In 2008, our founder Janelle Fitzpatrick's daughter was two years old and her son just two months old when they moved into a custom-built home with an open floor plan and a staircase as the centerpiece of their foyer. The wide staircase with curved/volute banisters was the very first thing you see when you walk through the front door. Her brand new staircase and its gorgeous banisters posed a problem. Amidst a pile of moving boxes, it dawned on Janelle that none of her baby gates were going to fit her stairs.
She set out to find a solution for her tricky staircase and discovered a huge hole in the baby gate market -- a functional solution for staircases with banister stairs that also wouldn’t be a huge eyesore in an open-concept home like hers. Rather than settle for anything less than what she envisioned, Janelle decided to design her own baby gate made of fabric with internal struts and horizontal webbing to support it. She asked her friend to sew it, and the first Stair Barrier prototype was created.
For years her invention kept her children and pets off of her staircase. As Janelle describes it, "For awhile, life simply went on. I had initially come up with the idea and then sat on it. My kids grew up. I was a mother; I worked. I had my own business, [but] I was a little bored. It wasn’t quite fulfilling.”
Janelle had a friend who had a patent for an invention with her husband, which they’d been pursuing for nearly ten years. Janelle had always been inspired by their courage and tenacity, but it wasn’t until a particular visit from that friend that something really clicked.
Janelle can still recall the exact moment. “She was over. She was looking at my stair gate, and my kids were standing there, and they were like, 'Mom, you invented this?' They had no idea! We had been using the product in my house for about eight years, and they didn’t realize it.”
Inspired by both her friend’s persistence and to set an example for her kids, Janelle questioned why she ever gave up on her invention. “I felt like, what kind of lesson am I teaching my kids if I have an idea and I don’t go for it and try to live out that dream?”
As you can guess, she did finally go for it. She spent a year and a half finding the right partners to help her produce her gates, she filed for a patent and incorporated Better Options Company. In January 2015, the company’s first brand, The Stair Barrier, started selling nationwide.
Today, Janelle’s favorite part about her business is knowing that Stair Barriers provide a solution for families. She also finds deep fulfillment in the team she's built at all levels.