What’s a Monkey Mat? A 5×5′ portable, water-repellent, lightweight clean surface ideal for moms and outdoor enthusiasts on-the-go. This soft yet durable mat folds into its own compact pouch with an attached strap that can be fastened anywhere for easy transport: on a purse, backpack, stroller or wrist.
Weighted corners and corner loops for staking make securing the Monkey Mat a cinch; additional loops in the middle of the mat can hold onto keys, dog leashes or toys. And, the Monkey Mat is machine-washable!
It’s like a blanket… only perfectly suited for moms and outdoor use. Here’s more from Christie Barany, the woman/mom/mad genius who saw how a blanket could be improved— and then did it with the invention of the Monkey Mat.
Tell us about the Monkey Mat— what inspired its invention?
An unexpected six hour layover at the airport… and constant *cringing* as my kids crawled all over those dirty floors! After searching high and low for a clean surface portable enough to have with me at all times (without taking up precious space in a diaper bag or purse), my business partner Courtney and I realized the need for such a solution extended well beyond kids and travel. We wanted something for spontaneous picnics, workouts in the park, outdoor festivals and concerts, soccer games— wherever life takes us. Since no such product existed, we created one!
Did you already have a background in textiles, kids’ goods, anything like that?
Not at all! Courtney and I have both driven product development and innovation in the medical device industry, but consumer goods is a brand new adventure for us and we have learned a TON!
Are you always creative? Do your kids invent things?
My kids are 5 and 3½ , and their daily creations amaze me. You should have seen the pipe cleaner/popsicle stick contraptions they built last night!
For Courtney and me, innovation has long been a passion, and we try to always have our eyes open for everyday problems that need innovative solutions. It’s with that mindset that the creative ideas come!
I’m curious about the process: from inspiration to ready-to-ship. Can you share some details on how your idea became a reality that’s available for purchase?
It’s been a wild and wacky road, and for a “simple solution to an everyday problem”, WOW are there a lot of details behind the Monkey Mat!
For the product design, BRAINSTORMING and PROTOTYPING are huge parts of the process, and just diving in to translate the concept from our heads into tangible form was key. Neither of us can sew, so the first prototype was literally a hot glue gun/stapler/random bits from fabric store mess! We searched ‘round the globe to compile the right materials, and we found a contract sewing manufacturer (who was kind enough not to laugh TOO hard at our initial homemade attempt!). It took many rounds of evaluating, analyzing, and redesigning until we had the ideal product.
We also networked with other entrepreneurs and invested in subject matter experts to get up to speed on the aspects of the business that were new to us, and we’ve been so grateful for all of the lessons and insights shared along the way. We certainly have a newfound appreciation for all that goes into the design, manufacturing, logistics (trademarks, patents, bar codes, sales tax licenses, etc), marketing, sales and distribution of any product!
What are some features that make the Monkey Mat unique?
The portability and size for sure, as well as the combination of style and functionality! After an exhaustive search following the airport cringe-fest, we realized there were literally NO clean surfaces that could be with you at ALL times by just latching onto whatever is with you (purse, backpack, gym bag, cooler/bike handle, belt loop, wrist) without taking up precious space, and certainly nothing that could be transported as a stylish accessory so no advance planning required. Our family is all about adventures on the go, so we needed something that could be with us EVERYwhere! The 6’x6’ in pouch with the adjustable strap can easily attach to anything, and the entire Monkey Mat weighs ~10 oz… very light!
Inside the storage pouch is an attached, large 5’x5’ mat with weighted corners (so doesn’t blow away in the wind), plus loops for extra grounding. In the center of the mat we also included loops for fun attachments (toys, keys, dog leash, etc.). The material is custom made to be both soft AND water repellent (a hard combination to achieve), and of course the whole thing had to be MACHINE WASHABLE!
What are some uses for the Monkey Mat?
The possibilities are endless, and for all ages! Picnics, outdoor concerts and sporting events, sit-ups and yoga at the park, beach and lake trips, camping, hiking, travel… whatever life-on-the-go may bring. The coolest part is having new ideas come in daily from our customers: covering up car seats when kids are dirty, a clean barrier on top of hotel bedspreads, a lightweight wrap on a chilly airplane, a sun shield hanging from a warm-up tent before a race. We love that the uses just continue to grow!
Your company name is keen I, LLC — Innovations inspired by life. What made you choose that name?
keen I is a play on “keen eye”, but with “I” for “Innovations.” The name reflects our sharp and enthusiastic mindset when observing the world around us, as well as our process of innovation— from identifying needs through to providing simple solutions to everyday problems for our customers.
You’re not just an entrepreneur, you’re a mom: how do you balance work and play?
As for everyone, it’s a daily challenge! Time management is key, and some days I do better than others. I am first and foremost “Mom,” but innovation and entrepreneurism is a passion that stimulates and fulfills ME. I firmly believe that loving what I do and doing what I love makes me a person with more to give to everyone and everything in my life.
What do you wish someone would invent next?
A way to get more hours into each day. 🙂
That’s a hard question because my mind is already thinking of new products for keen I to launch! But with part of our vision being to help empower others— who would otherwise be unable to do so— make their visions a reality, I’d love to hear what all those “someone”s out there are brainstorming on…!
Join us Tuesday for our second lunchtime Twitter chat with @MonkeyMatMama. This week we’ll be talking free-range fitness: the hows, whys and best practices for exercising outside the gym. One lucky chatter will WIN their own Monkey Mat!
- Tuesday, August 7th at 2:00pm EST/ 1:00pm CST
- 30 minute lunchtime chat
- Hashtag is #MonkeyMat
- Make sure to follow @FitFluential and @MonkeyMatMama so you can be contacted if you’re our winner!
- ONE randomly chosen chat participant will receive a Monkey Mat (US mailing address only). Winner will be contacted via DM after the chat.
Can’t wait to chat with you!
New to this? Just search for #MonkeyMat on Twitter at chat time to see the conversation, and add #MonkeyMat to your replies so they appear in the timeline.
And check out Christie’s guest post IMPORTANT LEARNINGS FROM YOUNGER YEARNINGS on MizFitOnline.com.