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Interview with Louise Stoll, CARES

If you read our review of CARES, (see original review here), then you will agree that this is an incredibly unique product.   Read our interview with the creator, Louise, below, from our June newsletter.   Remember to sign up for the Mom’s Favorite Stuff newsletter for access to interviews, family friendly recipes from Modern Menus, and coupon codes!

Tell us about CARES.

CARES is the new, easy way to travel safely on airplanes with small children. CARES is the first and only FAA approved harness-type child safety restraint for kids 22-44 lbs in their own airplane seats. It weighs 1 pound, fits in a 6 inch stuff sack, and takes the place of a 20 lb car seat when you fly. CARES is adjustable to all size airplane seat, takes a minute to install, and is certified as providing an ELOS (equivalent level of safety ) to a car seat. CARES can be used for ALL phases of flight ““ taxing, take off, turbulence and landing. Basically, CARES takes the schlep out of navigating airports and airplane aisles. CARES is being sold over the internet at the Kids Fly Safe Website.What was your inspiration for CARES?

My daughter came to visit us and stepped off the plane carrying a 2 ½ year old toddler, a 20 lb car seat, a diaper bag ““ and she was 7 months pregnant! I thought there had to be a better way – and I went home and started to draw pictures of what I thought a “child safety device designed for airplanes ““ not cars ““ ought to look like”. My husband looked at the sketches and sent me to a patent attorney. The rest is history!

What challenges did you encounter when launching it?

First, after waiting 2 years for the Patent to be issued, I had to find a partner to build a proto type and take it through FAA certification process. The usual manufacturers of children’s safety products such as car seats, knew nothing about dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration, because car seats are certified by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. I finally met AmSafe Aviation, the Phoenix based company that manufactures most of the airline seat belts in the world, as well as many flight attendant and pilot restraints. They saw CARES as corresponding to their aviation safety mission, and I licensed my patent to them. They shepherded CARES through the FAA certification process. The FAA had never seen anything like CARES ““ and hence had to develop new, stringent, airworthy certification standards for a harness type device that didn’t look anything like a car seat. It took nearly 4 years. CARES was certified for all US registered aircraft in August, 2006. Parents have the right to bring CARES on board all US based airlines.

What has surprised you the most in launching and running CARES?

First ““ how fantastically well it was received! The FAA press release announcing the “first and only alternative to a car seat for use on airplanes” spurred a huge amount of initial publicity ““ we were caught without inventory to meet the first 1000 purchase orders we received the first month! There are over 10,000 CARES out there now. Second ““ how much I enjoy answering the 20 -30 questions I receive every day from users and would-be users ““ including helping them solve problems they sometimes run into with personnel on an airline who still hasn’t heard about CARES and thinks car seats are the only game in town. Third ““ how hard you have to work to keep the website current.

What resource has helped you the most in starting CARES?

My excellent Public Relations Consultant, Lisa Orman, who is the president of KidStuffPR.

We have many busy moms (and dads) reading Mom’s Favorite Stuff who would love to know how you balance your family life and running a small business.

Good question! My husband and I call ourselves “semi-retired” as we left “more than full time” positions in Washington DC and moved to Vermont three years ago. However ““ that “semi” business is a misnomer. Once in Vermont, we settled into serious consulting and community activities, as well as commitments to child care for the three of our grandkids who live 6 blocks away. Then CARES was certified ““ and we had a full blown business on our hands! Like others running a start-up from their homes, we juggle our commitments as best we can. I gave up outside consulting, distributed some responsibilities to other family members (they all rejoiced after the many years of listening to me about the trials and tribulations of the bureaucracy of the FAA), and I found the right support systems: a good public relations consultant, a good warehouse and a good web designer. Managing the effort is, I’d say, a ¾ time job. We work from our house which is both good and bad. Our social life has been cut back. We try to keep up a schedule of outdoor physical activity to stay healthy ““ often combining things like bike riding with a tag along for a grandchild we are watching. It makes for a full life ““ and we sleep well!

Tell us what’s next for CARES.

A CARES certification for older/larger children. CARES was tested (dynamic crash tests) and certified for children 22-44 lbs, because that’s essentially the range for kids in the front facing car seats which parents were encouraged to bring for their kids when they fly. Kids over 44 lbs now must use the airplane seat belt alone as the booster seats they would use in cars are not allowed on airplanes because they require a shoulder seat belt which planes don’t have. Many parents have requested a CARES for their 4-6 year old kids because they know the airplane seat belt alone still does not provide a safe seat for them. CARES will shortly be tested for children up to 65 lbs. We hope the certification process won’t take 4 years.

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