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News / Business / Clark County Business

After son born prematurely, Vancouver parents start online store HuddyBearCo and donate to NICU

Business selling toys and clothes for infants and toddlers named for their son Hudson

By Sarah Wolf, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 9, 2024, 6:08am
7 Photos
Courtney and Ryan Self pass their toddler son, Hudson, between them at their Vancouver area home, where they run the small business HuddyBearCo. It sells clothing and toys for babies and toddlers. Hudson&rsquo;s premature birth inspired their give-back venture.
Courtney and Ryan Self pass their toddler son, Hudson, between them at their Vancouver area home, where they run the small business HuddyBearCo. It sells clothing and toys for babies and toddlers. Hudson’s premature birth inspired their give-back venture. (Photos by James Rexroad for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Courtney Self and her husband were shocked when their son was born seven weeks early. Hudson, now 2½, required an extensive stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. Their experience with a preemie led them to launch an online children’s store, HuddyBearCo.

For every order the business receives, the Selfs donate a blanket to the NICU at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, where Hudson received care. They’ve delivered more than 300 blankets so far.

Hudson arrived so fragile that he was immediately whisked to the NICU. It was six hours before the couple could see their son and 24 hours before they could hold him.

“It was really, really hard,” Courtney Self said.

Ryan Self described their experience in the NICU as both amazing and heartbreaking.

“It’s just not how you think your baby’s going to come into the world,” he said.

In the following weeks, while the Selfs fretfully waited for their son to be ready to go home, they formed a strong community with the health care providers and other parents with infants in the NICU.

The experience was a springboard for their business. Courtney Self had always wanted to own a children’s clothing store and the couple wanted to find a way to give back to the NICU that had saved their son’s life.

In July 2022, the couple launched HuddyBearCo from their Vancouver area home. In addition to toys, books and clothes from other makers, the online shop sells Courtney Self’s own label.

She doesn’t have a background or education in clothing design, although her husband says she has a natural design eye.

Their journey involved a lot of research into manufacturers and materials. They wanted to produce clothing safe for babies’ sensitive skin.

Courtney Self expects to create more products like bamboo clothing and swimwear for HuddyBearCo’s inhouse label in the coming months.

Starting online

Nationally, retailers lately are shying away from launching e-commerce businesses in favor of brick-and-mortar stores.

The couple said they would love to have a storefront but starting online was a more affordable option because they can scale up slowly and avoid overhead costs such as rent.

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For now, Courtney Self takes orders from her home office. She grabs the products from a nearby rack or shelf, prepares them for shipping and sends them on their way.

She and Hudson deliver blankets to the NICU regularly.

Eventually, the couple would love to expand to the point of being able to donate blankets to other NICUs around the country.

As she sits in her living room, watching little Hudson cook up a delicious pretend meal, Courtney Self said she’s found a passion in her online endeavor.

“I definitely feel like I’ve found my American dream through all of this,” she said.

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