We are visting with Iris Shamus, Founder of Allermates.com. The AllerMates website (www.allermates.com) offers both parents and children easy to read and understand tips, facts and general information about allergies as well as lots of fun games and activities based on the line of AllerMates characters.
Fatherville: What motivated you to create Allermates? In other words tell us a little bit about your vision.
Allermates: By the time my son Benjamin was 2 we had already identified several of his food allergies. There was an incident in his preschool in which his teacher gave another food allergic child a snack that he wasn’t supposed to have. It resulted in that child having a severe allergic reaction. It didn’t seem to matter that allergy awareness posters were hung in the classroom, all the right forms were filled out and the teacher was a 20 year veteran. It created quite the ruckus and left me personally feel even more insecure about leaving my son in the care of others in regards to his food allergies. Following that incident, I looked for an accessory of some sort that I could place on my son to serve as a personal and constant reminder of his allergies. I wanted to purchase something that would not only protect him but also make him feel good about himself. I couldn’t find anything and got frustrated. Now there are many times in life when you get frustrated over a matter that is important to you and don’t know how or what to do about it but in this particular case I made a decision- I was going to create something for my son and for other children to alert adults to their allergies. And thank God I was totally naïve about it! Had I known how difficult of a process it was to manufacture products and start a business, I may never of had the guts to go for it! Anyhow, I began to develop these fun allergen characters, the core of all things AllerMates, – late at night when my kids were sleeping. And so AllerMates was born.
FV: How long has your site been online? Do you plan on selling other kids safety related products
Allermates: AllerMates.com came into existence in 2009. We started taking orders before we even had any inventory! We had brought a handful of our first factory samples to an allergist convention and when we returned the phone did not stop ringing. I knew then we had a business. We started out offering dog tags and then went on to develop wristbands. Now we offer lunch bags and are developing a whole line of allergy alert products including apparel, medicine carrying bags, smart phone apps and a line of children’s books. We just created our first asthma band which will be available in August. Diabetes will be available in the fall.
FV: In a perfect world what would be the ultimate outcome of your website? Would it become a full-time undertaking? Is it only a hobby? What would you consider to be
Allermates: Perhaps in the beginning it was more of a hobby but with a hopeful goal. Now it has very much grown into a serious business and yes – a full, full time undertaking. My goal is to make AllerMates a household name.
FV: Who are you targeting as your main audience?
Allermates: Parents and caregivers are the ones that purchase AllerMates products but it’s really about the kids. Our goal is not only to safeguard children with allergies but also to help foster their self esteem. There’s nothing better than receiving an email from a child thanking us and letting us know that AllerMates characters and products have made them feel good about themselves relating to their allergy, possibly for the first time. We work really hard at making the products bright, fun and kid friendly. If the kids don’t want to wear them, they’re not going to offer the safety and security the parents need and want.
FV: In your opinion what are some of the biggest challenges that parents face today?
Allermates: I am a mother of three and I think parents are overwhelmed by the scheduling demands when it comes to their children’s. I feel like my children’s secretary and chauffeur half the time! Parents have got to plan, sign up, schedule, entertain, transport and support our children all the time. When my son wears his AllerMates wristband on a play date or to an activity it’s one less phone call that I have to make to remind that other parent, coach, babysitter etc. about his allergies. Now if I could just figure out how to make a wristband that gets him to soccer practice the same time my daughter needs to be at tennis … on the other side of town.
FV: Who were your childhood heroes?
Allermates: My childhood heroes were probably authors of the many great books that I loved. Till this day I’m constantly amazed when I read a great novel and ponder how someone working through all the details of the story line and character development. AllerMates has 14 characters, representing 14 of the most popular allergens, and each of those characters took months of development… and they don’t go anywhere or talk to anyone!
FV: Who are your heroes today?
Allermates: My hero today is my husband. I don’t know what I would do without him. He is my best friend as well as the most amazing father to our children. He has been completely supportive of me in this wonderful venture. I could not have done it without him. If only he’d pick up after himself more often. 😉
FV: Iris, would you say you are living your dream? Do you have another profession?
Allermates: AllerMates has become my full time profession. That and raising three children. Yes I am living my dream but not the dream that I had anticipated as a young woman. When I was in my 20’s, I considered myself to be primarily a “creative” type and sought a career in acting and filmmaking. Never in million years did I ever think that I’d become an entrepreneur and a serious business owner one day. What’s great is that I have been able to parlay my love of characters and storytelling into a business that I enjoy tremendously. I get to be creative in many different ways.
FV: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Your passions, hobbies, goals for the future.
Allermates: I absolutely love books. I love films. Wait a second … who am I kidding? Long gone are the days where I could spend an afternoon reading a book. I get to go to the movies (grown up ones anyway) maybe six times a year! Between running a business and raising three children, including a two year old, having a hobby is a luxury. I just got a bike from my husband for Mother’s Day so hopefully I’ll find some time to enjoy that.
FV: Is there anything you would like to share about your product/site or your long term vision for the site?
Allermates: We just added a whole new social media community to our website that I am so excited about. It’s still in its infancy and a lot more work is being done to it. Also we will be adding some amazing interactive features in 2013. Our wristbands will come with codes which will enable children and parents to access fun, educational and interactive content on our website. Some more really exciting news is that our AllerMates wristbands will be available in 6600 Walgreens locations this September for a fall promotion. Hooray! Many amazing retailers will be carrying our products in the near future.
FV: Do you have children of your own? How have they changed your life in a positive way?
Allermates: I have three wonderful, amazing, absolutely delicious children. I feel so blessed to be their parent. Talk about living your dream. They are and always will always be… my greatest accomplishments.
Iris Shamus is Founder and CEO of Allermates. The AllerMates website (www.allermates.com) offers both parents and children easy to read and understand tips, facts and general information about allergies as well as lots of fun games and activities based on the line of AllerMates characters. The website also has a fully functional social community allowing its members free and easy interaction and sharing of the latest blogs, news, videos and information within the allergy community.Tweet