Dadtrepreneur: Make My Belly Fit’s Ben McHugh

Make My Belly Fit was founded by Ben McHugh, a father of four, based in Montreal. His proudly Canadian brand is dedicated to providing families with an easy solution for pregnancy and baby-carrying during our cold Canadian winter months. The Make My BellyFit panel creates a maternity jacket out of your own jacket. It's a jacket extender that simply zips right in.

Carry and Ben chat about the initial inspiration behind the panel, and balancing both being a father and entrepreneur.  

Tell us the story and inspiration behind your business. The inspiration for MakeMyBellyFit came out of pure necessity in 2010. My wife and I were expecting our first child and my wife was facing the winter challenge of "my belly won't fit my jacket anymore!". It happened almost overnight! Jessie ended up using my own winter jacket until we could come up with a more long term solution. I jumped online and started searching, since all she needed for her jacket was something to extend it, however couldn't find something ready-made and compatible. Being on a budget, buying a new jacket wasn't really an option for us. A problem-solver at heart, I fell back on some basic sewing skills acquired in high-school (you just never know when certain skills will suddenly become useful). The first prototype, while a little rough around the edges, but it did the trick. It quickly became apparent why an extender wasn't readily available to buy. There are SO many different types of zips. This thing needed to be universal and that was really one of the biggest drivers for me from day 1.

What made you decide to make the jump into a full-time business? It was in the summer of 2015 that I finally jumped in full-time and quit engineering. All my life I'd never considered myself an entrepreneur or businessman and believed I would always be working for someone else.That was until I started my first side-business in 2009, and then started the MMBF journey in 2010. I felt passion doing something that made people happy and made a difference in their lives. By year 3, MakeMyBellyFit was getting traction and taking up a lot more of my time. It just felt like it was at a point where if I really wanted to do it justice, see how far I could go with it, I'd need to go full-time. Getting a deal with Manjit Minhas on Dragon's Den early 2015 was encouraging, too. Probably most importantly, was that I had my wife's support and encouragement.

What is your favorite part about being a dad? B: Do I have to pick one?! Being able to raid my kids Halloween candy bags for chocolates while they're still too young to notice any have gone missing?...mwahaha. Honestly though, on a daily basis, it's the little moments. A surprise hug. A little "I love you." In the bigger picture, the privilege of being part of someone else's life and being able to share in the wonder. Being surprised and amazed by their thoughts and creativity when you least expect it. What is your biggest challenge balancing being both a dad and a business owner? B: Being present with my family. It’s taken quite a few years of work to get better at setting work/life boundaries, and it’s still ongoing. As a passionate business owner, I might not be “at” work but my mind inevitably wanders back to work, and I have to actively fight against it. There’s always something to be done, something to improve, or some fire to put out. It’s the double-edged blade of being your own boss. In theory, you control the boundaries, but I find reality to be quite different.

How has fatherhood influenced your business practices? B: Fatherhood has actually influenced quite a few areas of the business. I'm reminded by my kids on a daily basis that I have to be a positive role model for them. With kids, you get feedback everyday, and in a very unfiltered manner. With employees and other contractors, even though I may not often get the same level of feedback, I know I need to set equivalent positive examples. Knowing just how challenging and draining being a parent can be, I feel I can be more empathetic towards both customers as well as staff and contractors in many circumstances. Fatherhood has helped me try to disassociate emotional wellness from the wellness of the business. It's easy to feel good when business is good, and to feel bad when there's a crisis you feel you can't tackle. Kids don't care how well your business is doing. They still need/want your time and attention, so I need to keep some reserve in the tank. This is in contrast to when I used to be an employee and felt like I could, therefore, leave work challenges "at work". What was the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from your Dragon’s Den experience and mentorship from Manjit Minhas? B: For Dragon's Den, it's having faith and confidence in your own ability. Trusting you are capable. It's not always easy, but if you can trust in yourself, more often than not, you're going to be okay. From Manjit, I'd have to say it's a relatively more recent lesson. The perfect work/life balance doesn't exist. You'll drive yourself crazy trying to find it. It's ever-changing. What you do have is the now and the present. Make the most of it.


How has your product evolved and improved over the years? B: The Make My Belly Fit jacket extenders have evolved quite a bit over the years, as we've tried new ideas and listened to our customers’ feedback. From improved materials to being more comfortable and versatile. I'm very excited for the new version we're releasing this fall, which will be the best ever yet. Everything you need to make your belly fit, in one box. All season. An even better Universal Adapter. What it means for our customers is more comfort, better value, more versatility, and, of course and as always, great Canadian-made quality.

Shop the entire Make My Belly Fit collection at Carry Maternity here.

Or, visit us in-store for a complimentary fitting to see which product is best for you.


For maternity style tips or inspiration, follow Carry Maternity on Instagram & Facebook!

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