Q&A with Joseph Hei, Founder of Orbit Baby
When we started Sprout we looked around for a stroller and car seat company that shared our ideals and standards and we were so excited to find Orbit right in our backyard! We have enjoyed a great working relationship with Orbit, and we believe that they are as focused on your child's health as we are. We asked Joseph Hei, founder of Orbit Baby, to share his thoughts on why he created Orbit Baby as well as what it is like to balance fatherhood while running the most health and environmentally focused gear company around.
What inspires you as a father? Not only to make a product user friendly but also a product that is health conscious too?
This is an obvious point, but my children inspire me to be focused. With things I do and say, I always try to think, "Am I setting a good example for my girls, is this the way I would want them to treat other people, are these the things I would want them to say?" I will openly admit that I do not manage to always act the saint, but this point of view certainly helps keep me more in line. When I am working on a product, the most obvious point that comes up in my mind is "would I want my children to use that product?" Luckily, this is much more easily kept-to as a guiding principle, as ironically I feel I have much more control over the products I design than on my temper when I'm tired and I've told them for the fifth time to put on their PJs ... This is also the philosophy I bring into our household when it comes to health consciousness. My mom was amazingly prescient in her concerns as we were growing up, so she avoided using plastic food containers, didn't allow us to eat too many processed foods or foods with lots of artificial colors or additives, etc. As a result, we try to do the same with our kids. I'm not preachy about organic foods, avoiding candy, and other habits we reinforce, but I definitely try to follow the mantra of walking the walk at home.
Your wife Vivian is also part of the Orbit team, what is it like working as a husband and wife team?
It is both extremely great, and extremely challenging. I love the fact that we have such a common point of reference in our lives. The reality is that most of us spend the majority of our day at work, and Vivian and I get to share this experience. When we talk about work, we can relate to each other. The challenging part has been to not "work" at home, to stop the work conversations at a reasonable hour at night, and to not manage each other. This is a concrete piece of advice I can give to other couples contemplating working together: do not be each other's managers. Other than that, to me there's no difference between a personal or a professional relationship with your spouse- respect, good communication, listening, flexibility.
What are your best tips on how to manage not only a growing company but family as well?
Don't have high expectations for your life outside of work and family- something's gotta give, and I'd rather not have it be by family, and I couldn't afford to have it be my company. Be ok with not having a normal life- we look at the parents of kids in our girls' classrooms, and they all seem to know each other better and socialize, but we've not had the time to do that and it's not productive to go through life feeling bad about that. After things settle down a bit at a startup, make a point to get home to eat dinner with your kids, and to spend a couple of hours with them on getting them ready for bed, reading a bookyou can always do work after they go to sleep. Be interested in your work, or get a job you're passionate about, as fitting in an activity that fulfills this need (golf, a hobby, etc.) will take time from either work or your family, and more often than not it will be your family. The one thing I've tried hard to make time for outside of work and family is exercise, but outside of that I don't have time for much else, and basically I'm ok with that.
Did you ever imagine that Orbit would be where it is today?
Honestly, I'm always in a state of disbelief when I see an Orbit Baby product rolling around on the street, not so much elation as just utter disbelief. It's an awesome thing, in the literal sense. We've had our heads down working so hard for so many years that our success has kind of taken me by surprise. On top of that, as Vivian will tell you, I'm not very good at celebrating things- I'm always onto the next thing to do- so that has something to do with it.
What is most rewarding about fatherhood?
What is most rewarding about being a dad is that it's the hardest thing I've ever attempted, so in the moments when I feel like I'm getting it right I feel really proud of myself. The challenge is getting to more of those moments- I think that being a dad, just like being a husband, or a CEO, is something you have to commit to as a process and not a destination. The attitude has to be that you will consciously work hard at it, learn more about it, and improve.
What do you see on the horizon for Orbit?
I think that what distinguishes Orbit Baby, and the people who work here, is an uncommon ability to think bigger. We don't always pull off the things that we are trying to do, but I think that we do bring a fresh "why not" attitude to the baby industry, and I think that is what will propel Orbit Baby forward and upward. Going forward, I am very interested in bringing orbit-ing to many more people around the world, and continuing to work on the next "wow" that we will deliver to parents to make getting around easier and more fun. I continue to be inspired by our motto, "Form follows Family," and am excited about the products we will be bringing out in the next couple of years. Stay tuned ...