SALT LAKE CITY — He’d just been laid off from his job, he was sleeping in, and he turned over in bed to find himself drenched in pee, courtesy of the 4-year-old he and his wife were potty training who had slipped into their room overnight.
Craig Hammond didn’t get mad, he launched a new company.
“This sounds like fiction, I know,” says Hammond as he tells the story of how his business, peejamas.com, came to be. “But it really happened that fast.”
Since he didn’t have a job to go to anymore — it was amazing how fast the bubble had burst on the San Francisco tech firm he’d joined nine months earlier — he had time to mull over the subject of potty training when he got up that morning.
The night before, he and his wife had debated whether to put a pull-up diaper on Marshall, but he’d sailed through the day without needing a diaper and if they put on a nighttime diaper he wouldn’t get the message that he was supposed to be going cold turkey. So they congratulated themselves on being great potty training parents and sent him to bed unprotected. You know the rest.
“Why isn’t there another option?” Hammond thought to himself as he threw the bedding in the washing machine. The parent in him wanted to help his son (and his dad) never wake up again in wet sheets. The entrepreneur in him — Hammond got his MBA from the Thunderbird School in Phoenix — wanted to create a new product that would re-introduce him to the ranks of the employed.
He began to brainstorm. What if he could come up with something that acted like a diaper but looked and wore like pajamas? What if he named them Peejamas?
He went to GoDaddy to see if a URL for peejamas.com might be available.
“Right then I started thinking, ‘This is too perfect,’” says Hammond. “I had the time, I had some severance money after being laid off, I had a brandable name on a website I owned.”
As he went to work coming up with an absorbent fabric that would contain water and yet be pliant enough to wear like regular pajamas — it turned out a combination of bamboo and cotton did the trick — he learned just how huge the market is for nighttime diapers. Two big brands, Johnson & Johnson and Kimberly-Clark, account for $1.6 billion in sales every year in America.
He also learned that diapers are one of the most frequent contributors to landfills; virtually all of that $1.6 billion winds up at the dump.
The alternative he was offering to nighttime diapers would also help save the planet.
And not only that, help save kids from the trauma of nighttime potty training by giving them the confidence that comes from A) Not going to bed wearing a diaper, and B) Not waking up with a wet bed.
Craig and Megan Hammond put the first pair of Peejamas on their son Marshall and sent him off to bed.
For two nights, to his dad’s disappointment, Marshall woke up dry.
Finally, on the third night, he came through.
“He peed! The sheets aren’t wet! It worked,” Craig Hammond exulted, enjoying his Alexander Graham Bell moment.
The Peejamas got thrown in the wash — instead of being thrown away — and Marshall was back in them that night. One set of Peejamas is good for at least 300 washings before it begins to lose its absorbency.
Hammond and his business partner, Ryan Treft, launched their product with an online crowd-funding Kickstarter campaign this past Valentine’s Day. They needed to hit their modest target figure of $14,000 in pre-sales during a 45-day window.
They crossed their fingers and hoped consumers would like their idea as much as they did.
By April 1, 45 days later, they had pre-sold $227,000 worth of Peejamas — setting a record for the biggest Kickstarter launch ever in the kids’ clothing category.
In the four months since, they’ve pre-sold another $180,000 worth.
In late August, some 8,000 Peejamas will begin to cover America.
After that? The parents of America will decide the future of Hammond's brainstorm.
Craig Hammond, being one of them, is optimistic.8 comments on this story
“I do feel like I captured lightning in a bottle because of the demand that’s already been shown,” he says. “Pull-ups just don’t cut it for so many kids. We found that out, and I know other people are in the same boat. We’re providing something that can make a difference for our kids and help our Earth, too.”
And he’d never have found it out if he hadn’t lost his job and gotten peed on by his son.
Correction: In an earlier version, Hammond's business partner Ryan Treft was incorrectly identified as Ryan Trest.