Jennifer Boocher, a mother of 2 year-old baby James and her husband, Mike, have been in business in Dubai for 6 years working on their very well know brand Freshii, an extremely successful salad bar based in the DIFC and Dubai Healthcare City. Jen and Mike have now brought to Dubai these amazing high-tech car seats for children. As I am expecting the 4th child, we own practically every type of car seat (I think we are the proud owners of 11 car seats!) and to be honest we didn’t really know the true safety value of each type of car seat until Jen explained it to us.
She patiently explained the differences to me about why she decided to bring to Dubai the Clek Car Seats. I felt very strongly that she should share this information with other mums who are probably as clueless as me, and so I have asked Jen to tell me in her own words about why she really believes in the technology of these Clek car seats. My 20-month old Lorenzo is the second child in the UAE to own a Foonf and the first to have the Paul Frank designed Foonf – he loves it, and it is incredible that it is doesn’t even move 1 cm once the seat has been installed properly. I think the Clek will be the next Maxi-Cosi or Bug-a-boo story in the UAE. I couldn’t recommend a better product for the kids.
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As a mother, you first were sold on this amazing car seat when you learnt more about its safety value. You actually packed one up and dragged it all the way from Canada and brought it back for baby James.
Jennifer, how did you stumble across Clek personally?
James was close to outgrowing his infant seat when we took him on trip to Canada, so I was in the market for our next seat. I found myself asking a mom about her sleek, brightly colored seat that looked more like something designed by Apple than by Britax or the likes. She seemed surprised that I had made it through six months of motherhood without having heard about the Foonf and spouted on about all of the fantastic safety features and how everyone she knew had one or wanted one.
Now, I hadn’t been one to run out and buy the most fashionable, expensive baby gear. I felt no need to own the very latest bugaboo and inherited my beautiful nursery furniture from another mom, so I was a bit wary of the prettiest new thing all the moms in the neighborhood had to have- but the seat not only looked cool, it felt substantial and sat so solidly in her car. I was compelled to find out if it really was all that.
How does Clek perform in terms of safety when compared to the regular car seats that we have?
My research led me to endless expert reviews that explained how many of the Foonf’s safety features used technology hadn’t been applied to child car seats before and articles about how this seat could improve industry standards and make kids seats safer. And now I wanted one. Even if it meant succumbing to prettiest, trendiest, baby stuff trap.
What stands out about the Foonf?
The first thing you really notice about the Foonf, and the whole Clek line, is how well-built they are. Clek is a Canadian company and, although it may be a bit more expensive, manufacturing in Canada, with mostly local materials, keeps them closer to process so they can ensure the quality of the product. Along the same lines, when you touch or lift a Foonf, you notice that it feels substantial. This seat is no lightweight. Despite its friendly appearance, this is a legitimate piece of safety equipment. The rigid substructure is completely reinforced with a magnesium frame and steel bars – the same materials your car is made of.
What are the main safety points of Clek and Foonf, that sealed the deal for you as a mother?
The Foonf allows a child to stay rear-facing longer, and that keeps them much safer. James, being only six months old at the time of our trip, would be rear-facing in his seat. I was still learning about why he should sit rear-facing, and I’ll explain that in more detail, but in short, The anti-rebound bar keeps the heavier rear-facing seat in position in the event of a crash.
Once he outgrows the seat’s rear-facing capacity, I worry less that turning him forward puts him at risk. The Foonf incorporates the same crumple zone technology that has made cars safer for years. The honeycomb structure allows part of the seat to crumple, sliding down the frame and slowing down the sudden impact of a crash by absorbing force that would otherwise be absorbed by the child’s body. The rigid latch installation and special foam layers surrounding the seat’s frame further absorb energy in the case of a side collision.
Who created the Clek chairs – can you tell me more about the history of their creation?
Clek started with an internal project at Magna (a large auto-parts manufacturer) to design a booster seat. When Clek’s founder, Chris Lumley, was tasked with heading-up the project, he learned that just 20% of school-aged children used booster seats, and less than half of those used them correctly. When they were asked why, the kids said the seats were uncomfortable and looked too much like baby seats.
Chris and his wife Jennifer bought the division from Magna in 2010 and answered with their first line of big-kid friendly, extra cushy boosters which clicked into anchors in the backseat using rigid latches. The product won several safety, design and parenting media awards, Clek was born, and Chris set out to design a convertible seat that would introduce the brand, and automotive safety features in car seats, at an earlier stage.
What made you decide to bring the Clek chairs to the Middle East?
Before moving to Dubai, I was an urbanite Canadian. I lived and worked in the city of Toronto, where public transportation can take you everywhere – not to mention that parking can cost more than renting a flat. It wasn’t until I moved to Dubai, that I quickly realized that, if we were planning to have a family here and I wanted to take my kids to school or the doctor safely, I would have to learn to drive… in Dubai… on these roads. It was a mildly terrifying process and I feel tremendous sympathy for several new mom friends who are facing the same issue today.
