Monday, June 17, 2013

Spotlight on Mom: Christie Barany of Monkey Mat, by keen I, LLC (Review)

Now that the summer and warmer weather are here, I have had the opportunity to try out this week's Spotlight Mom's product, the Monkey Mat, half a dozen times so far.  Christie Barany, of keen I, LLC, has created a portable mat that every parent of children, as well as those who like to be outdoors, should consider picking up.  


Water Repellant vs. Waterproof
"The Monkey Mat® is a water repellant product. It can resist “spillage” on the mat (which beads up easily to be wiped right off), but cannot prevent some seep-through when placed on a completely wet surface (as waterproof would). Our unique custom fabric is treated to be water repellant while still feeling soft to the touch, and is of course safe from harmful chemicals.

It is important to treat your Monkey Mat® with care per the washing instructions on care tag. There are a number of factors that can diminish its performance, such as; body oils, abrasion, and rough repeated launderings. Therefore machine wash cold with tumble dry low is critical to maintaining the water repellant feature, and can even revive the fabric."

Built out of necessity, Christie created the Monkey Mat, to have a clean, portable surface whenever and wherever you need it.  This portable mat comes in handy for spontaneous picnics, outdoor concerts, local festivals, lounging at the beach, for use with fitness activities, and even at the airport.  Like I said, I have been using this for a few weeks now, and love how easy it is to attach to the diaper bag or stroller, and have this portable map on hand, to create a sanitary space for the girls to play and eat on.  And, washing the mat is a breeze, without worry that it will shrink or run in the wash/dryer.

Just this past weekend, we went out for a weekend drive and stumbled across a local music festival.  We decided to stop, and were able to lay out our monkey mat on the grass for the family to sit on and enjoy the unexpected music.  As a busy mom on the go, the last thing I want to worry about is forgetting to pack something, especially a bulky oversized blanket for picnics, playdates outdoors, etc.  But, with the Monkey Mat, created by a mom, it is the perfect solution and the right size for busy parents, carrying children, diaper bags, strollers, etc.  

At $39.99, you can't go wrong for this price, as this portable mat really does come in handy for a variety of uses outdoors and in other public places where a clean area is needed.  I have had so many moms stop me in the park and ask about the mat, as they watch me take it off the stroller and place on the ground.  They can't get over how big the portable mat is, and how comfortable it feels. 

Do you need a unique baby shower gift?  Why not consider the Monkey Mat for that mom to be?  Or, if your family loves the outdoors, this is definitely a must have.  So, with the summer here and day trips and outings being planned with your family and friends, don't be without a clean portable area to change your little ones, have a snack or lunch on, relax or even take a nap on.  :-)  We love the Monkey Mat, and I can't stop raving about it.  Once you try it, you will find yourself raving about it, too.

After you head over to Christie's website to place your order for a Monkey Mat, make sure you head back here and enjoy my Spotlight on Mom interview with her below.  Her story is truly inspiring. Enjoy! :-)

Lightweight Toddler Mat

Name: Christie Barany
Company Name/Product/Service: Monkey Mat, by keen I, LLC
Company Location: Austin, TX
Company Website:  
Twitter Handle: @MonkeyMatMama
Age of Company: 9 months
Favorite Inspirational Quotes: I love inspirational quotes, especially as a boost in tough days.  But some of the words that resonate most come directly from my family.  My Dad always talked about the different between “good tired” (from doing what you love, even when it keeps you insanely busy) and “bad tired”, and I keep that advice in mind through the craziest (and “good tired-est!” of days.  I also grew up hearing “Experience is the best teacher. It ought to be, it costs the most.” So though mistakes and tough lessons are no doubt part of any entrepreneurial endeavor, I always try to reframe and remember that we’ve just learned a valuable lesson that will help us next time.
Favorite Book: I love to read a range of books (time permitting!), but a fave classic is Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Since bedtime reading with my girls is one area that doesn’t get cut short, it’s a great message for them and great reminder for me.

