Amy and Chad Vohs of Polk City recently tuned in to “Ellen,” the afternoon talk show hosted by the comic, and found NBC “Today” host Hoda Kotb on the episode. Kotb recently became a mother and shared a photo of her daughter, Haley Joy. 

And that’s when Amy Vohs grew excited. She spied her Lil’ Sidekicks product in use on the side of the baby’s stroller. “No one else knew,” she said, “but I knew.” 

Lil’ Sidekicks are “multipurpose tethers” that help parents keep their little ones from throwing toys, sippy cups or spoons to the floor. They can even hold something as small as a crayon.

Here’s how Amy Vohs became an innovator and the founder and CEO of this Iowa startup that now reaches 13 countries and major retailers: Amy and Chad became parents seven years ago and discovered the frustration of what she calls “the drop game” with her son, Jaxen. She tried different products to keep his spoon and items by him but nothing satisfied her, a self-described “germaphobe.” 

“This became my mission,” she said. She got an idea and sketched out her vision on a computer program. She and Chad then started a yearslong process of learning how to take her idea and turn it into a product. She received assistance from Guttenberg Industries, Iowa State University’s Industrial Design Department and the Iowa Small Business Development Center. Ankeny Angels and an Iowa Economic Development Authority helped financially back her venture. 

Out of that came Lil’ Sidekicks, a BPA-free, FDA-approved plastic strap made entirely in Iowa. It hit the market in 2013. Now, Wal-Mart and other major retailers like Buy Buy Baby and Toys R Us also carry it.

Chad and Amy Vohs work full time for the startup. “We wanted to work together,” Chad Vohs said.

These entrepreneurs have plans. Up next: an all-natural flavored teething ring.

To learn more, click here. The Business Record will feature more on Chad and Amy Vohs’ journey in an upcoming issue.