A local entrepreneur wants to make sure your child doesn’t grow up to root for the wrong team.
Richmond-based Baby Fanatic, founded by Tricia Woodson, sells a line of baby products featuring logos of major colleges and MLB and NFL teams. Woodson, a Radford graduate and self-proclaimed Hokie-by-marriage, came up with the idea after a fruitless search for a baby gift.
“One of my friends we tailgate with at Virginia Tech was having a baby,” she said. “I wanted to get a Hokie gift but couldn’t find anything.”
Woodson started Baby Fanatic in 2003 and had licensing agreements with 17 universities by the end of the first year. Her first deal, naturally, was with Virginia Tech.
The company began by producing high-end nursery products, such as rocking chairs emblazoned with the maroon “VT,” but has shifted to more day-to-day products, such as pacifiers, bibs and bottles.
“Our company is more focused on daily essentials now,” Woodson said. “We have licensed products that are gift-y, but they’re also usable.”
Baby Fanatic’s narrow focus on practical goods helped the company score licensing contracts with the major professional sports leagues, Woodson said. She added the NFL and MLB lines in 2010, and Pittsburgh Steelers products quickly became the company’s best sellers.
In addition to MLB and NFL products, Baby Fanatic has expanded its line to include more than 50 universities and is finalizing a contract with the NBA.
The company, which has eight employees, caught another big break in 2008, when the EPA strengthened chemical testing requirements for child products. Instead of taking on the higher costs associated with the regulations, Woodson said, many larger and more generalized apparel brands simply dropped their baby product lines.
Woodson said her background in environmental cleanup — she worked in hazardous waste material before starting the business — helped her understand and comply with the new laws.
Baby Fanatic products are available nationwide at Wal-Mart, Kroger, Meijer and other retailers, and Woodson recently struck a deal that will put Baby Fanatic in every Target store in the country.
Woodson said she does about 15 percent of her business online.
Woodson also hopes to add products for older children, from toddlers to elementary school kids, and the company is working on a line of educational toys to teach kids important things like numbers, letters and where the Hokies play their home games.