Designer-turned-entrepreneur Janet DeMaria saw that infant bodysuits had not changed in decades and came up with the idea for the “Skadoosie,” a onesie that does away with the need for buttons, snaps, and zippers. A lifelong learner and creative, Janet reimagined a modern and functional take on a parenting staple. Now, Janet hopes to drive change and inspire others to pursue their dreams.
The term “onesie” evokes images of carefree childhood. The garment—which is often decorated with adorable graphics or funny sayings—is just one example of a baby-related necessity that is playful, lighthearted, and unabashedly cute.
It is fascinating to learn that the onesie originates in clothing made for adults. The ancestor of the onesie was created in Britain sometime in the 17th century. However, onesies were only pushed into the spotlight much later.
In fact, the onesie reached its peak popularity when it was donned by an unexpected style icon–UK’s former prime minister Winston Churchill.
During World War II, German air bombers would raid England under the cloak of night. Citizens were forced to evacuate and head to nearby raid shelters whenever raid sirens sounded. These raids were unexpected, and people had to decide whether to run to safety in pajamas, nightgowns, underwear, or any other compromising clothing or stay put and get dressed. Prime Minister Churchill had an entirely different idea.
Churchill commissioned tailors to create a new garment that would be easy to pull over pajamas quickly. The boilersuits worn by bricklayers likely inspired these one-piece suits.
Churchill cherished them for more than just their utility. He owned several of these rompers; some were in subdued shades, while others bore vibrant colors and pinstripe patterns. He even wore them through the 40s and 50s to meet several heads of state.
Rompers soon became known as siren-suits—named after the raid sirens. They entered mass production and were marketed to men, women, and children as fashionable and comfortable clothing. In 1982, Gerber trademarked the term “Onesie” after one of their clothing lines. They continue to aggressively enforce it.
When Janet DeMaria, an interior designer turned entrepreneur, re-encountered a onesie while changing a diaper after 20 years, she was stunned. The design for the onesie had stayed the same. It was identical to the ones she used while raising her own child. She soon felt compelled to re-imagine the onesie for modern times, creating a garment called the Skadoosie—an infant bodysuit made without zippers or pesky snaps.
“I’m a designer by trade, but my journey took a different path after my husband passed in 2008. I didn’t want to go back to being a decorator. It just wasn’t in me anymore. I was depressed, but I still had a 13-year-old son to raise.”
Janet yearned for something new that would fulfill her, so she started to babysit. “How can you be sad around a baby,” she thought. One of her first clients was four-month-old Alice, who coincidentally shared Janet’s mother’s name. Alice was right around the stage of development where she was learning how to walk. She also wore classic onesies.
Janet’s designer instincts kicked in, and she started making prototypes for a new one-piece suit that would be simple for busy mothers and fathers to change. Once satisfied with her design, she fitted Alice into the suit.
“So, I just put it on her chest and flipped up the flap as quickly as I could, and she skedaddled off.”
Alice’s quick waddle inspired the name Skadoosie—a fusion of the words “skedaddle” and “onesie.” Its design is now patented and trademarked.
Janet’s creation also earned her a number of awards, such as Mom’s Choice Awards Gold, The National Parenting Seal of Approval, 2018 Editor’s Pick from Parents Magazine, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from POWER magazine.
Janet wants the Skadoosie to gain more recognition so that it can help caregivers and babies everywhere. The Skadoosie uses baby-soft Velcro instead of snaps, making it less complicated for older adults or anyone who has arthritis to fasten and unfasten. Siblings can also provide a hand to their parents in caring for little ones, thanks to how simple it is.
Not only is the Skadoosie more practical, but it is also made of 100% organic cotton to protect infants from harmful substances found in synthetic fibers.
“It can’t compete with a dollar onesie on a plastic hanger at Walmart. We’re organic and made in the USA. It’s handmade, not machine made. Most products these days use foreign fabrics that have chemicals in them.”
The current onesie is not optimal because, unlike the Skadoosie, it must go right over a baby’s head, which babies dislike. Newborns do not have to go through that constricting process while wearing Skadoosies because they are meant for babies up to six months old.
Janet found while attending several trade shows that fathers were often reluctant to help change diapers, citing the fear that they would hurt their babies. The Skadoosie eliminates that fear and eliminates the dreaded smell test using rear diaper check slots.
Many business owners know firsthand that customers are skeptical of a brand-new product. Since Skoodosie is her creation, Janet wants to see it become a household name, and outsourcing production to a big company would be the ideal way to do so.
Janet describes her personality as someone who is resilient and does not give up easily. She is eager to rebound from the pandemic’s effect on her business, which temporarily halted momentum as it did for many companies worldwide.
“I always take on the hardest things. I don’t know why, and I’m going up against a big industry. I’m at a point where I’ve done as much as I can on my own to where I’m really looking for an investor or a spokesperson.”
She believes in her product and sees it as the “onesie of the future.” The old style is antiquated, and “most people don’t like them, but they don’t know what they don’t know.”
“I always compare my product to the horse and buggy vs the Model T. You know how people were against cars in the beginning? Now it’s our main mode of transport.”
