After a month spent volunteering at the Moria Refugee Camp in Greece in 2019, Haley Zimmerman, a founder in the Master of Business Creation (MBC) program at the University of Utah, knew what she wanted her undergraduate senior thesis to be.
“I wanted to focus on refugees and be able to create a product that was not only just something cool, but it was also something that would impact the world for better,” she said.
Inspired by her experience at the camp and drawn to humanitarian work, Zimmerman spent the last year developing a prototype of her product: an inflatable baby bed designed for infants 0 to 8 months old. A lightweight, waterproof cover creates a soft lounger for the baby, and both materials can be packed into a carrying case roughly the size of a football. Altogether, everything weighs less than 1 pound.
“There are similar products on the market, but nothing as lightweight, portable, and easy to use. As I did my research, this was something I felt parents, in general, could use,” Zimmerman said.
Now, as a graduate of Brigham Young University with a BFA in industrial design, Zimmerman is the founder and CEO of Haven Rest and is continuing to develop her company and product in the MBC program. The program is provided by the Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy in partnership with the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the David Eccles School of Business, a top 10 ranked school for entrepreneurship. The MBC program provides broad instruction and support for entrepreneurs as they launch through a 9-month program.
Zimmerman’s short-term goals include addressing safety concerns with the inflatable bed by working with the Consumer Safety Product Commission and sourcing the safest, highest quality materials.
Although she has a background in sewing and product design, Zimmerman had never worked with inflatables before Haven Rest. The prototyping stage took hours of work at a time before the design was ready for life-size models.
As for her company, Zimmerman came up with the name Haven Rest through a typography class while considering the name of her senior thesis.
“I wanted to come up with a name that focused on safety and refuge, because that’s what the company would stand for and also what the goal of the company is — to provide safety and refuge for refugee families,” she said.
Zimmerman hopes that after a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign Haven Rest will be able to partner with other non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, such as the group Zimmerman worked with in Greece that started it all. But without the U’s MBC program, Zimmerman said she would be very lost.
“I’ve learned a lot over the past two months,” she said of the MBC program. “Especially coming from a background in product design, I really haven’t taken any business classes. I have a product and I’m confident in it, but the program has helped me figure out the vision, mission, and business plan of my company.”