
Shortly thereafter, they transition into needing something that works a little bit better because they break right out of it. I found myself using two main ones. Those two favorite ones that I used had the first six weeks, for example, one was good for. Then the babies would start breaking out of that one. Then I had to go on to the next one.
Between the two of them, I came up with a swaddle that I felt got rid of the least favorite attributes of both of those designs, and still hopefully stayed easy enough for parents to use. It worked. It worked as a one system. You use it from the beginning — from the small stage all the way through — and not have to buy a transitional system, which was what we all know as the loose that slightly slows the startle reflex at the end stage when they’re just about to rollover, or they’re ready to not be swaddled.
So, what my swaddle has is it not only doesn’t have an incredible material — breathable bamboo and organic cotton — it has mesh wings, which allows for it to be used as a transitioning system. First, there’s the outer wrap. The outer wrap allows for the baby to have the full swaddle arms in or out. When the baby’s arms are within that cocoon, it’s as similar as possible to the womb. Because it still allows for what people like to say is a straitjacket, but yet it’s not. Because you could push and pull and allow the baby to get comfortable within the wrap even when the arms are in.
Then you take it off, because it’s fully removable. I have to boast about the fact that the Velcro-like material is completely soft and silent. It really is magical. It holds as though you are using Velcro but yet, when you peel it off, it makes no noise at all. So, it’s like this buttery, soft velvet material. So, you remove that.
Then my own pattern is the mesh butterfly-like wings that are underneath the sleeves of the suit, the sleep suit. Those mesh wings have the ability to hold down the startle reflex really gently, while they’re learning to control their arms during that phase of transition.
So, you remove the rap. The mesh swings kick in. Once they can get the control to get those little hands up to their face and actually want to use those hands properly without scratching and grabbing their face, they are able to. So, they can sell suit. You don’t have to buy another system. At the end of it, they’re getting ready to rollover. They’ve already learned how to sleep and nap. They’re ready for no sleep suit at all, this sleepsack stage where it’s the wearable sleepsack blanket.
Jayne Havens: That’s amazing. I have so many questions. I’m going to try and keep myself organized. Because I feel like that was such a good rundown. It made me think of so many things that I want to ask you. For example, how did you even know about this material that would allow you to have the silent Velcro? That was a material. You didn’t invent that material. That material existed, right?
Monica Bykov: Yes.
Jayne Havens: Did you know about that from another product, or did you come across that in your research?
Monica Bykov: Oh my gosh. Coming from the standpoint of zero clue to materials or designing or seams, my mom was as close as it was going to get till this day. If I had a hole in something for my children’s clothing that they wanted to keep, it went to her. She was more of the homemaker type who could do those types of things.
So, yes, it was a huge learning curve. Over the period of three years, really, I ordered many materials. I definitely knew that. Because of my client base and knowing the delicate nature of newborns, I knew that it needed to be organic. I knew that it needed to be gentle and as hypoallergenic as possible.
It definitely focused in on the bamboo material. Then organic cotton came to play, because between the two of them, it allowed for the material to have a slightly more luxurious feel, more plush feel to it. So, it had better quality.
When they were woven together, it created that perfect thickness that wasn’t too thick. It’s still breathable. So, I had to find a balance. The more cotton was in there, the thicker it got. The less cotton, it was too viscous, too bamboo. So, I felt like it was too artificial feeling.
Finally, after many reach outs to different factories, I did find one company who made the perfect organic cotton and the perfect bamboo. We blended it to the point where we got 5% elastane to allow for the stretch, but still have that perfect breathable chemistry between the two materials. It was a lot of trial and error and a lot of folks, people, giving me material that they claimed was so good but was not.
Jayne Havens: It’s really wild to think about where you started and where you are now, and all of the trial and error, and all of the sort of stuff that you had to figure out on your own. As I’m interviewing you, I’m thinking most listeners have most likely never invented or brought a product to market before. Everybody who’s listening to this are like, “Wow. How did you do this?” It just seems like a totally huge undertaking.
I’m wondering, what were your initial challenges? What did it look like in the beginning? Walk us through from idea to product. What did that look like for you to figure it out, and then also implement, create this thing from nothing?
Monica Bykov: I have to say that I’m a little bit — my personality is a little bit like once I’ve decided, it takes me a minute to get comfortable with something. But once I’ve decided, and I’m passionate about it, if I really believe in it, you just have to do and take opportunities how they come.
In my case, it was coming home being really tired, probably being somewhat frustrated by the swaddles that I was using. I had that open conversation with my family about what I wanted. I wish there was a swaddle. It just suddenly dawned on me that I needed to create my own swaddle, and that this was actually really realistic.
So, I went to drawing. The very next day, I went to baby stores trying to see the different materials and piecing things together my idea, and just taking loose fabrics that I could create to be that mesh wing that attach, and figuring out what the right stretch, and the material was for that, too, is really important.
