As a mom whose first child had no trouble sleeping, Manasi Gangan was frustrated when her second-born struggled to sleep. Learn how her experience as a sleep-deprived mother sparked the idea that has grown into Nested Bean, a successful infant sleep and wellness company.
Manasi Gangan’s journey to founding her business began in 2011 with a challenge that many new parents face: her baby wouldn’t sleep. As an engineer who had, up to that point, spent most of her career developing software applications before moving into business development, she was determined to find a solution.
Manasi researched infant sleep cycles and found out that babies actually receive calming hormones when they’re held by their parents. To recreate this sensation, she started trying out some gently-weighted accessories with her own son, starting with her hand, and then with a beanie baby on his chest. “I started creating something that would give him the feeling of my arms around his body, just as an experiment,” she says. “And when it worked for my son, I created some prototypes to see if it would work for other babies. And we had an 80% success rate with that very first prototype.”
Fast forward to today, and Boston-based Nested Bean now produces and sells over 30 sleep wellness products like weighted sleep sacks and swaddles that help ensure babies—and their parents—get the rest they need. In 2015, after selling in retail shops for about four years, the company began listing its products in Amazon’s store.
We spoke with Manasi about her journey, how she’s grown her business, and how partnering with Amazon has impacted her growth.
When did you know you were onto something with your new idea?
Manasi: You never know whether an idea that is taking root will have any legs beyond the concept itself. There’s a lot of going with your gut and seeing what occurs. So, when I made the weighted sleepwear prototype, I tested it with around 15 babies in my neighborhood. And when those babies began to sleep like they’d never slept before, their parents exclaimed, “I’ve never really had this much ease putting her down.” Or, “Her older brother is screaming in the next room, playing, and she’s still asleep.” That’s when I realized there might be something to this. It can’t just be my imagination.
Who were your first customers?
Manasi: Initially, we sold our products through local retail stores, independent boutiques, and mom and pop shops. Then we went to this trade show event in Las Vegas, where there were about a hundred independent retail stores. We presented to them, and they were blown away by the innovation of the weighted sleepwear. Many of them were parents who truly understood what it takes to get a child to sleep. They were our first major customers, and they sold to the end user. Then word got out, and we began marketing with influencers and bloggers.
Can you share a challenging moment in your business journey?
Manasi: We were expanding, getting increased sales, and planning to shift our focus from retail stores to online sales. Then, our manufacturer decided to stop working with us because they wanted to focus on the local market in their region. At the time, I thought, there’s no coming back from this. That was very tough.
So, we paused production and focused on finding a new and bigger manufacturer. During our toughest moments, it can be easy to get bogged down by the challenges, but in hindsight, these challenges are a sign that something fundamental needs to change. In our case, it was the way we sold our products—we needed to get online. So we used the time it took to find a new manufacturer to also perfect our online store and build a new team. And we were able to recover from that.
...Challenges are a sign that something fundamental needs to change. In our case, it was the way we sold our products—we needed to get online.
How has selling in Amazon’s store impacted your business?
Manasi: We began listing our products in Amazon’s store in 2015, which has made scaling our business significantly easier. Amazon has made access to the end customer so much easier. And it has not only made domestic scale possible, it’s also now making international scale possible.
I particularly like Amazon’s Product Opportunity Explorer tool a lot. It helps keep the pulse on the landscape and the competition. And then if you are also advertising, which many sellers end up doing, there are several marketing tools that we use.
How do you think your life experiences have influenced the business leader you are today?
Manasi: I grew up in Mumbai, India, and completed my undergraduate studies there as well. I spent about a year working in tech in Mumbai. Then, in the mid-nineties, my company sent me to the US for what was supposed to be a one-year assignment. However, my assignment was extended, and then I met my now-husband. So I didn’t go back after that. As my career progressed, I moved into management roles and eventually transitioned to business development. I found myself enjoying the aspect of business development, where I could create something and see the impact it had on the end customer.
However, after over 15 years in the workforce I started to think about doing something else. Then, I got pregnant with my second son. It was during my pregnancy that I began to question if this was the only way to earn a living and make an impact. Something was missing, and I found purpose in finding a solution for my son when he had trouble sleeping. I realized how impactful it could be for others in similar situations.
How does your son feel, knowing he innocently inspired the idea that sparked a successful business?
Manasi: My boys are 13 and 18 now and are both extremely proud of what I’ve accomplished. My younger son—the one who wouldn’t sleep— was getting his hair cut one day when I overheard him say, “I think I’m going to become an entrepreneur like my mom.” That was very sweet to hear.
What would you say to people who might be looking to start their own businesses?
Manasi: My advice is to take that leap and pursue your ideas because there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing them take off. We were the first to develop weighted sleepwear for children, and seeing a new idea take root was extremely fulfilling. It instills a sense of self-belief, knowing that putting your heart, mind, and soul into something can truly pay off. This is definitely a country that is based on that entrepreneurial spirit, and where, if you do the right things, it doesn’t put up a lot of barriers. If you put yourself out there, people are ready to receive you.