We had the good fortune of connecting with Debbie Stogel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Debbie, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
I am a baby proofer…and who would have thought that after six years of doing this type of work, I would find that my primary focus would be to save the lives of infants, babies and children and to keep them safe from harm within their home. But I do! This type of work clearly helps the community and the world. Prior to starting my business in 2015, I worked for a civil rights agency doing anti-bias and diversity training. While doing that work, the goals were always the same, raise a future generation to become aware of bias and discrimination and to become social justice advocates and change agents. When I left that work after 25 years to start my own business, a baby proofing and child safety company, I did so with the hope that I would continue that work of saving the lives of children, so they could grow up to become those social justice advocates and change agents. But the work and business has become so much more. My goals are still the same, to have an impact on protecting and saving the lives of babies and reducing any harms and dangers that might come their way so they can grow up to have happy and productive lives. My other goals include providing parents with expert consultation, home hazard education, product recommendations, and professional installation services to prevent injuries to babies and giving parents peace of mind. I don’t just come into a home pushing baby proofing products. I pride myself on educating families on the hidden dangers within their home and imparting knowledge, resources and valuable information. As a baby proofer, I follow very strict ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) child safety standards. I only install JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) approved products. When I work with a family, I care about three important things…(1) the safety of the products I am installing, (2) those products are installed correctly and are operating properly, and (3) what I install is aesthetically pleasing. I want my clients to like the look of what they are getting and what we are installing for them. But I am also all about education and imparting knowledge. When I walk into someone’s home, I tell them I am looking at the world through their child’s lens, “Imagine if I were to get on my hands and knees and crawl around…that is the world I focus on…everything below counter and waist level.” I invite parents to do the same. If I can see it, their child can find it. I make a point of staying current on the latest research. Everything I tell clients is based on research and by the numbers. For example, I advise parents to remove dishrags from oven doors to prevent little ones from easily grabbing it, pulling open door. I also share something I call “the Seven-Inch Rule!” Any string or cord longer than 7” is considered a strangulation hazard for children. Cords, wires, strings, cables and all electrical cord items should be removed from the floor, organized, tightened and kept out of reach of young children. As another example, many parents are concerned about a child’s fingers getting closed in drawers and cabinets…and reality is…that is a common occurrence. I tell families about the “three-time rule.” It takes a child 3 times to do something before they learn and have it imprinted on their developing brains that this is something they should not do again. For instance, if your child closes his or her fingers in a drawer, it’s going to hurt, she/he’s going to cry, and your child of course (and you) will not like it. She/he might do it a second time and the same thing occurs. But by the third time, he/she will have developed a muscle memory to remember, “that hurts…I better not do that again.” Trust me…it works, and children learn not to close their fingers in drawers. Finally, I address the importance of furniture tip-overs, not only because we live in earthquake country here in Los Angeles, but parents tend to overlook furniture safety thinking a heavy dresser weighs too much for their child to pull it over on themselves. Furniture tip-overs have to do with leverage and physics, not strength. By opening dresser drawers, the center of gravity shifts. Once a child adds his/her weight on the drawers, dressers will tip over with very little force or effort. I demonstrate this by pulling out dresser drawers, starting at the bottom, letting parents see how easy it is for the dresser to tip. It’s a wake-up call for many parents. My job is to evaluate the contents and layout of one’s home and design solutions that provide the safest environment for their children. I’ve identified the safest products. Every product has been tested for quality and effectiveness in preventing potential hazards within their home. I save client’s countless hours of research in determining the best products for their needs. I save them time, money and effort on installation. Our expert installers ensure all strict safety specifications are met.
What should our readers know about your business?