As far as the Velcro material was concerned, I went through several different Velcro manufacturers, by the way. I needed it to be thinner and thinner and quieter and quieter. I did not know that this cloth or fabric existed. Honestly, six months before I was ready to finally move forward with the factory process, I came across this fabric. They did not reply to me. They took forever. I was like, “This can’t be that good. If this were that good, it would already exist here. Other people would be using it.” Of course, I had to try it. Because I’m not going to use this—
So, I got to a point where there’s this very thin plastic Velcro that doesn’t make so much noise. It’s made by a doll maker, or it was used by a doll maker. So, he sent it forward. That was what I ultimately created my very last swaddle with. So, I reached out to this manufacturer. They have very little access to this information. I got the sample. I created several samples using it, until it was the right width to work the right way and hold the right way. Because there are very special instructions to the way that it’s sewn on in order for it to actually catch and work and open when it’s supposed to.
That was just the material aspect of all my trials. What eventually happened once I had the idea in my mind, I was like, “Well, now I need somebody to actually make this for me.” Then I met somebody — Fluke. This was just crossing paths. I was at a water polo meet for my son with parents. The wife of a pediatrician actually created her own product and was working on getting it launched and going. She was very much farther along in her process. She introduced me to somebody who only does product launching.
What she did was, she introduced me to the world on what she, herself, this person who owns this company. She interviewed me for 30 minutes. She asked me about my product. She said she’d let me know whether or not my product was too unrealistic or not different enough, or she didn’t feel like she could help me. So, that 30-minute consult was free to find out whether I had a chance.
Then we started from the beginning. You need to do a patent search. You need to see if there’s any designs out there that are too similar to yours. But you don’t know who to call. Through her, you find your patent attorney. Through her, I found my trademark person. Between those two, you need to make sure that everything’s secure. Because once you get your idea out there, you don’t want anybody else to use your idea.
Then the creation process to perfect it. She had somebody who was really good. She put me in contact with the seamstress. With the seamstress, it’s the same thing. You have to learn as you go. Make sure that she signed the NDA and that she’s not sharing your idea. There are things like patterns that you have to create.
So, when it comes to clothing and textile, it’s very specific. I can’t really speak about any other type of baby product. But specifically with textile, there’s a lot of steps. Because you have to create an actual tech pack, too. So, I needed a tech pack designer, which was the design that the factory at some point would follow.
I have to say it all came back to me having somebody who actually helps people launch their product. So, she had all of the resources. I found out that she had all the resources because she, herself, was a person who started from scratch and invented her own successful products, and knew what it took and how hard it was to do it. Because you’d have to know so many people. You have to be able to trust the people that you’re reaching out to that, that they actually know what they’re doing.
She has this whole huge portfolio now over the years of doing it. So, she was able to put me in touch with all the people that I needed to get in touch with to step me along the way. Once that was done — finding the right factory and finding the right pricing — she explained to me you have to know your budget. You have to know where your product is going to sell and what the fine line is for making money still at the end of it.
Because you’re going to sell wholesale. So, you need to be able to make enough money by the time all is said and done. So, that was a whole other thing. Not only do I have to know materials now and how to sew and how to design. Now I had to learn about business, what they expect, and what MAT means.
Jayne Havens: What does MAT mean? What does that mean?
Monica Bykov: Oh, gosh. You can’t promise a big retailer like Target. You can’t tell them that they have to sell the product, or you’re selling the product for $54.99 in my case, and then go and sell it to somebody else and lower that product, sell it with them for $49.99. Because it undercuts their ability to sell the product. So, you come to an agreeable agreed amount. They can go above it if they want. That’s up to them. But they can’t go below.
So, MAP is there’s a way, I guess, an algorithm and a way to check to make sure that all of your stores are selling it, at least what you’re selling it to the wholesalers in your boutiques and stores. I think this is something that I could go on and on about for two hours and the different versions. But I think I skipped over your question, which was, what was the hardest part?
Jayne Havens: Yeah, what challenges? I guess, part of the answer is I think you just had to learn as you went, right? It sounds to me, every single thing that you did to create this product was new for you at each stage of the game. Is that right?
Monica Bykov: Yeah, everything was very new. The only thing I knew I knew was that my product worked and that I believed in my product. After that it was — I mean, I had people who say it’s not just about having a good product. Then you were deterred a little bit. They’re like, you could have a great product. But if you can’t get people to know about it, then you could feel that way, too.
Jayne Havens: I think that that’s absolutely right. You could have the greatest product in the world. But if nobody knows that it exists, then how can you sell it? I say that all the time about our work as sleep consultants. You can be really, really good at sleep training babies and establishing boundaries with toddlers and preschoolers. But if you don’t know how to connect with your prospective audience, then how are you going to have a business, right?
