Marci Andrews

Avenue Calgary’s 2009 Top 40 Under 40.

Job Title: President, B.l.i.s, maker of HealthPod Baby

Age: 39

Marci Andrews is an inventor. Not a mad scientist working in a basement on improbable gadgets, but a thoroughly modern inventor. Someone who had an idea, turned it into a product and got it onto store shelves. It’s something many people think about doing, but few pull off.

Her star product is HealthPod Baby. It was born out of a Saturday morning breakfast Andrews was having with two close friends. The conversation turned to the problems one of her friends was having managing her infant son’s persistent ear infections.

Andrews’ friend, Nancy Scott, hadn’t been able to find a product specifically designed to manage children’s health records. So she purchased a notebook to keep track of her son’s antibiotics and doctor’s visits. And that’s when the little light bulb popped up over their heads.

HealthPod Baby is essentially a souped-up daytimer that allows parents to record and store medical information. The sturdy nylon-covered, zip-closed binder allows for all of a child’s health information to be stored in a single package that can easily be popped into a diaper bag or purse.

By sectioning notes into essential areas such as development milestones, records of previous doctor visits and family and personal health history, parents have a wealth of information on hand when a child gets sick or when they visit the pediatrician. And the customized pages help parents know what information needs to be noted.

But there were a lot of steps between that initial light bulb moment and getting HealthPod onto the shelves.

“A friend of mine told me that it’s a quantum leap between having an idea and actually bringing it to market,” says Andrews. “That couldn’t be more true.” It took two and a half years and consultations with hundreds of parents and a crew of 20 medical professionals, but Andrews, along with her partners Jana Sinclair and Scott, created something they’re very proud of and which has had enthusiastic feedback from parents.

“It’s so affirming to know you created something that actually helps parents that much,” says Andrews.

HealthPod wouldn’t have come together without Andrews’ marketing muscle. After graduation from the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business in 1993, she started her career with consumer products giant Proctor & Gamble and went from success to success. Andrews helped to relaunch the Max Factor cosmetics brand in Canada in the 1990s and, after leaving Proctor & Gamble, she consulted for Cadbury and Pepsi on marketing campaigns.

To get HealthPods on store shelves, Andrews and her partners would travel to a city, visit a Starbucks, and ask the mothers hanging out there where they shopped. Then they would cold-call the shops. It’s a strategy that worked, since the product is now sold in baby boutiques and many Chapters bookstore locations across the country.

Locally, it’s carried at Bo Bebe, Cherry Four, The Mom Store and others.

After only three years on the market, Andrews’ company, B.l.i.s (which stands for “Because life is special”), has sold more than 6,000 HealthPods, which retail for about $60.

The next market breakthrough: the U.S. Last summer, Disney Family named HealthPod Baby one of the top 10 essential pregnancy products. That’s a great endorsement for the U.S. market, but Andrews is looking for something just a bit bigger – Oprah Winfrey.

“We’ve sent one to Oprah,” she says. “Now we need other people to get the word out to her.”

Why she’s the top: Marci Andrews and her partners turned a good idea into a great product. HealthPod Baby is getting a lot of attention from new parents in Canada and, with an endorsement from Disney, is about to break out in the United States.

The key to her success: It’s a clich to say hard work, but Andrews’ 15 years of marketing consumer products was the perfect preparation for launch-ing a brand-new product.

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