Photo: Christy MacGregor left her career as a corporate litigator and became Chief Parent Officer and General Counsel at Colugo, a baby stroller company founded by her husband, Ted Iobst.
After struggling to carry their traditional baby stroller up and down the steps of their Philadelphia home, Ted Iobst and his wife Christy MacGregor longed for better options. They also valued stronger, sturdier wheels to cruise over the bumpy city sidewalks. With some savings and seed funding, Iobst, then a new father and MBA student, started Colugo in 2018.
Today, the company has been dubbed “the Warby Parker of strollers.” With more than 25 employees, it continues to leverage the direct-to-consumer model to disrupt the baby gear market. “Our mission is to give parents the confidence they need to take on the adventure of parenthood,” says MacGregor.
You could say Colugo is both a startup and a family business. Since its launch, MacGregor stepped in to support the mission—both as a spouse and a behind-the-scenes advisor. She tapped her experience in motherhood and market research to create events, content, and even helped with product development.
“I remember pushing my twins in 3-D printed strollers, our first prototype,” says MacGregor. But her contributions to making Colugo a reality went above and beyond consulting, starting with taking the lead at home.
“I was the primary breadwinner,” says MacGregor. At the time, the Georgetown University Law grad worked full-time at global firm Hogan Lovells, LLP. In addition to leaning in, she often found herself caring for her three children alone whenever Iobst had to travel. But through her juggle as a corporate litigator and mom, she realized her husband’s dream became her dream, too.
“We had to wrap our heads around how I could come into Colugo full-time,” she says. “But as a lawyer, I’m more risk adverse and wanted to make sure we had stability.”
Changing her course
In early 2019, MacGregor went on maternity leave after having her third son. That’s when she and Iobst began to have concrete conversations about her career transition, which involved the creation of budget charts and spreadsheets to map it all out. “It was certainly exciting and nerve-wracking to be all in on Colugo. I had every confidence in it but it’s hard to leave a financially stable law firm job.”
She formally stepped into her role as Colugo’s Chief Parent Officer and General Counsel in September 2019. MacGregor says the crux of her job is engaging with parents on product feedback and liaising this information between customer service and product development. From revamping instruction manual and video tutorials to launching new product lines, this nimbleness and closeness is what differentiates Colugo from traditional brands.
Another differentiator is Colugo’s focus on diversity in its imagery and campaigns, something that has been missing in the new parent and baby gear market, particularly in the luxury sector. Colugo credits their head of marketing Elizabeth Monson, who previously ran marketing and social media at brands like Rockets of Awesome and Ann Taylor. “She has an eye for everything,” MacGregor says of Monson.
Creating the Colugo culture
Colugo’s parent-friendly startup culture has been among the biggest perk for the mom of three. “It’s great to be somewhere where it’s fast growing with passion, energy, more freedom—and you can take action and pursue ideas. A law firm is much more hierarchical.”
Within her first week on the job, she had to work remotely and notified everyone on a conference call that they might hear a crying baby. She was at ease the minute she realized everyone who was dialed into the call was also dialed into the struggles of working parenthood. “That would be on brand for us whereas at a law firm I would never let them know I’m working from home with a baby out of fear of seeming uncommitted or unprofessional. I was able to get rid of that first level of anxiety.”
Colugo is just as focused on creating a parent-friendly workplace as it is creating parent-friendly gear. Their customer service team consists of Philadelphia-based moms who work part-time. For Iobst and MacGregor, it was important to offer meaningful opportunities for parents.
“When I worked at the law firm I had to be always on and it was not sustainable. I wanted to create part-time roles for parents where they can control their schedule.”
In addition to Colugo’s endless list of things-to-do to disrupt both the baby gear market and the workplace for mothers, MacGregor adds that unveiling a double stroller is among its chief priorities for 2020.