Babywearing and hiking when you are a family with little ones go hand-in-hand. That is why we are so happy at Hike it Baby to have a partner in Onya Baby Carriers. We are starting an exciting program where we will have an Onya Baby carrier in every branch of Hike it Baby for our community to try. They are also on sale in our Hike it Baby Online Shop! Onya has been a major prize sponsor in our Hike it Baby 30 Challenges and make getting out on the trails a much more pleasant experience. You can get $25 off an when you join the Hike it Baby 30! Here is an interview with Aleshia Rickard, CEO of Onya Baby.
HIB: In the world of babywearing there is such a variety of carriers and wraps to choose from. It can be overwhelming to research and know which will work for you. What would you tell a first time baby wearer when they are looking for a new carrier?
Aleshia: We have always believed that there is a different baby carrier for all the different types of caregivers. Having such a large selection is just another benefit to having such a large access of carriers. We suggest to our customers that they do their research ahead of time and attend a Babywearing International (or other babywearing group) meeting to see what’s out there, and to help narrow down their choices. We also recommend that if one carrier is not working for them, try another! We hope that they will give other carriers a try until they find the perfect fit. It’s our hope that every parent and caregiver finds their perfect carrier. That’s how much we believe in babywearing for all!
HIB: How did the design for the Onya come about?
Aleshia: In 2006, Diana, my sister-in-law, had her first baby, Katie. Diana knew she was going to carry her baby in a sling before she even had her, but Katie was a chunkier and outgrew the sling pretty quickly. So Diana, who was dedicated to babywearing and wanted to continue to wear Katie, sewed up a new design, which included a built-in seat. She included the seat because she had been out with a group of friends for lunch and there weren’t enough high chairs. So, she put them together, mostly because she didn’t want to have to carry an extra item around. This was when the Onya was born.
HIB: What is the story behind the name, Onya Baby?
Aleshia: It’s because you wear your baby “on ya!”
HIB: How does the Onya make hiking and being outdoors a comfortable experience for baby and the wearer?
Aleshia: My husband, Billy (COO at Onya), Diana, the creator, and I are all outdoorsy people. We all grew up in the woods and mountains, and spent lots of time backpacking and on trails. This gave us firsthand experience when creating what we felt would make for a great carrier. We looked at the Outback and Nexstep carriers, in particular, with this in mind. By selecting the best high-end performance material available in the outdoor industry and using it in the construction of the carrier, we hoped to encourage caregivers to keep living their active lifestyles while keeping baby close. We really wanted the waist belt lumbar support to be sturdy and very supportive, and to feel very durable. This extra support is excellent for the wearer’s back, resists under-baby sag, and helps for longer, more comfortable wearing. The inside of both of the Outback and Nexstep have breathable air-mesh material. Unlike cotton that gets wet with sweat, the air mesh is super breathable and quick-drying. That really helps to keep baby and wearer nice and dry. The air mesh also allows air to circulate, and is made using recycled fibers, the latter of which we particularly like because we care about keeping our footprint as light as possible.
HIB: Men are slowly evolving to embrace babywearing but most still see it as a “woman thing”. How does Onya encourage EVERYONE in a child’s life to keep them “on ya?”
Aleshia: We believe that once babies are born, they enter the “fourth trimester.” During this early stage, the most important part is being near the parent or caregiver. This is when the baby will benefit the most by being near the parent or caregiver’s heart, hearing their voice, soaking up their scent and movement. It makes sense, doesn’t it? This has been their environment during pregnancy so it’s where they feel safe, comfortable and at home. It’s a gentle easing into the life, a softer transition from womb to world.
There are lots of health benefits with studies to back up our beliefs.
Also, it doesn’t matter if your baby is yours through birth or adoption, it’s always a great way to bond with baby!
Onya has put a lot of work into making our carriers attractive to both moms and dads. We understand that fashion is always a driving factor, but we really wanted to develop a carrier that is practical. And, as a result, Dads love our carriers too. They like the fabric, they like the colors, and they like the comfort. We figure that if they actually, genuinely like the carrier, then the babywearing will come naturally. And when Dad wears Baby, it benefits the whole family!
HIB: How important is it that you are members of the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA)
Aleshia: We have been an official sponsor of the BCIA from the beginning. We love what they do and the message they spread. We stand completely behind their efforts for regulation and oversight within the babywearing industry. They promote safe babywearing, which is a vital part of babywearing in general.
HIB: How does Onya plan to grow and evolve in the near future? Any exciting announcements in the works?
Aleshia: We released the Nexstep carrier a few years ago, and we feel that this was a big step for our industry. It’s made from recycled water bottles, and was the first carrier on the market to be made from such revolutionary material. We feel this is the future, and we’re working towards making the Outback from recycled materials, as well.
HIB: Onya seems to have so many features that help it stand out. From the chair harness feature to the toy loops and easy to clean fabric it has the feel of a SSC with many bells and whistles but manages to stay affordable. How do you keep your costs down without sacrificing quality?
Aleshia: Our costs are not down. We pay for all the bells, whistles and superior quality. We also manufacture in ISO approved facilities. This ensures that there is no child labor or mistreatment of workers. Although this adds another cost to our carriers, it’s very important to us.
How do we compete? Well, we’re a pretty small company, so it’s pretty hard to compete against the bigger names. We just hope to let our fans know that we are a small family business, and we’re trying to help families get outside together – or just get the dishes done!
HIB: How many prototypes were tired out before you found the perfect Onya?
Aleshia: Diana worked on the design for four years before we went into prototyping. She purposely did not purchase a soft structured carrier during this entire time, as well. This was to ensure that she had an original design that did not come from copying any existing designs from other companies. The result is a truly unique baby carrier. There is NO other carrier like the Onya!
HIB: Your website lists many awards that you have won for your products. Does Onya have a proud favorite award?
Aleshia: No, no favorites, really. Honestly, we’re proud of them all. And we just won another one a few weeks ago! They provide validation for all that we’ve worked towards, and help people recognize the quality of our carriers, in material, construction and design.
HIB: What do you imagine the Onya will evolve into by the time our little ones become
Aleshia: We hope to grow the business and add other functional products to our product lines.
HIB: What is the funniest story you have heard about an Onya user and their Onya experience?
Aleshia: One of my closest friends had a baby and I get a phone call from her and she says to me “ Aleshia, I just figured out why you named the business Onya, because you wear them ON-Ya!!”” I thought it was pretty classic!!
HIB: There are some super parents out there who tandem carry with Onyas. Was this envisioned when the Onya was first produced?
Aleshia: Nope. Not on the radar at all. But we do love to see their ingenuity! When you have babies, you do what you have to do, don’t you? They’re making it work.
HIB: Where is the wildest place you have seen an Onya worn?
Aleshia: We just went camping in Yosemite and a friend and her husband wanted to take their six- and eight-year-olds to the top of Nevada Falls. They knew that there was no way they were going to make it without some help. Luckily we were just coming back from a trade show, had a bunch of carriers with us, so we loaned two to them. We started the hike about two hours after them and caught up right when they were getting to the top. They made it, with the help of the Onyas.
And then, there’s Ashley, the badass blogger behind Ms Wright’s Way. She’s done some pretty wild things in her Onya!
HIB: What makes partnering with Hike it Baby special to Onya Baby?
Aleshia: We love what Shanti is doing. We share similar deep beliefs about the importance of being outside, and about creating and fostering new friendships, particularly while bonding with our babies. We both believe that babywearing helps to create compassionate humans by providing them with a very strong, loving and connected foundation; people who can ultimately help strengthen their communities for the future.
Babywearing for a better tomorrow! Wear them Onya!