This week our Mompreneur Series features Debra Pally, a Swiss-Australian mom of 2 and founder of Flyaway Kids Bed.
Q: Congrats on launching Flyaway Kids Bed! What inspired you to create this business? What is your badass Mompreneur story?
A: Thanks! As a Swiss-Australian mum with two energetic boys, I’ve personally experienced the immense struggles of flying long-haul with kids, and knew there had to be an easier way!
I’ve spent entire flights searching for toy cars and coloring pencils under seats with my iPhone torch. I’ve held off going to the bathroom for hours because I didn’t want to wake sleeping boys stretched out across my lap. I’ve wiped down plane seats after messy flights, and I’ve juggled carrying toddlers and carry-on luggage during transits. But if I am honest, I was most upset by the frustrated looks from the passengers around us. I’m a good mum! My kids are good kids! And I just wished the world would understand that forcing kids to sit on a plane seat for 12 hours at a time is a recipe for little monsters, not well-behaved angels.
And so, Flyaway Kids Bed was born. I have 12 years of experience in Product Marketing and Product Development, as well as a background in the travel industry, so I felt confident that I could find a solution to help kids sleep and play on planes that both parents and airlines would love. I involved IATA (International Air Transport Association) and Cabin Safety Managers from major airlines around the world in the design and prototyping for the product. With their help, I created an award-winning product that changed the way kids fly by transforming their economy class seat into a comfortable bed while keeping the invaluable floor space for inflight storage. It changed the game for parents flying with kids and is now accepted on over 50 airlines around the world!
Q: Where do you live and do you recommend your city as a family travel destination?
A: I’m originally from tropical North Queensland in Australia and moved to Zurich in Switzerland after meeting my husband on a trip through Thailand! Switzerland’s a stunning country, with snow-capped mountains, wonderful hiking trails through quaint villages and the most delicious cheese and chocolate I’ve ever tasted. I would definitely recommend Zurich as a great city for families to visit. It has more of a sleepy town vibe than a buzzing urban city, and is one of the most picturesque and relaxing European cities to visit with children as it has so many outdoor activities to do with kids of all ages.
Q: What’s your insider tip for families coming to your hometown? What are your favorite family-friendly hidden gems?
A: The Zurich Lake is perfect for families during the summer. The water is pristine and perfect for swimming and you can rent paddle boats at several jetties along the lake. On warm evenings the parks and promenades lining the lake are filled with families and friends enjoying barbeques or picnics and it has quite a festive atmosphere.
The city has many beautifully maintained swimming areas called Badi’s along the lake, with play areas and shallow pools for small children. We especially love the Strandbad at Kuesnacht, as it has a man-made beach with softsand for the little ones to play in.
We also love hiking, and a day trip to Mt Rigi is especially fantastic. This impressive mountain peak (5,896 ft) is about an hour from Zurich and has amazing 360 degree panoramic views. You can reach the summit by cogwheel train and the views are spectacular, with mountains, lakes and valleys in every direction. The walking is easy on a wide path, with options from 0.5 to 5 mile routes, and is suitable for strollers. We particularly love this trail because we can do it any time of year. There’s even enough snow on the trail in winter to make snowmen and snow-angels, and have wonderful snowball fights with your family along the way.
Q: Is family travel part of your life?
A: Yes absolutely! This is especially since Grandma and Grandad live on the other side of the world! We fly to Australia every other year, and persuade family to visit us in Switzerland the year in between. We also love family road trips during the summer holidays. Switzerland is in a special location in the middle of Europe, so it’s perfect for exploring Italy, France, Germany and Austria by car. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you can drive an hour and enjoy pizza in Italy or a schnitzel in Austria!
Q: What is the most memorable trip you took with your kids?
A: The most memorable trip was when I flew long-distance from Zurich to Australia with my boys sound asleep on prototypes of Flyaway Kids Bed. The Singapore Airlines cabin crew all came to have a look, and just loved the design. And, other parents stopped by to ask me where they could buy one, because they thought it was such a great idea!
After so many stressful flights with my boys in the past, it was such an immense relief to finally have a solution where they could sleep and play comfortably. I also remember feeling overwhelmed with pride that we were actually using a product that I invented! Needless to say, we arrived at Grandma’s well rested and ready to enjoy our holiday.
Q: What’s your best advice for traveling parents?
A: Slow down and go with the flow. There’s nothing worse than trying to “pack it all in” with tired and hungry kids in tow. I always bring small cars and travel games with me so my boys have something to do in restaurants. When they were young, I would tie a balloon to their highchair for a fun and easy distraction so my husband and I could enjoy our meals.
