Manasi Gangan already had a long and prosperous IT career under her belt at large corporations like State Street Bank and Fidelity in Boston when she became pregnant in her mid-30s with her second child. As she prepared to go on maternity leave, she began to think about her working life.
Manasi Gangan with her Nested Bean baby clothing.
“I was doing well, my career was going in the right direction, but I just did not feel a sense of purpose,” Gangan said. “I wanted to create an impact bigger than getting kudos from higher-ups.”
Gangan’s son was born, and unlike her first child, he just wouldn’t sleep.
“It caught me by surprise, and the interesting part was that he would sleep in my arms, but if I put him down, in literally five minutes he would be up,” she said. “It was like a switch.”
Gangan wondered, what was her son receiving from her touch? She began poring over the available research. This was about a decade ago, and the internet wasn’t quite as robust as it is today, but there was still a lot of information available. Gangan found research done by scientists at the University of Miami and Duke University.
“They had an immense amount of data on what effect our touch has on babies especially, and their ability to control their own stress,” Gangan said. “Our touch plays an important role in regulating a baby’s stress response.”
Researchers further found that babies can’t tell the difference between human touch and simulated touch that applies similar pressure. That gave Gangan the idea for her business — a business that would help people.
“When I found simulated touch had been researched and proven (effective), it was a matter of bringing that in a safe and appealing way to the mainstream market,” Gangan said. “I remember thinking, maybe I’m on to something. I couldn’t imagine what an impact it could have on hundreds and millions of new parents.”
Gangan created a prototype, sleepwear that was lightly cushioned and weighted, and would apply pressure on “just the right places,” where baby is accustomed to feeling pressure from our hands and arms. Gangan found some moms willing to test her prototype.
“They couldn’t believe how easy it was for their babies to fall asleep and stay asleep,” Gangan said. “One had older siblings. They were making a racket and the baby kept sleeping, proof it would work.”
Now Gangan had empirical evidence to go along with the research she had already studied. Gangan contacted designers, product engineers and safety labs to make sure whatever she brought to the market would meet or exceed safety standards.
“Anything that goes on a consumer’s body, let alone a baby’s body, needs to pass certain stringent regulations,” Gangan said.
Manasi Gangan wanted more out of life than kudos from her bosses.
Gangan also sought out voluntary tests to make sure her sleepwear went above and beyond the standards established by the government.
“When those came back with flying colors, we knew we could go to market,” she said.
The process had taken two years. Gangan first had the idea for Nested Bean, as she would call her company, in 2011. Her first full year selling baby garments was in 2013. She started in retail stores, relying on sales staff to educate customers about her patented sleepwear that simulated a parent’s touch. That didn’t work so well.
“We were growing at a slow pace, maybe 30 percent year over year,” Gangan said. “We knew the product was better than that.”
In 2015 Gangan switched to 95 percent online sales, where she could explain her sleepwear on the website. That’s when Nested Bean began to see exponential growth. Last year, sales were about $15 million, with more than 800,000 units sold. This year, Gangan hopes to reach close to $25 million in sales.
“You don’t realize until you go through it what kind of havoc (sleeplessness) can wreak on your life, your mood and your ability to care for others and yourself,” Gangan said.
In addition to helping babies sleep, and by extension their parents, Gangan is nurturing a community of parents online.
“These are our customers,” she said. “We invite them to join our community. We have created a safe zone with no bias and just support for this community.”