Published: November 10, 2015 |
By Mary Ellen Godin Record-Journal staff
MERIDEN — When Gulaid and Davina Ismail’s second child Issaq was born three years ago, the child suffered from acid reflux so badly he threw up often. The couple was going through plenty of infant clothes.
“We were constantly changing clothes and throwing them out when they get stained,” Davina said. “So we asked ourselves ‘why don’t we start making clothes ourselves?’”
Gulaid Ismail, a U.S. Marine who served seven months in Fallujah, Iraq, was able to get some assistance from Veterans Administration programs and the couple soon started Dribblebabies, a baby and toddler web-based store for parents five years after his honorable discharge.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty visited the couple Tuesday to see their business and offer assistance. There has been a surge in initiatives designed to encourage veterans to become entrepreneurs.
Gulaid Ismail served with the Charlie Co. Marines Infantry of Plainville in 2006 when he was sent for three months of training in California before being sent to hostile territory in Fallujah. He served four years before receiving an honorable discharge in December 2006.
After being discharged, Gulaid Ismail went to the Veterans Center in Rocky Hill for mental health services, while his wife received caregiver assistance. They later attended the University of Connecticut’s Entrepreneur Boot Camp for veterans, and Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network’s IAM program, where he received a certificate in video editing. Davina Ismail received one in HTML or web page building.
“The Vet Center helped me understand what he’s going through,” Davina Ismail said. “The...incubator program told us a lot about vendor fairs and social media. It’s a lot of word of mouth.”
The business also helps Gulaid Ismail redirect any negative energy he may have following his war experience. After recently losing two fellow Marines to suicide, Gulaid Ismail credits his wife’s understanding of the caregiver’s program to saving his life.
“This has really helped our family,” Davina said. “He can stay up and work on the business. You’re working on something together as a family.”
Esty questioned the couple about their awareness of and the effectiveness of some of the programs.
“There are these resources available that veterans don’t know about that provide more skills and better engagement,” Esty said.
Gulaid Ismail continues to work full time for the U. S. Department of Labor. Davina left her job as a legal secretary in June, but she still works part time. Their three children also keep them busy.
“You clearly have a lot of energy,” Esty said.
Their stock includes some national brands such as Magnificent Baby, which is a magnetic fastening clothing line. There are also original designs made by seamstresses in Connecticut: bandana-style bibs and potty pants, which is a spare pair of washable or disposal pants in a sack for particularly messy changes.
Each sack of potty pants comes with a tag that reads: “Break open in case of emergency.”
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