I guess, there’s a lot of parallels, whether you’re in a service-based business or a product-based business. Ultimately, I say the same thing about the work that we do. When I train new sleep consultants, every single thing that they are doing as they are starting their businesses, for most of them, it’s completely brand new.
Nobody is an expert at this when they first get started. I think that that was the case for you, right? You started with a knowledge of bare minimum. As you said, you knew your product was good. But other than that, you didn’t know anything. You literally figured it out one baby step at a time until you got to where you are now. Say, you’re selling this product — you’re selling it direct to consumer and in retail stores. Is that correct?
Monica Bykov: Yes, right now, we have it in over 55 boutiques. Then we have it in Target and Buy Buy Baby. So, we just finally launched it with those two. Even that, you think when they say yes, that “Oh, yeah, you won.” No, it’s a whole process even just getting things up and going in the stores, because there’s a lot of steps. There’s a lot. There’s insurances. That’s a whole other thing in the baby world — trying to find an insurance company that’s good that will cover a baby product.
I think every step of the way, it was mind blowing. It’s very expensive no matter how well you try to budget. It’s very hard on the family, I would say. Because not only am I still working as a newborn care specialist, I’m also still a mother of four and a wife. So, if you believe in your product, that’s got to be your way of succeeding. Because if you don’t have that deep, deep, deep passion for it, and you don’t know through your heart and soul that it’s a good product, it’s not worth what you have to go through. So, at some point, you won’t do it, honestly. Because it is a lot. It’s a big sacrifice.
Everybody has to be on board. It doesn’t matter. I can’t stress enough. You really have to have a good support system. You have to have everybody on your side, willing to do what they have to do to help you be successful. Because without my husband doing the computer part of it, and without my daughter doing the social media part of it, and helping me to do the things where I fell short, honestly, as a mother.
There were things I couldn’t do all the time that I needed to do. I couldn’t pick up my daughter from school sometimes, or I needed to sleep a little bit before I had to go back to work. There’s a lot of challenges. For me, the hardest part is finding a balance between doing this — still being that responsible parent. My children are my life. Being a mother is everything to me. That’s why I enjoy helping parents so much, because I know how much family means.
So, this product is so much more to me than a business. It’s not something where I woke up one day and I said, “Oh, how am I going to make a huge amount of money?” It was at a necessity that I felt like everybody can utilize this tip of it as well. So, if I’d have to say the one thing that’s the hardest thing for me in getting through my mind is where you draw the line and where you can still feel confident that you’re heading in the right direction.
Jayne Havens: Was there anything that happened during the entire course of getting this product launched that was like the biggest blow that made you feel like, I’m ready to burn it all to the ground? Or was each little thing a tiny little learning lesson, and then you moved on?
Monica Bykov: I mean, financially, yes. Although I tried very hard and, at this point, I’m not where I can feasibly. I tried 15 different states within the US to try to keep it within the US, the product. It was impossible, especially with the increased prices. One of the hardest things for me is not being present in overseas. So, I’ve made mistakes that cost me quite a lot of money, where I didn’t double check certain things, because I took it for granted that it would be done for the tech pack. Yes, but I think the biggest thing and the hardest challenge for me till this day is the family aspect of it and trying to balance it all.
Jayne Havens: Because this podcast is all about business building and entrepreneurship. I would love to hear from you what mental blocks have gotten in the way of you growing this little business of yours. I know that you’ve mentioned that just trying to stay afloat for your family has been a big one. But are there any other sort of — we talked a lot on this podcast about whether it be imposter syndrome or just fear of failure. What sort of things go through your mind that get in the way of you carrying on? Then how do you plow through that and keep going?
Monica Bykov: I think it’s a little more personalized than maybe a broad business perspective. But for me, it was that I am not good at social media. I don’t like public speaking, being challenged, and going up in front of the very people that are in your industry, and you know that they know their stuff, the fear of what they’re going to think about your product. Are they going to actually love it? Do they think it’s a good product? Because if they don’t like it, then maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. Because I want their support and their feedback, especially being specialists, they’re very, very important to me.
I have to say I was up in front at a vendor show right before I went to the NCS conference with Tanya, the 2022 conference, which was amazing, by the way. But when I went there, right before it, I went to ABC Expo in Las Vegas, which is one of the biggest ones that you want to go to when you already have a product to show for children. I was placed in front of over 1000 people that I had to show my product to. That was nowhere near as anxiety for me as it was going into NCS. That was the real deal. I knew that that was where I was going to learn to truly trust my product.
It’s crazy to me because I had already gotten into all those stores. But even that didn’t matter to me if my fellow NCS is didn’t also believe in my product. So, I would say that that was huge for me. If they didn’t, that might have been the biggest roadblock for me.
