Wealthy expectant parents in New York are paying this couple hundreds of dollars to baby-proof their homes
- Fred and Courtney Ilarraza are the founders of Baby Bodyguards, a New York City-based company that offers "
babyproofing" services to expectant parents.
- After having their first child in 2008, they realized that babyproofing their home was a big task, and decided to launch Baby Bodyguards to meet the needs of local parents.
- Their services include everything from full-home babyproofing to in-home child and infant CPR, and expert instruction on car seat installation.
- Since the pandemic, Fred Ilarraza says more clients want the $700 two-story babyproofing package, as many New York families have upsized or moved to larger homes outside of the city.
- The company's most elaborate job to date was for a client renting a home in the Hamptons for just a month — the fee was $10,000 and it involved adding a removable pool fence.
- Here's their story, as told to freelance author Jenny Powers.
It was 2008 and my wife Courtney and I had just had our first child. As first-time parents, we began thinking about all the ways we needed to safeguard our home and since we had a lot of experts in our circle we reached out to them for advice. We wound up getting recommendations from pediatricians, child psychologists, and first responders, as well as other safety professionals.
During this process, we found there were no New York City-based babyproofing services.
So, we decided to launch our own, called Baby Bodyguards (BBG).
At the time, I was the owner of a title insurance company and Courtney was the deputy bureau chief for the Brooklyn District Attorney's office. Those first few months when I was holding down both jobs and leading a double life were difficult. I would leave the house in my BBG attire, do an installation then race to my car to change into a suit and tie and head off to a multi-million dollar closing.
BBG was profitable from its first week but not in the same way a title insurance company is. That was our first real hurdle. We had this moment of 'How far do we take this?' and 'Can we afford to do this?' because at that point it wasn't profitable unless I was doing everything. We had to choose whether to continue offering a service we believed in, or stick with just making money at our jobs.
We decided to go all-in with BBG right before the market imploded. The beginning was rough, and thankfully Courtney still had a job with benefits. It took over a year before we needed employees but from there, it took off and Courtney was in a position to leave her job and work for BBG full-time.
Twelve years later, we've babyproofed nearly 12,000 homes.
We've got three children now, and are still the only New York City-based babyproofing business around. You need an insane amount of storage and a ton of inventory to do this type of business, and most New Yorkers just don't have that kind of space. We live in Brooklyn and have a basement, garage, driveway, and a backyard where we can store bulk supplies and pallets of product.
Every job begins with a comprehensive home evaluation where me or one of our five employees does a room-by-room walk-through.
From there, we email a PDF detailing everything we covered, along with a quote. Due to the pandemic, all of our consultations are now virtual. It was really a eureka moment when we realized we could have been doing them virtually all along. In the past, when we've scheduled home visits, sometimes only one caregiver could be there; now this way, everyone can be conferenced in from wherever they are. Moving forward, we're going to stick with virtual consults because it's more inclusive and saves a lot of time.
We offer several packages which include products and installation. One Level Living costs $350, and is a soup-to-nuts package designed to cover all the basic items you'd require to secure a single-story home such as drawer and cabinet latches, sliding cover outlets, and soft corner guards. This used to be our most popular package, but since the pandemic began, Duplex Delight ($700) which is tailored to a two-story home has been far more popular, as many families have relocated to the suburbs or upsized in the city.
We also have a la carte options available, because everyone's needs and homes are different.
The most elaborate job we've ever done was for a client renting a home in the Hamptons.
The architect, house manager, realtor, designer, owner, and renter were all present with a list of what we could and couldn't do in the home. The fee was $10,000, and the client was only renting the home for a month.
My title insurance skills came into play on this job, as we had to come up with solutions that met everyone's needs and criteria on the fly. I had to remind the owner a few times on the liability involved in telling a renter they couldn't safeguard something that was inherently dangerous. We worked with them to create solutions that wouldn't harm the home, but would make it safe. The owner got to keep the removable pool fence — one of the most expensive parts of the job — to use for future tenants at no cost to him. It was a win/win for everyone.
We also offer private car seat installation lessons where a certified child passenger safety technician will teach you how to properly install your car seat. If your car seat isn't installed properly, you run the risk of your child not being protected in a crash. This is why we insist on actually teaching people how to install it, rather than simply checking the seat or installing it ourselves.
Courtney also teaches private in-home infant and child CPR.
There are common mistakes many expectant parents make when doing their own babyproofing.
A lot of parents want to use those electrical outlet caps, which are more of a choking hazard than a protective measure. Also, when you preemptively install stove knob covers, you effectively add five toys to the front of the range that resembles an activity center to a child.
A lot of people install toilet locks and wind up creating a false sense of security for themselves by assuming they can now leave the bathroom door open. Kids can still climb onto the toilet and fall and hit their head or attempt to give themself a bath. It's better to install something on the bathroom door that requires an adult to operate, mitigating any dangers that may present themselves in the room itself.
These days before a job, our team all gets temperature checks, and none of us use public transportation. In addition to taking our shoes off on the job, which is customary, we wear facemasks and sanitizer holsters.
The best time to have your home babyproofed is when the child is six months old and getting ready to crawl.
If you're still pregnant and nesting, it's a bit too early to book us. But don't worry, we'll be here when you need to.
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