Now that my kids are a little older, they love to help plan our holidays. Before we travel, we put together a list of things we’d like to do, or places we’d love to see. And when we’re at the destination, we use the same list to plan our day based on the weather and how we’re all feeling.
Q: What’s your favorite family travel product or service?
A: Apart from Flyaway Kids Bed, I’d have to say packing cubes! You can find them in any department store and they are perfect for helping my family organize our clothes, gear and travel accessories. They are essentially drawers inside your luggage which allow you to quickly take a cube, unzip it and find your things without digging through piles of folded clothes. Another benefit is that everything stays in one place and does not shift inside your bags.
You can also buy different colors for each family member to keep things separate and easy to find inside your suitcase. We have one color for grown-ups and one for kids to keep things simple.
Q: What item do you always pack in your carry-on?
A: We never fly without Flyaway Kids Bed! It’s a must-have in your carry-on especially if you’re flying long distance and are hoping to avoid tired and cranky kids during the flight. It fits all economy class seats, including bulkhead seats. And is the best way to stop snacks, toys, and coloring pencils falling on the floor. Children from ages 2-7 can use it, because the maximum recommended weight is 50kg/110 pounds. You’ll also love the extra leg-room freed-up in front of your seat. It’s a really comfortable and well-made product, which allows my kids to easily sleep 8 hours straight on it. Ultimately, this means we arrive at our destination feeling fresh and ready for our holiday rather than collapsing with exhaustion.
Q: How do you tackle the work/life balance (e.g., day care, babysitting, schools, etc.)?
A: Honestly at the moment it’s tough! I designed Flyaway Kids Bed 2 years ago as a side hobby while working full time because I believed in the product so much, and personally wanted to use it for my own flights with my 2 boys. As soon as I launched Flyaway Kids Bed I won a prestigious international Red Dot Product Design Award and it has taken off since then. I have reduced my full-time job to have 2 half-days off so I can be there when my boys finish school 2 days during the week. Fortunately, they are used to going to after-school care until 5.30pm the rest of the week, and actually love having this time to play with their friends.
I only switch on my laptop to work on Flyaway Kids Bed when the kids are in bed. This means I’m always working late nights and am living on coffee during the day, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still love my day job and consider this my reliable income that will pay for inventory until Flyaway Kids Bed can finance itself. Finally, I’m lucky that my husband also owns his own business, so he can relate to my situation and is extremely proud and supportive of everything I do.
Q: What are the advantages of being a Mompreneur while raising children vs. working for an outside entity? Disadvantages?
A: It’s a special feeling creating a product to fill a personal need, and then finding out there are other parents in the world who love your product as much as you do. It’s a much greater emotional investment versus working for an outside entity. On the flip-side, the Mompreneur journey has enabled me to grow and achieve much more than I ever imagined possible in such a short time.
I’ve been able to branch into all areas of business beyond product marketing and product development and the learning curve has definitely been steep. I’ve learned accounting in German, digital marketing, quality management, Photoshop, how to create and operate my own website, international tax laws, CRM, and the list goes on.
My kids have been a part of the Flyaway Kids Bed journey since the beginning, and I can see how my focus on inventing this product has rubbed off on them. I love that I have become an inspiring role model for them. They are active little problem solvers and even invent their own new toys. Last year my eldest son asked for an “inventions party” for his birthday, and all the kids loved “inventing” their own slime and cupcakes on the day!
So my message for other budding Mompreneurs would be: Take a deep breath and focus on one step at a time. You can do this! Seek out mentors and industry experts to help pave the way, and you’ll slowly but surely move towards your goal.
Most importantly, never forget why you want to launch your product in the first place. Because your story will inspire, motivate and bring people together to help you along the way.
Q: What’s your shameless plug?
A: Flyaway Kids Bed is an award-winning product that takes the stress out of flying with children, by creating a comfortable place for them to sleep and play on planes, whilst maintaining under seat storage.
And happy kids = happy parents!
The product is designed and engineered in Switzerland and it:
- Inflates in 90 seconds and deflates in an instant
- Can be wiped clean during the flight
- Stops toys from rolling onto the floor
- Is packed in a handy carry bag with pump included
- Is perfect for packing in carry-on luggage – weighing just 1.3 kg or 2.8 lbs
- Deflated dimensions: 25cm x 25cm or 10in x 10in
- Inflated dimensions: 80cm x 50cm or 31.5in x 19.5in (it adjusts to fit all economy, premium economy and bulk-head seats)
- Is loved by airlines as it meets the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA’s) strict guidelines for inflight comfort devices
We just love the Flyaway Kids Bed and we know you will too! If you are worried about how to entertain your kids once they wake up though, check out our article on How to Entertain a 3-Year Old When Traveling and you will be a pro before you even take off!