As a new driver (even though it’s been four years, I still feel new) I am hyperaware of cars around me on the roads filled with unrestrained kids or fathers driving with babies on their laps – things you would never see in Canada. If you look at statistics from the perspective of what is likely cause injury or death to a child, the most dangerous thing parents can do to their children, anywhere in the world, is to put them in a car.
Has working with Clek made you even more passionate about childrens’ car safety?
Anything that increases the safety of children is vital. Despite significant efforts recently of the part of the RTA and schools – there are still so many parents here who don’t know – parents who love their children very much, and strive to do what’s right for them in all circumstances – who don’t know that putting their child in a properly installed car seat can reduce the likelihood of serious injury or death by up to 80%. Dubai is only now passing laws about seat belts in the back seat, and has been kicking around potential laws about child seats for nearly eight years without real progress. Waiting for the laws to come is a tragic mistake for too many families.
But this is also your business.
I’ve been an entrepreneur in Dubai for six years now – but I’ve never been in the import/export business. I do know enough about the costs and logistics to understand that importing a single line of car seats from North America is unlikely to make me rich, but if that’s what it takes to bring some attention to the biggest risk facing our children – one that has a simple solution- then so be it. If designer fabrics, bright colors and ultra-modern looking design, are what it takes to make having the safest seat fashionable in Dubai – let’s do it – because it might just get the message through faster than gloomy articles about how road accidents in the UAE are the leading cause of death among infants and responsible for 63 per cent of deaths in children 14 and younger- far above the global average, 22.3 per cent- all facts we can change. Obviously, I’d like to make a business out of it, but that isn’t what drove us to do this.
Can you tell us about the range of car seats that you have available?
Clek currently offers three products: the Foonf convertible car seat, which I’ve already told you much about; the Oobr fullback booster, which is built just like the seat in your car, but child-sized. Its solid magnesium framed back and unique recline have earned it a “Best-Bet” rating for four consecutive years by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; and the Olli, Clek’s original, award winning backless booster, which is really great for families who travel or move seats from car to car. All three seats are available in five solid colors, plus leather, Paul Frank, or Toki Doki designer fabric options. The Foonf and Oobr come in either a black or white frame. The fabrics are a Greenguard certified, Super Crypton material, which means they have no harmful chemicals or emissions, and any liquid spilled on them can literally be wiped right off. All three feature rigid latch, click in installation and, for larger families, are narrow enough to be installed three across in any combination of boosters and seats.
What age range do your car seats start from and to?
The Foonf starts at six months, can be used rear-facing until four, and forward-facing until the child is six years old – up to 65 lbs or almost 30 KG. The Oobr and Olli are for 4 years and up, up to 145 cm in height. The Oobr has a weight limit of 100 lbs or 45 KG, the Olli can be used up to 120 lbs or 54 KG.
James is just 2 years old and he sits rear facing, but my daughter is 3 years and she sits forward facing, can you tell us why that is a safety issue?
When I was researching car seats for James, I found Canadian rules varied from province to province and those vary from American or European regulations. It’s bit mind boggling. The one commonality is an overwhelming trend towards tightening those laws to keep children rear facing as long as possible and in boosters for years beyond that. Why? Very young children are especially at risk for head and spinal cord injuries because their bones and ligaments are still developing. Rear-facing seats spread frontal crash forces evenly across the head, neck and back areas, preventing excessive stretching or snapping of the spinal cord. Children are 75% less likely to be killed or injured in a car crash in a rear-facing seat. Still, with all of the different recommendations available, what really convinced me to keep James rear-facing were the statistics in Sweden. Sweden has the world’s lowest number of road fatalities for children under six and they keep children rear facing by law until 4-6 years old and in boosters until at least the age of 10. Swedish crash data show that in the seven years between 1999 and 2006, only four children under the age of four were killed on its roads – and those four were in rear-facing seats, but the deaths were due to other circumstances – the vehicle caught fire or was submerged, for instance.
It can be tricky, especially when you have several children. When the older ones are facing forward, the younger ones want to sooner as well.
If we wanted to purchase the boosters and car seats, where can we go to buy them right now?
You can buy on line from us at www.clekuae.com . We’ve just received our first full shipment and will be meeting with local retailers in the coming weeks. Do you have someone that can help show us how to install the car seat? Absolutely, when you purchase a seat, we will deliver, assemble and show you how to properly install it as a free service. If you are unsure about doing it yourself in the future, we will come re-install or move your seat to another car for a small fee. If you want to check if your Clek, or any other seat, is properly installed, the first thing to do is to try to wiggle it forwards, backwards, or from side to side. If it moves more than an inch or so in any given direction, you should re-install or ask for help from the manufacturer.
Can you just tell us the price range of some of the car seats?
The Ollis will start at AED 650, Oobrs at AED 1800, and Foonfs at AED 3,200. With James’ Foonf, I looked at it like this: I don’t have to worry about buying another seat or booster for a long time because he can sit in it up to 65 pounds or almost 30 KG – well beyond the weight of an average six year old. Most of my friends have been through three or four seats by the time their kids are six. I know the seat is a bit of an investment, but it has both the quality and capacity to last – and I feel confident that my child is safer in it.
For more information or to order your carseat go to www.clekuae.com