What started as a typical night for Emmanuel Legbeti ’04 turned into a painful accident—and a new business that is helping parents and churches.
Legbeti was reading a book to his young son in one of his family’s three glider rocking chairs at their home in North Carolina. Inexpensive glider chairs had become a staple in the Legbeti home. But when he tried to shift his chair to a new position, his finger was caught in the mechanism underneath the chair, and he was injured.
“That Calvin engineering degree kicked in,” Legbeti said. “It seemed like there had to be a way to make these chairs safer.”
Legbeti and his wife, Amanda, conducted research revealing thousands of families each year experience finger pinching accidents in their glider chairs. They designed a product, filed for patent and trademark, and launched their company Glider Skirt.
“When parents or their curious little ones get hurt like I did, they might write a negative review online or file a lawsuit. But we wanted to bring a positive solution to help others,” said Legbeti.
The Legbetis invented a fabric skirt with protective pinch-guard panels that tuck nicely out of sight underneath. One unexpected benefit: the fabric skirts, which come in five styles, upgraded the look of the chairs.
“The engineering challenge was to design something that could universally fit every chair and was easy to install,” Legbeti said. His engineering expertise helped him overcome that problem. He also has experience in business. After Calvin, Legbeti received a master’s in business from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He is the founder and managing partner of acretivPartners, a consulting firm that advises business enterprises and invests in entrepreneurs. A new business is a family project for Emmanuel Legbeti ’04, his wife, Amanda, and their children.
“We created something brand new that didn’t exist,” added Amanda. “Nobody is searching for it by name yet because it didn’t exist. But people are searching for the problem, and once they see our solution, they can’t unsee it.”
After word started spreading about Glider Skirt, the Legbetis received orders from a customer they didn’t expect—churches. “It turns out, a lot of church nurseries have these glider chairs, and they’ve been concerned about the safety of the little ones and volunteers,” Legbeti said. In addition, “Some church insurance providers have also been seeking a solution to this issue as part of their annual risk mitigation assessments in churches, and so there are active discussions there, too.”