I am the owner of Be Safe Baby Proofers, a one-stop resource for all baby proofing and child safety needs. We provide expert consultation, home hazard education, product recommendations, and professional installation services for families in Los Angeles and surrounding areas with the goal of preventing injuries to your baby and giving parents peace of mind. The process begins with a home survey. I walk through the home and discuss all areas that are potentially dangerous. I determine the best products or solutions for each “area” and show samples, examples and pictures. Following the visit, I map out a plan by providing a written Price Quote Sheet estimate of the recommended products, along with a detailed Room by Room Plan. Clients can decide whether they want to go with the recommendations or remove certain items. I then revise the quote and offer an installation date. I think I got to where I am today because of my original career path. Following my undergraduate work in college, I was aspiring to become a Dean of Students on a college or university campus. The training I received in the student affairs and student activities arena provided lifelong stills as a highly organized individual with tremendous public speaking stills. Running your own business involves a huge amount of organizational abilities and big picture thinking, both of which I possess. I am very linear in my thinking, exceedingly organized and highly detailed orientated. I am also an excellent public speaker and love talking with families about all of the different ways to keep their children safe in their homes. My story is unique in how I got started in this business. Often times, client will ask, how did I become a baby proofer. It was not my chosen profession and if anyone asked me what I wanted to me when I grew up, the answer would NOT be…I want to be a baby proofer… When looking back on my life and career, I have to go back to November 18, 2014, as that is when my life changed forever. Prior to that date, I devoted my career to diversity training and anti-bias education. On that date, I was told by my employer that my time, at the place where I worked for a quarter of a century…the place I called home…would come to an end. I was told I was being laid off and that my position was being eliminated. I was an unfortunate casualty of a severe round of layoffs. I had spent half of my life in a job and career in one office, in one workplace and with one company/organization…which in today’s world is completely unheard of. My original training and background was in student affairs, higher education administration and student activities. My goal at that time was to become a dean of students on a college campus. Back in January of 1990, while I was working as an Assistant Dean of Students on a college campus, I was presented with a wonderful and unexpected opportunity to work for a non-profit, civil rights agency, doing anti-bias and diversity training work. I have to admit that my time at this agency was truly a life-changing experience. When I began my journey, I had no idea what I was really getting into, but shortly thereafter, I decided that I wanted to spend my life trying to fight bigotry and work for justice and equality. Forced into making a different career choice and follow a different path in 2014, I was approached by a colleague, who was also laid off at the same time, to consider the idea of starting a small business together: a baby proofing company. Baby Proofing? Who would have thought? But then I immediately went back to that place of remembering what it was like raising of my own children, two boys, who are now 25 and 19 years old, and all that I did to make our home safe for them. I put cushions on the corners of furniture and installed gates. Of course, for the gates back then, we had to climb over them. Imagine holding an infant in your arms and climbing over a gate. So needless to say, when I got into this industry and learned that gates come with doors, you could imagine my excitement and enthusiasm. There was no more “climbing over” gates. While my kids joke that after 25 years we still have a few of those corner cushions on certain pieces of furniture, one memory sticks out, which speaks to my passion about baby proofing and one I tell clients all the time. When my younger son was around twelve to eighteen months old, he decided to climb up onto our glass coffee table as if it were a stage.. While nothing happened, thankfully, I immediately swooped him away. I then took the glass out of the wooden frame, wrapped it in a blanket, shoved it under our sofa, put the wooden frame in our garage, and we lived without a coffee table for years. It is the story I have shared with countless parents when I look at their coffee tables and the dangers they present. If I can live without that piece of furniture, so could they. In April 2017, I took over sole ownership of Be Safe Baby Proofers, as my business partner decided to pursue other opportunities. As a small business owner, Be Safe Baby Proofers has afforded me the opportunity to protect the lives of infants, babies and children, so they can grow up to be happy, healthy and thriving individuals.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Some of my favorite Los Angeles or Southern California hot spots include the following fun places, and are listed not in any particular order: Dodger Stadium Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park Pacific Coast Highway and Zuma Beach Disneyland and Downtown Disney Universal Studios and Universal CityWalk Warner Brother’s Studio Tour Dockweiler State Beach Rodeo Drive Third Street Promenade Brentwood Country Mart The Hollywood Sign The Getty Center Griffith Observatory The Broad
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Baby proofing is a niche market. There are probably about 100 baby proofers and baby proofing companies that exist in the world. As a baby proofer, I am a member of an association called the International Association for Child Safety (IAFCS). This association consists of a network of baby proofers from throughout the United States, Canada and even other international locations. The association provides information, education, training, networking, and certification. It allows all of us to stay current on the latest research regarding infant and child safety protocols. I’ve learned everything from this association and its members, and I attribute my success in my business to the resources and training provided by the IAFCS.
All of these photos and images are stock photos from online through internet images or from my website host, WIX. The brochures and logos were created by me, Debbie Stogel, and my husband, who is a graphic designer, Bill Walker.