When it was first introduced in 2007, the Clek Olli took the industry by storm with it’s parent-friendly design that featured a metal substructure, an EPP energy-absorbing foam core, a thick urethane foam pad for comfort during long rides and an integrated rigid LATCH system. Now, 4 years later Clek has 3 booster options and fourth seat on the way!
We recently had the chance to speak with Chris Lumley, the Founder of Clek about his family, his company and where he see’s the car seat industry going.
Hi Chris! Tell us a bit about yourself?
Professionally, I am an entrepreneur who, through a ton of sweat and luck and with the help of a lot of great people along the way, founded the Clek brand. Being an owner-operator, I get to be a salesperson, a customer service rep, an accountant, a designer and a user (Cooper sits in a Clek Oobr and Paige will sit in Clek Foonf). Through each of these roles, I get to build an environment where people want to work; a brand that people are proud to associate with; and products that kids want to ride in.
Or more simply put (as my son says), I’m a seat-maker.
How did you get into the safety seat industry?
After having spent my entire career in the automotive sector, working for one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, Executive Management approached me with an opportunity to diversify the company and start a consumer products business. About to be a new father (Jenny was pregnant with Cooper) and having spent a few years in Magna’s Seating group, I became interested in an early-stage Research and Development child booster seat project.
Magna was working with a safety organization in Canada on the development of an innovative booster seat that would help address the low usage rates in Canada. Contrary to child restraints, booster seat-aged kids were part of the purchase decision (and unfortunately also the influence of actual use) and had some serious reservations about the options available to them, specifically in the areas of comfort and style (“baby-seat” stigma). We also quickly learned that parents had some concerns of their own – perceived safety, difficulty of installation and styling.
Therein lied an opportunity to create a line of child seats designed for both parents and kids. 4 years and 3.5 products later, here we are (we will soon be launching a convertible child seat, Foonf… hence the 0.5).
In what ways does being a father influence your product and it’s design?
The day you become a parent your life is changed forever – the way you think, feel and behave. It is hands down the most rewarding experience in the world, but it’s also a role filled with a whole new set of challenges, each of which typically involves “compromise”. Having to deal with car seats is a perfect example of this:
- Trading your stylish coupe in for a minivan with big plastic eye-sores in the back seat;
- Flying through an airport with a carry-on to the struggle of 1 bag for you, your spouse, your kids, your kids toys and necessities and 1 car seat for every kid under the age of 8;
- Getting your car seat installed properly without requiring weeks of physiotherapy or first aid on your knuckles as your hand gets caught in the back of the seat trying to thread the seat belt through.
Any parent knows these issues all to well. I struggled with them as well, which in turn affected how we design our products. Car seats don’t have to be about compromise. Car seats can be safe, easy to use, comfortable and stylish all at the same time. This spirit of “no compromise” drives the designs we make. At the end of the day, I need to secure my own children in these seats and use them every day. So, Clek seats are very much a reflection of my own personal style and user experience.
What does Clek do to help our communities and the environment?
We are always on the lookout for environmentally friendly materials and processes to employ in our business. To date, we have moved our urethane foam to a soy-based foam; transferred all printed materials and packaging to SFI-certified materials; and have partnered with fabric supplier, Crypton, who uses C6 chemistry, meaning it contains no formaldehyde, PFOA’s or PFOS. Furthermore, we are planning to launch a recycling program later this year.
Where do you see the future heading as far as child travel safety?
As a result of the efforts of a lot of dedicated safety advocates, we as a society have made great strides in educating parents on the merits of child travel safety. Legislation obviously is a key enabler. Accordingly, we need more stringent car seat laws (if you can believe it, a booster seat law still doesn’t exist in a handful of states in the US and provinces in Canada, which is absolutely ludicrous).
But, education is the catalyst for change. Parents generally try and do the right thing given the proper information. Automotive accidents are the leading cause of death in this country. So, the most dangerous thing we do every day is strap are kids in a car. Any parent who understands that is going to do whatever it takes to keep their precious cargo safe. I see the increased use of social media helping accelerate this education process.
Furthermore, as an industry (child seat manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers), we need to make it easier for parents to properly install their child seats and design products accordingly. That way parents who are trying to do the right thing, can do the right thing.
A world where over 99% of kids are properly restrained in car seats until they can safely be restrained by a vehicle seat belt is not too far away.
Congratulations to our winner: Autumn B