By Jeni Bartiromo, MBA ’21
Fan Wang, MBA ’21, and Madison Weber, MBA ’21, cultivated their business idea as students in the “New Venture Creation” course at Loyola Marymount University in spring of 2021. Their startup, Tedi Health, is a cuddly, interactive teddy bear with an internal Bluetooth speaker paired with a mobile app that helps parents teach young children healthy habits in a fun and entertaining way.
The idea for Tedi Health came from Madison’s experience instilling self-care habits like tooth brushing into her children’s routine. “As of mom of two young children, I know it can be very challenging to get your kids to brush their teeth twice as day and properly wash their hands,” she said.
Madison found early learning educational apps that focused on reading or numbers and children’s health apps that allowed parents to track medications and symptoms. However, she couldn’t find anything that combined early learning with wellness practices.
Madison and Fan teamed up to fill this gap in the marketplace by enrolling in LMU’s “Business Incubation” course (also known as “the incubator”) under the guidance of Jason D’Mello, associate professor of entrepreneurship.
They quickly got to work creating a teddy bear prototype and mobile app as part of the first phase of startup development. All students enrolled in the “Business Incubation” course are eligible for up to $5,000 to fund their ventures, and Fan and Madison needed that seed funding for product samples. They ordered six prototypes from two different Chinese suppliers – one came recommended by Fan’s family friend and the other Fan found through the Alibaba platform. The stuffed animal prototypes are different sizes and styles with Velcro pouches to hold the speaker.
Fan also sourced the speakers from the Alibaba platform and discovered there are complicated regulations to receive an international delivery of lithium batteries which are used in the toy’s Bluetooth speakers. The team hired a translogistic company to handle the appropriate customs and clearances, allowing them to obtain a 3-day international delivery for the desired speaker samples. They soon discovered a round speaker fits best inside Tedi’s pouch and Madison admitted that several prototypes were “all over the house” as her kids have taken their jobs as Tedi Health product testers very seriously.
Next up was building the mobile app using Glide, a no-code mobile app development tool. Tedi Health’s app has four components: an illness symptom tracker, videos, audio and Tedi’s pre-programmed words of encouragement. The app plays lullabies, white noise, three animated videos of Tedi happily brushing his teeth, washing his hands and taking his medicine. The videos were created by a Siberian animation artist with original music by a New York songwriter. The team found both artists though Fiverr.com. Madison’s husband even played a role as the voice of Tedi’s three phrases where he says “you’re so brave,” “good job” and “time to brush your teeth.”
The Tedi Health team are sharing their prototype with local families as they continue to refine the bear, considering both the safety and security issues that come with children’s toys and Bluetooth products. Next steps are adding to Tedi’s library of songs, sayings and videos and they plan to build out the mobile app for custom functionality with the help of an experienced coder. Their goal is to offer Tedi Health direct to consumers and place the bear on the shelves of retailers like Target and Buy Buy Baby. In the meantime, the recent MBA grads are raising funds for round two and brushing twice daily.