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Mother of invention

Local entrepreneur is bound for Beverly Hills with a natural product inspired by her child's needs

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When Majda Ficko created her own diaper rash cream in 2004, pitching it to Hollywood moms was the furthest thing from her mind.

But the Winnipeg-area businesswoman will be doing just that this week when she flies to Beverly Hills, Calif., to introduce Baby Butz to A-list celebrities and media preparing to attend the Golden Globe awards.

Ficko has been chosen to have her product featured in the Boom Boom Room, an invitation-only gifting lounge for pregnant celebrities or couples with young children to visit in the days leading up to Sunday's big event.

She's hoping even one A-list mom -- Tori Spelling, Selma Blair, Denise Richards and Jessica Simpson are likely names on this year's guest list -- tweets about Baby Butz, which she says has been nothing short of a miracle cream for her "miracle child."

Ficko is also hoping she doesn't embarrass herself by failing to recognize any famous faces that may show up at her table.

"I'm going to be furiously Googling for a week to figure out who's who," she says, sitting in the kitchen of the East St. Paul home she shares with her husband and three children. "I haven't had much time to watch TV or go to movies."

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it's nothing compared with the motivational power of a mother's love.

Ficko's son, Demitri, who turns 15 in April, was born with Cornelia de Lange syndrome, a rare developmental disorder that requires him to be tube fed and in diapers 24 hours a day.

Demitri, who was born prematurely at 2.9 pounds, spent the first three years of his life in and out of Children's Hospital, where his diaper rash was successfully treated with a cream formulated by one of the hospital's pharmacists.

When the pharmacy closed, Ficko tried every commercial diaper rash cream being sold, but none of them worked. And researching the ingredients "made me sick to my stomach," she says.

"I was so afraid of putting chemicals on him. He was sick enough as it was."

Although Demitri's cry "was like a little lamb" -- a low-pitched, weak cry is a defining characteristic of Cornelia de Lange infants -- his mother knew he was suffering.

"His butt used to look like raw hamburger," Ficko recalls.

At the time, Ficko, a licensed hairstylist, was running the Hair-Do Zoo, a kids-only hair salon she still owns after 24 years. Up until Demitri's birth, she had been planning to franchise the operation and was also working with a research chemist to develop a line of all-natural hair products for children.

 

So when the fruitless search for an effective diaper rash cream left her frazzled and at her wit's end, Ficko's husband suggested she contact the now-retired chemist about collaborating on a different project.

After tweaking and testing for two years, they had a winning formula, and as far as Ficko was concerned, she was done messing with diaper creams. Until Demitri's doctor suggested she start selling hers, that is.

"He said to me: 'Why should your son be the only one to benefit?' That just kind of hit me in the heart," recalls Ficko, who also has a 13-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son.

That was in 2004. She submitted the cream to Health Canada in 2005 for licensing approval as a natural health product, a three-year process in itself.

It finally hit store shelves last February ($9.99 for one ounce) and is now available throughout Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia, and from two retailers in New York. Pediatricians at Manitoba Clinic are also handing out samples to their patients.

After Baby Butz won seal of approval from Parent Tested, Parent Approved (PTPA), North America's largest volunteer review community for baby and child products, one of Ficko's distributors suggested she contact the organizers of the Boom Boom Room at the Golden Globe Awards. She did and received a prompt reply inviting her on board.

Whether or not the glitterati end up spreading the buzz about Baby Butz, Ficko says she's proud that "one desperate Winnipeg mom" could get a natural, safe and effective product on the market to help children like Demitri.

While Health Canada forbids her from using words like "cures" or "heals" on labels and promotional material, Ficko says Demitri, who, at 14, is the size of a five-year-old, and whom she calls her "forever baby," is proof the cream does just that.

"He has never had diaper rash in the seven years we've been using it," she says.

After the Golden Globes, Ficko plans to take Baby Butz back to Hollywood for the Oscars.

carolin.vesely@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 10, 2012 C1

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