When the magnetic field arrived in New York City and pulled the 1994 Sackets Harbor Central School salutatorian into its clutches, it came dressed in baby clothes.
We cant plan for these things, says Lawrence J. Scheer. But the former Wall Street lawyer has been caught in the orbit of a product that seems so simple that one has to wonder why it had not been thought of before.
Thats one of the things that attracted me, Mr. Scheer said. Its the simple idea. One of the reasons why people havent done it before is because its not easy. It takes work to figure out how to do it correctly. Weve done that and patented it.
Mr. Scheer and his business partner are the owners of Magnificent Baby magnetic fastening baby clothes. The products have been featured this year on The Price is Right, ABCs The View and Good Morning America and other national media outlets.
Weve been tripling our sales every year, which were really proud of, Mr. Scheer said.
The success has put him on a new career track, and he has no plans on returning to law.
That definitely wasnt my plan, said Mr. Scheer, son of Jon P. and Lorraine Scheer of Sackets Harbor and Florida. His parents have owned and worked at the Westcott Variety Store in Hounsfield for more than 30 years.
Mr. Scheer, 36, is a fast learner. As a senior at Sackets Harbor Central, he attended Jefferson Community College as a full-time honors program student, earning a 4.0 average. In 1998, he graduated from Emory University in Atlanta with both bachelors and masters degrees in political science. In 2001 he received a degree from Harvard Law School.
He was in his 10th year of practicing law when a classmate from Emory, Lauren Levy, who was a commercial real estate analyst in New York City, approached him with an idea that was triggered by a crying child.
Her nephew was screaming and crying, Mr. Scheer said in a phone interview from Magnificent Baby headquarters in the Garment District in Manhattan. She was just putting a bib in him. It should have been really easy and simple. She could see the Velcro was pulling out his hair. She thought to herself, There has to be a better way.
That better way was using magnets (with the Smart Close trademarked system) on baby clothes instead of buttons and Velcro. Instead of fumbling with snaps and buttons, a half-awake parent, changing a diaper in the middle of the night for example, can close up a baby body suit swiftly. There is no lining up snaps or buttons. All you need to do is line the magnets up and watch them close, the companys website notes.
She had the idea for Magnificent Baby and asked me to invest and help her out, Mr. Scheer said. I did, and then it sort of just took off.
The idea came in 2008, the year of the Wall Street crash, and they started doing research and development on the project. The company describes Ms. Levy as the intuitive right brain of the firm, while Mr. Lawrence is its logical and rational left brain.
I knew that if other people could make the clothes, even though we werent in the industry, there was a point A and a point B and we would be able to find the steps in between, Mr. Scheer said.
Sales were launched in January 2010.
Weve been doing great and having a lot of fun, he said.
The Magnificent Baby clothing line began with a layette collection. The product line has since branched out to garments like reversible cardigans, hooded jackets and even booties and caps. On the spring horizon are polo shirts and polo dresses.
Were growing all the time, and as fast as we possibly can, to provide a quality product, Mr. Scheer said.
Magnificent Baby products are mainly sold wholesale through retailers and online at amazon.com and diapers.com. They are sold at some upscale stores, like FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, and at buybuy Baby stores (the closest buybuy Baby store from Watertown is in Henrietta, Monroe County).
The company has wholesale customers in Canada, Latin America, Australia, Europe and Africa. The clothing is manufactured in Asia.
The company products, Mr. Scheer said, meet safety guidelines in all countries they are sold.
To remove the magnets from the clothing would take serious tampering, he said. Its very safe. We do lots of testing through independent safety testing bureaus.
Magnificent Baby notes that a study published by the World Health Organization concluded that there is no adverse affect on human health from exposure to very low power static magnetic fields.
The company has four employees at its headquarters and showroom on West 36th Street. They also work with several independent sales representatives and other workers.
Its fun to be your own boss, Mr. Scheer said. It obviously comes with a lot more responsibility and a lot more sleepless nights. But ultimately, the thing we like best is providing a real solution to real problems for people.
Mr. Scheer may be in for more sleepless nights. His wife, Marina, is scheduled to give birth in February to the couples first child.
Magnificent Baby is constantly getting positive feedback, and not just from parents looking to save time. Grandparents with arthritic hands and mothers with early-onset arthritis are especially appreciative.
The magnet concept doesnt seem limited to just baby clothes. It would seem to be a natural fit for senior citizens and others who may struggle with their own buttons.
You never know, Mr. Scheer said. Were taking all ideas.