Jayne Havens: Well, I can say, I can vouch for the fact that I know that the NCS community is behind you. Because that’s how I learned about you. They were all bragging about your Butterfly Swaddle. I’m like, “What is this Butterfly Swaddle? I have to figure out what this is.” I went to your website, and I saw that you have this legitimate product in business and this whole thing.
To me, it was really eye opening to see. You never really think about the people behind these products, right? There are so many different products, whether baby-related or not, that we believe in, love, vouch for every single day. There are people and families behind them.
I went to your website, and then I met you. You’re just like an NCS that created this product. I just think that’s so cool that you figured this out, and you’re out there doing it. So many people, like you and I, are sitting home or were sitting in other people’s homes, supporting their families. We have these ideas about how to make our lives easier or our jobs more efficient, and we’re all thinking about things and not doing them.
Here you are. You actually did it. I just think that’s super awesome. I love that. The NCS community is definitely behind your product. I know they are. That just makes me so happy.
Monica Bykov: I have to tell you. In all honesty to God, but I can say that no matter what ends up happening with the product, no matter how far it goes, just having had it lived through — I won’t cry. The support that I’ve had with the NCS community has been huge.
Jayne Havens: It’s amazing.
Monica Bykov: Yeah, worth it.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, it’s amazing. I am just excited that we connected. It’s funny. When I reached out to you and asked you if you wanted to be on the podcast, you expressed to me that you don’t really like to be in the limelight. You’re nervous about speaking publicly. I was like, “Well, too bad. We’re going to talk.”
I think it’s important to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. So, I’m glad that I didn’t give you an out. Because I think it’s really important to get out there and share your story. But I also think it’s a huge learning lesson for everybody listening, that even really successful people have roadblocks and mental blocks and things that feel hard.
I always say the difference between people who have success and people who don’t. The successful people just get out there and do it anyway, even when it feels really hard. You just keep going. Sometimes you fail, and sometimes you don’t. You just keep trying. That’s the difference between failure and success, I think.
Monica Bykov: 100%. Having my husband stand behind me and knowing what is on the line and saying, “Look, you need to do this. I support you. I believe in the product. I know that if you don’t do it, you’ll regret it.” Let’s keep pushing forward until we have a reason not to.
Again, I can’t stress enough how important the support behind you is, and to try your best for the few negatives that might come out at the beginning. Like, “Why don’t you just invest in property or give advice?” Try not to listen to those. Keep at it. Keep focused. Refocus yourself. Listen to the people who you trust in your life. Go back and forth with them, and listen to their advice. Don’t think that you know better than everybody. Also, take everybody’s advice into consideration, because that has been huge for me, too — listening to people’s feedback along the way.
Jayne Havens: What are your goals for the coming months? Do you have any plans to create other products, or are you just going all in on the Butterfly Swaddle?
Monica Bykov: It’s so hard. Because I’m one of those, like, “Oh, I can’t wait to do this and this,” and just to baby the product itself and make a family of it. But my first thing will be to add. It will all be along the sleep line. So, I’m adding right now.
Actually, in November, it should be coming out. Everything goes smoothly. It’s a sleepsack, a wearable blanket. It’s going to be the next stage. Basically, you finish with the swaddle stage, and this is a safe wearable blanket which a lot of people already know and use. It’s just my version, with my quality and my extra touch of it. Very soft and yummy.
Jayne Havens: Perfect. Where can everybody learn more about The Butterfly Swaddle, and perhaps connect with you if they’d like to learn more about your product and also just the process of creating a product and growing a product-based business?
Monica Bykov: Directly, for my product, our website is thebutterflyswaddle.com. Then on Facebook and Instagram, it’s @thebutterflyswaddle. For the business — I gave her a heads up. I told her I mentioned her. She’s wonderful, very reliable, which you need — her name is Kelly Ivie. Her website is kivieconsulting.com.
Jayne Havens: Okay. This is the person who helped you to bring your product to market.
Monica Bykov: Yes, and she has a wonderful graphics designer. There’s every resource that you can get. She’ll help you through.
Jayne Havens: Okay. For anybody that’s interested in creating their own product, I’m going to leave her information in the show notes so that you can reach out. Check out The Butterfly Swaddle on their website directly.
Monica, thank you so much for being willing to share your story and tell us all about your journey that you’ve been on. I cannot wait to see what you do next. Congrats on all of your success.
Monica Bykov: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you for helping me do this.
Jayne Havens: Of course.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Becoming a Sleep Consultant Podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, it would mean so much to me if you would rate, review, and subscribe. When you rate, review, and subscribe, this helps the podcast reach a greater audience. I am so grateful for your support.
If you would like to learn more about how you can become a certified sleep consultant, head over to my Facebook Group, Becoming a Sleep Consultant or to my website thecpsm.com. Thanks so much, and I hope you will tune in for the next episode.