Within seconds of meeting Mary Zimmer, owner of A Great Baby in Cromwell, it is clear that she has boundless passion — not only for her business, but for motherhood in general.
After five years of building her custom baby blanket business, she has manifested this passion in a big way. This past January she launched a program called A Great Hope — for every blanket sold, Zimmer gives a blanket to a mother in need.
“I stepped back to reach deep into who I am as a person,” Zimmer said. “I was a very young mother — I had my first two children at ages 21 and 22 and was living in Germany at the time. Older women wrapped their arms around me and helped me become a mom. This has always been my mission: to shepherd young women and give them gifts that make them feel important and special.”
She gave away 120 blankets based on her January sales and another 115 based on February sales. The blankets are donated to three local charities: The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services in Hartford; ABC Women’s Center in Middletown; and CAFAF, The Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Families based in Rocky Hill.
She has also created a private Facebook group called “A Great Baby – A Great Hope” for “all moms and community supporters that believe in giving love to all babies” and “providing prayer, hope, and love to mamas and their babies who came to the world through infertility, adoption or foster care, or any other challenging circumstances.”
She goes live on the group at least once a week to give away coupon codes for free blankets.
“It is challenging to do something like this being a small, local business, but it is who I am and why I am,” Zimmer explained. “From a business perspective, I hope in doing good and supporting moms, it will spread the word.”
Zimmer said she started her own seamstress business at age 19, doing alterations and custom work. The idea for A Great Baby came in 2015, when she was encouraging a friend to open an Etsy shop.
She had just become a new grandmother and, in researching for her friend, she noticed personalized baby blankets being sold on Etsy. She knew she could combine her experience in embroidery and screen printing to create special blankets.
“I don’t think I was much help to my friend that day because I ended up planning my own business!” Zimmer recalled, laughing.
Zimmer runs A Great Baby out of her home in Cromwell and employs her two daughters and her daughter-in-law. She said all three of them are moms and contribute on a part-time basis. She says she’s thrilled to give them flexible work arrangements.
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Zimmer says her business is built on strong customer service, which is reflected in reviews on her site and on Etsy.
In terms of the product itself, Zimmer explained why personalization is so special.
“There are very few items that you can personalize,” Zimmer said. “When your baby has outgrown his/her blanket, you wash the blanket, put it in the box and have a memory that will outlast anything a photo can provide. There is a textual and visual feel to the blanket and everything comes together: seeing the name, smelling and feeling the blanket. It is something that cannot be replaced and that is so special for a mom.
"A lot of the time our blankets are the first time a mom sees the baby’s name in print; a name you’ve worked so hard to decide on. It is an emotional attachment you’ve never felt before.”