Baby walker with Forest Whitaker tie takes off

@CNNMoney December 29, 2011: 11:35 AM ET
Jeffrey Nash designed the Juppy Baby Walker, which lets adults teach babies how to walk without bending over.

Jeffrey Nash designed the Juppy Baby Walker, which lets adults teach babies how to walk without bending over.

NEW YORK (CNN Money) -- The father-in-law of Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker, may not be as famous as his son-in-law, but he is quickly gaining fans among babies and the adults who want to teach them how to walk.

Jeffrey Nash's Juppy Baby Walker has been taking off since he created it in October 2010.

So far, Nash has made $260,000 and projects $400,000 next year.

Traditional walkers with wheels have come under fire for injuring or even killing some babies. And some experts argue that the use of them delays motor skills and mental development. Parents can opt to hold toddlers' hands. But the constant bending at the waist often results in achy backs.

The walker is simply a step-in cloth harness with long straps that allows parents to stand upright while guiding and controlling baby's steps.

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The product is "easy to use," said Danielle Leonard, a mom and creator of the blog frugalnavywife.com. "And it will help kids learn to walk faster and feel better about walking without killing their parents' backs."

The walker retails for $14.95, which has helped lift sales. "Most consumers have limited disposable income, and are extremely price sensitive and value conscious," says an industry report from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.

Nash, 56, has a patent pending on the design to help protect his idea and bottom line from competitors.

The former men's retail salesman was out with his daughter and her family when he came up with the idea. Nash noticed a woman struggling to walk with her toddler. "When I saw the woman bent over, for some reason the whole design idea came right in my head like it was given to me," he explained.

Things moved pretty quickly after that. Nash sketched the idea by hand and, tapping his retail industry contacts, was able to have a prototype sewn. After a few misfires, he finally had the perfect sample, as well as a connection with a Chinese manufacturer. And with about $35,000 in startup capital, the Juppy Baby Walker was ready for retail in one frenzied month.

Nash secured about $10,000 in startup capital from his father and a friend and the rest came from his 401(k). Interestingly, he did not turn to his daughter and her uber-famous husband, Whitaker, for an investment -- or even an endorsement. The Juppy is strong enough to be marketed on its own merit, he said.

Angela Mickalide, director of research and programs for the nonprofit Safe Kids Worldwide, agreed that the Juppy does alleviate many of the safety concerns of other baby walkers, but she warns that there are still risks.

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"The product negates the hazards of traditional walkers primarily because the child is with the parent," she said. "But parents must still be vigilant in their supervision and store the product well out of child's reach because any string that's more than seven inches long can be a strangulation hazard."

Nevertheless, support of the Juppy Baby Walker continues to grow, fueled primarily by an Internet marketing strategy developed by Nash and executed by a staffer.

Nash stays in constant contact with the hottest mom bloggers, including Leonard, who review and give away his product.

"I am definitely grateful that I have a product that is actually selling," said Nash. "I just wanted to create something that was simple, safe and affordable." To top of page

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