Nancy Vardalos Ginakes Is Keeping Kids Safe, Thanks To Her Safe2Go Backpack Invention (And Yes, She’s Nia Vardalos’ Sister, Too)


Nancy Vardalos Ginakes is truly a mother of invention. After her three kids were born, Nancy came up with a clever (and cute!) backpack to keep her kids safe while walking outside, and her company Safe2Go was born. We spoke to Nancy about her company, respecting your child’s dignity, and of course, her famous sister, actress Nia Vardalos.

How did Safe2Go come to be?

I had my first child and then went back to work full time. A year later, I was pregnant with twins! I left my job with Estee Lauder, and I stayed home with the kids for a few years. Taking my kids outside, such as to the pool, was such a difficult task. One wouldn’t want to sit in the stroller, and another might want to run off. So, I started looking for harnesses that were kid-friendly.

I remember using a harness with my son once. And only once. I was mortified to use it, and I wound up only walking one block with him before I went back home.

I felt embarrassed using them, too. I thought it looked like I was harnessing a little animal. I thought, “How could this look more dignified for a child?” I thought if it were a backpack and the tether came out, it would be more acceptable socially. The cool part is that the tether is on a tape measure mechanism, so it’s there when you need it.

How did you come up with the design?

For me, it was all about finding a solution. I rigged it myself with stuffed toys, and when we were outside, I would get so many questions from people who wanted one for themselves. Over time, I decided to make it into a business. The good part about it is that for the fleeting moments you need it to be a tether, it’s there. Otherwise, it’s simply a backpack.

What has the response been like?

It’s been steady growth since I launched it in 2005. We started with four styles and now we have sixteen. We’ll start retiring some designs and bring out new ones. We’re getting more accounts all the time.

Has your sister, actress Nia Vardalos, been involved with your company?

In her movie, I Hate Valentine’s Day, Nia has a child walking in the background who is using the Safe2Go backpack. And when she was filming American Girl here in Canada, we would go to the zoo a lot with her daughter. We wound up donating backpacks to the zoo.

How do you balance work with family?

I’m very much a working mom, but our family is entrepreneurial. Our first priority is family. And our kids, Foti, and the twins, Paris and Costa are great kids; they’re very responsible and are helpful so that we can do it all. My husband, Dimos and I have a restaurant.

Like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding?!

[laughs] It’s more Continental cuisine. But of course there are Greek specialties on the menu!


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