There’s a name synonymous with simple Swedish design who made it big from humble beginnings. Most people would cite Ingvar Kamprad with his global IKEA emporium and ask who is Björn Jakobson?
Björn, along with his wife Lillemor, may not make the Forbes rich list but to parents around the world their products have proven priceless. They are the founders of the Babybjörn company, which celebrates its 50th year in business in 2011.
Parents attempting to juggle any small job while simultaneously pacifying their baby can testify the benefits of the babysitter seat, which was launched in 1961. And in order to fend off unwanted words of advice from passing strangers when my baby is unsettled in his stroller and I’m on the go, I just whip out my carrier and he is comforted. The original version called Close to Heart (Hjärtenära) came to market in 1973.
Throughout the early development of their products, the Jakobsons pioneered ergonomic design, consulted with pediatricians and researched the importance of close physical contact between baby and parent. With their four children, they had a homemade focus group as a testing ground. And now they refer to their company as their fifth child.
Babybjörn remains a family business today, based in Stockholm, with Björn heading the company as CEO and Lillemor as creative director. Their products can be found in 50 countries worldwide and 95 percent of sales come from exports.
Yet, before we start comparing the Babybjörn series with that of other great Swedish inventions, such as the safety match and the pacemaker, there is a twist in the tale to be told.
It all started on a trip Björn took to the US, where he stumbled across something he thought could be useful while he was babysitting his nephew. He brought the bouncy seat back over the Atlantic, remodeled it and brought it to the European market.
Still, the Jakobsson’s half-century is worth paying homage to. Around 30 million babies have been comforted in their carriers. Mine is one of them. And without their babysitter, I wouldn’t be able to type this right now.