Janet was always a visionary growing up, and her creativity led her to attend fashion merchandising school. She modeled as a teenager but knew it was not sustainable in the long term. However, in letting go of modeling, she discovered her love for the inner workings of the fashion industry ran much deeper.
“I love fashion. I’m a fashionista. I have clothes in every closet in my house. And I’ll never wear the same thing twice when I’m on a job, so that interested me more.”
Janet and her friend landed jobs at a department store during a trip to New York because her friend knew one of the current employees. This experience taught Janet the importance of networking. School only taught her the basics of her field.
“I just really got disillusioned with college and when we were offered these department manager jobs, I was like what am I doing in college? It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
From those early days, she always felt that she had a greater purpose that she still had not found. “I was going to create something for the world,” Janet said, “and I had no idea what that was.”
Then she got married and had a son. During the first six months, she recalls how hectic it was to raise an infant. The constant diaper changes and snaps frustrated her, and her husband “didn’t even bother snapping the onesie.”
“I remember once I had to call my neighbor over to watch my son, just so I could take a shower and take a nap. A lot of times I would bring in the car seat and sit him in there to take a shower. You have to constantly watch them.”
When she later got hired at Lazy Boy as a designer, she told the managers that her son was the most important thing in her life, and she would quit on the spot if he needed her.
“And that’s what I did. My husband wasn’t the best babysitter and got distracted easily, which led me to resign. I live on 6 acres where mountain lions, coyotes, deer, etc., are a constant threat, and I wasn’t going to let a 2-year-old wander off, not knowing where he is.”
She focused on raising her son and did not work during that time. She cared for him and was involved in his schooling, “baseball, basketball, soccer, ski team, all that stuff.”
Her husband would go to work while she stayed at home. That critical period inspired her to create something that would help other busy parents. And then her husband died.
“I really wanted to make something that sells, and I never did. I got involved in hanging wallpaper and decorating, one divorce, a second marriage, birth of my son. Life goes on. And it took this set of circumstances to get me to this point. It was like all the cards fell into place. But now I need more cards to fall into place.”
Eventually, Janet wants a business model that allows her to give a Skadoosie to underprivileged moms with every purchase, much like the model the company Toms Shoes had in place. In the meantime, her company already gives back to the community. Ten percent of all current profits go to an organization that works to cure and treat mesothelioma—the disease her late husband died from.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly cancer that affects the tissue that lines the lungs, stomach, heart, and other organs. It is mainly found in patients with prolonged exposure to the mineral asbestos, which accounts for more than 80% of cases. Asbestos, a known carcinogen, is frequently used in manufacturing and construction.
Janet’s late husband was a contract painter exposed to asbestos during jobs such as removing popcorn ceilings. He passed within three months of receiving his mesothelioma diagnosis.
Asbestos has been banned in 55 different countries, including the entirety of Europe. And yet, despite fifty years of devastating scientific data, it has not been banned in the United States. No degree of asbestos exposure is considered safe. A mountain of evidence exists connecting the consumption or inhalation of asbestos fibers to mesothelioma.
“So, what’s preventing us from banning asbestos? It’s the lobbying, money and special interest groups.”
Around 124 million people worldwide are still exposed to asbestos through their jobs. Blue-collar workers such as electricians, miners, and shipbuilders are particularly vulnerable.
“A lot of construction workers leave their drinks out while working. Things trickle down into it. Now you must wear hazmat suits. Back then, they didn’t even use masks.”
Janet and her son have to take X-rays periodically, as they were frequently exposed to her husband’s work clothes. He would unknowingly bring the asbestos home because of how easily it transferred between surfaces. She did not receive workers’ compensation for her family until eight years after his passing.
Research led by Dr. Irving Selikoff in the 1960s established the causal link between asbestos and diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer. He noticed that workers from a local asbestos plant were all dying from rare lung-related illnesses. After conducting studies to determine what was going on, Dr. Selikoff found that asbestos workers had significantly increased cancer and mortality rates.
The government banned the mining of asbestos in 2002. However, importing and using the mineral in small amounts is still legal. Products can legally carry up to 1% of the mineral. According to the United States International Trade Commission, nearly 114 metric tons of asbestos were imported in the first three months of 2022, exceeding the 100 metric tons imported in all of 2021.
Many people are reluctant to undergo the biopsy needed to diagnose mesothelioma. Thankfully, doctors are developing a test to detect mesothelioma in the blood.
Janet encourages everyone to donate to foundations that fund research and treatment options for patients with mesothelioma. She continues to support the cause with her business and her advocacy.
Janet looks forward to the future of her company. She recalls when she did a seminar with Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul series. Canfield loved her idea for the Skadoosie, and one of the points he made about his own career still inspires her. His book had gotten “turned down like 744 times before it was actually published.”
Her advice to budding entrepreneurs is to be financially aware but also to persevere through obstacles.
“It is a hard path. You must have a lot of self-confidence, self-esteem, knowing and believing in your product. That’s the number one thing, even Mark Cuban said that on Shark Tank. You got to believe in your product, even if people poo-poo it…you just can’t give up! You got to go for your dream, right? No regrets here.”
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