Pittsburgh Inventor is SBA National Exporter of the Year

Rose Morris to Receive Award at National Small Business Week
Release Date: 
Monday, May 8, 2017
Release Number: 
Advisory Date: 
Monday, May 8, 2017
Advisory Number: 
Janet Heyl

Pittsburgh Inventor is SBA National Exporter of the Year

Rose Morris to Receive Award at National Small Business Week

PITTSBURGH – The adage “necessity is the mother of invention,” certainly holds true for mother of three Rose Morris – a patent-holder, inventor of The Safety Sleeper™ and winner of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 2017 Exporter of the Year Award.

“It’s overwhelming to learn you just won the whole enchilada for the entire country,” Morris, 45, exclaimed. “I thought it was a mistake, and kept wondering how I could have won.”

Morris, whose son is on the Autism spectrum, found both he and she were suffering from sleep deprivation. “Ten years ago, he was two and started climbing out of his bed; he was like the Energizer Bunny, he just wouldn’t turn off,” she explained. “I had an idea, told a friend what I wanted and he fabricated it for me.”

Her vision, a portable, cocoon-like enclosure over his bed worked. “It reduces stimulation and creates a calming effect, like putting a blanket on someone…I’ve since learned that 99 percent of The Safety Sleeper™ users go to sleep quicker and stay asleep longer,” she added. “We might see it [the bed] as scary, but for those with sleep disorders, it’s their safe space. And, that safe feeling can be recreated when travelling as the unit fits standard bed sizes.”

Selling more than 1,000 units in the U.S. and throughout the world, Morris will head to Washington, D.C. at the end of April for SBA’s 54th National Small Business Week celebration.

“This is such an honor for Rose and Pittsburgh’s small business community,” said SBA Pittsburgh District Director Dr. Kelly Hunt. “Throughout her journey, SBA’s resource partners, our Women’s Business Center (WBC), the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and SCORE volunteers have provided free and confidential assistance to her.”

Morris said she began working with Anne Flynn Schlicht, director of Chatham University’s WBC to complete her nomination. After winning honors at the Pittsburgh level, she then competed against SBA’s Philadelphia District Office becoming the state winner. Her submission then was selected from the nation’s top exporters earning her the National Exporter of the Year title.

According to Hunt, Morris just didn’t start a business; she simultaneously started a non-profit charity as well. “She created Fund it Forward, an organization which purchases equipment for families of special needs children when insurance won’t cover the costs,” said Hunt. “She then asks those families to fund a portion of the costs for the next person waiting for assistance.”

Morris’ national award certainly contradicts her humble beginnings as a small business owner.

According to Morris, ten years ago an epiphany occurred to her one night watching her son slumber. “Getting the bed enclosure was such a relief and it really was working,” she said. “I couldn’t have done this [parenting] without the bed and it felt as though God was telling me to build it for others.”

With her prototype in place, Morris began making changes to the sleeper and researching how to start a small business. Friends began helping her create a simple website displaying her cell phone number and a product slide deck. In a few months, she received her first call and order.

“I was in my kitchen, but pretended I was in an office,” she said, laughing. “I began talking to parents for hours learning about different sleep disorders, they became my friends.”

And when her manufacturer pulled out, Morris and her husband turned their basement and garage into the headquarters for Abram’s Bed LLC, dba The Safety Sleeper™ stitching in the basement and bending metal in the garage. “We were making 15-20 sleepers and that’s when we began looking at modifications, using different fabrics and adding amenities,” she explained. “Keeping the simplicity of the design, but adding the quality-grade, medical materials.”

Morris started taking classes at Duquesne University’s SBDC, SCORE and Chatham University, learning about accounting programs and exporting. She secured money from the accelerator Innovation Works and end users of The Safety Sleeper™ benefitted from two semesters of engineering and design modifications from students at the University of Pittsburgh’s prestigious Swanson School of Engineering.

Fast-forward 10 years and Morris now is working alongside nine employees in a space on Camp Horne Road. Today, The Safety Sleeper™ now comes in a variety of colors and features – such as a travel mattress, washable fabric and a portable suitcase. Sales recently hit the $1 million mark and she exports to 12 different countries.

According to Hunt, Morris is a social entrepreneur who saw herself as the solution to a sleep deprivation problem facing parents and caregivers. “Her son’s sleeping problems led her to turn this project into both a business and non-profit charitable organization that is helping so many families around the world,” Hunt said. “It’s incredible that a simple enclosed bed is enabling others to finally enjoy a good night’s sleep.”

For Morris, her concerns still center on the families she serves. “They mean everything to me,” she adds. “They first call me with tears of frustration and those soon turn into tears of relief.”