Lightweight Travel Mat

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.
I am the proud Mom of two beautiful daughters (ages 5 and 4) and wife of my fabulous and supportive husband Jason.  In addition to my business, I am passionate about family, fitness, community philanthropy and travel.

Portable Airport Mat

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?
Dirty airport floors. Two beautiful baby girls. Six hour layover. *CRINGE! *
A desperate desire arose for either a constant shower of sanitizer…or a portable, clean surface I could take EVERYwhere. Not a bulky blanket (who has room?), or something I had to plan for in advance to have with me (I am just NOT that organized!!).  I soon realized I also wanted such a solution for hotel floors. Soccer games. Spontaneous picnics. Outdoor concerts. Local festivals. Sit-ups at the park (where Fido just was, * CRINGE * again). 
I mentioned my frustration to my dear friend and now business partner, Courtney, and though she didn’t even have kids at the time, she realized such a solution would be perfect for her active lifestyle as well – camping, hiking, beach and beyond.
And so began the search for a portable, clean surface to take EVERYwhere.  Shockingly, we found nothing like it…and that’s when the brainstorming and prototyping began! 

What is a typical work day like?
Very full, doing whatever needs to be done!  After I get the family up and running for the day, at this early stage in the business there are lots of hats to juggle (marketing, distribution, logistics, financials, PR, etc), and always surprises that come our way that can’t be ignored (international inquiries, press opportunities, etc). I carve out family time in the late afternoon and early evening, and then usually back at the biz once kids are in bed…

What has been a struggle while starting up your company? 
Realizing the extent of investment (time, money, energy, heart and passion) required to get up and running and continue to grow.

What did you do in your past work life?
After graduate school in Neuroscience, I worked on Wall Street, then in Australia as an Assistant National Marketing Manager for a broadcasting company, and then as an Executive at a medical device company (focused on advanced technology and innovation, where I was inspired by a user-center, needs-based approach to innovation).  When I realized that job was consuming my days and nights (and often keeping me away from my family with extensive travel), but was no longer truly fulfilling, I knew it was time for a change. Terrifying as it was, I made the leap to start up keen I, LLC with my business partner, Courtney, and launch our first product Monkey Mat.

What have been some of your major successes?
Seeing a Monkey Mat hanging on a retail display for the first time was amazing!  It’s also been so exciting to watch our retail footprint grow across the US, as well as internationally.  
We’re also proud of the industry recognition we’ve received since launch in June 2012 – what an honor!  Monkey Mat has won several major industry awards: JPMA Innovation Award, Parent’s Choice (first ever!), PTPA (Parent Tested, Parent Approved), The Next Big Zing, Family Review Center Seal of Approval, and Women Inventorz of the month (March 2013).

What have been some of your major challenges?
Prioritizing spend to meet manufacturing, marketing, PR and operations needs, as well as figuring out the best distribution strategy (evolving daily).

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
Knowing that I’m a role model to my girls, remembering the longer-term vision vs the short-term pain, and keeping things in perspective.
I lost my Mom suddenly to ovarian cancer a few years ago - devastating. It’s amazing how that experience impacted the way I handle “problems” that arise.  Starting a business in a totally new industry has had plenty of tough moments…but INSIGNIFICANT compared to the loss of my Mom, and I can plow through them.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
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 is next for your business?
My business partner, Courtney, and I have several ideas in mind for our next product launch…stay tuned!

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?
Do your research. Talk to as many people as you can to learn as much as you can.  Don’t be afraid to ask “stupid” questions – most people are surprisingly willing to share their expertise and experiences. Know that it takes heart, time, energy, money – it’s harder than I ever could have imagined, but also incredibly rewarding to see your idea come to life.  There are “up” days and “down” days, but if you’re doing what you love, working with people you trust and following your passion, it can be the most amazing adventure ever – and you can be proud that it’s YOURS. 


  1. my sister has one of these! they are so great

  2. this is a great carry in the car or diaper bag accessory....this would come in handy just about anywhere...thanks for sharing....

  3. I had never heard of these until I read your post now I would like about three of them.