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Sunday, May 28, 2023

SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: Safety Net

SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: Safety Net By MATTHEW A. GILBERT Contributing Reporter Some people work for a family business. Others are focused on the business of family. For David Spigelman and his wife Nancy, owners of Wonder Years Baby Proofing, their lives are about both. Launched in 1988 to help parents safety-proof their homes, Wonder Years installs everything from cabinet latches to toilet locks. They will also inspect your child’s car seat to ensure it is properly installed. With a service area stretching north to Ventura, south to San Diego and east to Palm Springs, Spigelman drives up to 30,000 miles annually. Ironically, Spigelman’s parents owned a children’s furniture store in Brooklyn, N.Y. For 35 years, he worked there and lived nearby. In fact, during the years he lived in New York, his home, school and work were all within walking distance a far cry from the hours he now spends on the road. The experience at his family’s store served him well when he moved to California and in 1984 started working at the Juvenile Shop in Sherman Oaks. It was there the concept for his company was born when a former co-worker originally developed the idea. “He started by installing people’s tether straps for their car seats and then it branched out into their homes,” Spigelman recalled. “But, he was not a people person.” Eventually, sufficient complaints about this individual’s unpleasant demeanor were received that Spigelman and another co-worker took over. By 1985 he was installing safety products under the direction of his colleague on a part-time basis, usually after work. By 1988, he was working for himself. “I thought this was the best thing that I had ever come across,” Spigelman remembers. Getting clients A dedicated marketer and pragmatic entrepreneur, Spigelman returned to the Juvenile Shop on a part-time basis. He used the exposure there to promote his new business while offsetting some of the start-up costs with his regular paycheck. Spigelman also delivered and assembled furniture orders from the store, which gave him additional opportunities to meet prospective clients. “No one got out of the store without a card or a flyer,” Spigelman joked, adding that he later expanded into print advertising in LA Parent and other children’s magazines. “It built up really nicely and eventually I couldn’t handle working part time and operating the business, so I had to go on my own.” Spigelman currently advertises in the phone book and Magazine of Santa Clarita although he credits referrals with more than 80 percent of his new clients. “That’s the best advertising,” Spigelman explains, adding that usually summer is his busiest time of year; this year has been exceptionally positive. “This summer has just gone bananas.” Perhaps the reason behind the company’s continued growth is that the services it provides are increasingly important. On average, more than 15 children die each day as a result of unintentional injury more than 5,600 annually. In particular, children under the age of 1 and those under the age of 4 have the first and second highest risk of unintentional injury, respectively. According to the Centers for Disease Control accidents around the home are responsible for the majority of injuries to toddlers annually. The cost of convenience Joe Alexander and his wife Tammy were so impressed with Spigelman’s work that they hired him twice. Initially, Spigelman secured the couple’s 3,600-square-foot Stevenson Ranch home for their nine-month-old son, Jack while Nancy made sure their car seats were safely installed. The Alexanders again hired Spigelman to baby-proof their 2,800 square foot beach home in Oxnard. “He’s a real nice guy. He inspects things we don’t think about,” said Joe Alexander, who was initially reluctant to hire someone to install the safety gear. He soon realized his time was better spent managing Park Regency Realty the Granada Hills real estate firm he founded in 1977 and of which he is now president than screwing in safety latches. “I thought maybe I could save a few bucks by installing it myself, but in the long-run you’re not going to save a whole lot of money. I probably would have ended up spending more to fix it than to install it,” Joe Alexander added. “David put in four or five gates, all the plug covers, door stops and the cabinet door latches. He really knocked it out.” Spigelman’s biggest challenge is the increasing sizes of new homes especially those in the Santa Clarita Valley. Whereas in the past, an installation averaged 30 drawer latches, 2 gates, 2 toilet locks and 10 outlets, Spigelman is now contending with jobs more than twice that size. Most installations now require a full day’s work. SPOTLIGHT: Wonder Years Baby Proofing Year Founded: 1988 Employees in 1988: 1 Revenues in 1988: $12,000 Employees in 2004: 3 Revenue in 2004: $80,000-$100,000 Goal: To safeguard children in their homes. Driving Force: To bring parents peace of mind so they can live less stressful lives.

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