Parents of toddlers know all too well the screaming and crying that can sometimes accompany bedtime.
Raleigh-based startup Hush Buddy has come to parents’ rescue by creating a nightlight technology, Whisper. Parents read their kids a bedtime story about their new friend, Whisper, a heavy-lidded nightlight who only glows fully when the child remains quiet. Whisper starts to dim if the child makes noise, encouraging more consistent and healthier sleep schedules.
Co-Founders Scott Hanson and Ed Danyo came together after years of knowing each other through work circles. Both fathers had witnessed the same problem when it came to bedtime.
While Hanson had experienced this himself with his own twins, when he saw his nephew have a bedtime meltdown during a family trip, the idea for Hush Buddy fully occurred to him. If there was an interactive nightlight triggered by sound that dimmed when the child is too loud, it would have worked to help Hanson’s twin boys, he said.
So Hanson, who worked in TV news for 20 years, decided to create this solution by teaming up with Danyo as COO, given the latter’s background in electrical engineering.
Danyo was a single dad, knowing well the struggles that bedtime could bring about after raising a child with ADD and often sleeping outside his son’s bedroom at night with double baby gates on the door. Still, his son would stay up night after night, Danyo said.
“Automatically when Scott was like, ‘Well, do you think this would work?’ my internal dad sense was ‘Man, I wish I had had this,’” Danyo said. “And I know I’m not the only one with this problem.”
In 2016, the duo started the process of reaching out to sleep specialists and doctors to help form the patented nightlight product, Whisper, which has proven 90% effective in tests with local parents. Other Hush Buddy products include weighted blankets, which also aim to create consistency for children sleeping and reduce anxiety.
In the next few years, Hush Buddy plans to launch a Whisper carry case for children who go between homes of their parents and family members. Hush Buddy’s suite of products all aim to be a solution that improves the quality of life for toddlers and their parents through restful sleep, Hanson said.
Once a parent buys Whisper for their child, they receive a letter from Whisper to their child, building up the anticipation to meet their new friend. When the nightlight arrives, parents read a bedtime story about Whisper. Children’s imagination is a key source of Whisper’s success in getting kids to sleep.
“The other key differentiator with this is we use the child’s imagination to help get them excited about this,” Hanson said, “so that there’s a connection with the character and a motivation to help their friend—to be quiet to help their friend glow.”
Hush Buddy also provides a guide for parents that teaches them scientifically tested techniques to help them through bedtime with a toddler. Whisper “listens” to the room the first time it is plugged in and is able to set a baseline level of noise, and anything above that noise will cause the nightlight to dim—and hopefully encourage the child to quiet down so their friend Whisper can still glow.
On the night they tested their first prototype, Hanson and Danyo’s “dad sense” was proven right.
The product is especially important on the sleep science side because the time from age 2-4 is a critical time where the brain develops cognitively during sleep, Hanson said.
“There’s a magic window in there,” Hanson said. “And if they don’t get enough sleep during that time, it can lead to focus issues. It can lead to behavior issues, learning issues for their entire life, not just the next day. And that’s the thing that really has us excited and that’s why we want to be devoted to the solution and not just, ‘here’s a product.’”
With nearly 300 customers receiving their first product priced at $79 including shipping, Hush Buddy has already heard many success stories from relieved parents.
An NC IDEA grant semifinalist for its $50K SEED grants, Hush Buddy also landed a $50,000 investment from Start 100, a part angel fund/part accelerator program based in Asheville. The startup also topped their $15K goal (with nearly $19K) in a successful Kickstarter campaign that helped find most of Hush Buddy’s first paying customers.
While as a society, we have come to expect parents of little kids to be tired, sleep science has some answers, Hanson said. And Hush Buddy has fused this sleep science into their solution.
Looking ahead, Hush Buddy is hoping to refine its product with current customers and increase sales, expanding beyond the North Carolina market they’ve initially focused on and placing their products at retailers. Hush Buddy also has an app planned for the future to help with sleep consistency and reducing bedtime anxiety in children.
With many families struggling from the financial hit of the coronavirus pandemic, Hush Buddy allows parents to break down their payments into installments and also will offer a Buy One, Give One program that could help many single parents.
“We’re really excited because at this point now we have a product we’re delivering,” Danyo said. “We’ve got happy, delighted customers that are letting us know just how excited they are. We feel the next three to nine months for us is going to be just a whirlwind.”