Naomi Kraut set out to make mothers feel seen through videos with singing—and swearing—puppets. That became a startup called Fun Mom Band that earned a $10K MICRO grant from NC IDEA to help flesh out a go-to-market merchandise strategy to help monetize the community spurred by the videos.
Durham-based Fun Mom Band is a product of the pandemic. It started with a puppet musical that expressed the struggles that moms face in an original way. It was released in May 2020 on YouTube and it also had an outdoor showing in a music hall.
Kraut said she got a lot of positive feedback from moms saying that it made them emotional because they finally felt seen.
“It’s supposed to be humorous—I wanted to make people laugh—but it made some moms cry,” she said. “That touched me to no end.”
That led to more videos. Now Kraut is in the process of releasing a flagship product called “mom’s fanny pack” that features “relief tools” like a flask and a pillbox, which are both functional and tongue-in-cheek. She said the heartbeat of the fanny pack is to provide moms with what they need to get through their day on their belt.
Much of her audience consists of so-called “unicorn moms” who need a break. They swear and drink, but still very much love their kids. Kraut said that the purpose of her content and future products is to bring some joy and solidarity to her audience.
“Moms get taken for granted,” she said. “I want them to feel seen—whether in a video, the brand, or in the fanny pack. I want that to be what it stands for.”
Kraut said that the pandemic exacerbated and exposed that moms do it all. While quarantining and overseeing her kids’ Zoom classes, Kraut said she felt very overwhelmed. So, she started writing down everything her children were saying and the insanity of it all.
“I didn’t even know what I was creating,” she said. “I just knew I needed to put it down on paper.”
Kraut said that her “forever love” of the Muppets matched what she was experiencing, because they are just manic and hot messes.
“I’ve always loved puppets and wanted to be a puppeteer,” she said. “But you must earn a living and a job. But puppets have always just been in my psyche.”
She wrote the the lyrics and the melodies and her bass teacher, Matt Sussman, produces her songs and helps with the video editing.
She said that the NC IDEA MICRO grant has been immensely helpful, especially as she moves into physical merchandising with the fanny pack. She has completed the Sewn Goods 101 module with the Carolina Textile District, a workshop that teaches how to establish a domestic supply chain for textile production.
That connected her with Tsuga, a custom design and manufacturing firm based in Boone. Together they are finishing the prototype that Tsuga will start manufacturing this spring.
“Manufacturing-wise the companies that I’m working with are based in North Carolina,” she said. “I have a really solid foundation in this with the pack and I feel really good about that.”
The MICRO grant had other benefits as well beyond the $10K.
“The amazing thing about the grant is the financial support, yes, but also the cohort model—which is like the best way to learn—and the programming,” she said. “It feels like I am back in school in the most awesome way. There is still a lot of fun to be had with work. So, I am super excited about that.”
She said that Fun Mom Band has permitted her to be her true self. She hopes it spreads and inspires other people to be creative. Maybe that could take the form of a tour with other “mom groups” performing, or other moms (or non-parents) sharing their art.
“I want to keep creating this content and encourage others to create theirs to share what they’re thinking and share whatever medium that takes,” Kraut said.