Wimmer Ferguson: Eye Popping Toys For Tots

As a children's hospital therapist, Ruth M. Wimmer knew that infants like high-contrast patterns. So when she had a daughter in 1983, Wimmer bypassed cute pink mobiles and instead hung a homemade black-and-white model over the crib. "Katharine's idea of a good time was for her eyes to go back and forth between dark and light," says Wimmer.

Katharine is not alone, it turns out. In 1984, with husband Allan Ferguson, a librarian and part-time bandleader, Wimmer formed Wimmer-Ferguson Inc. to design and market her Stim-Mobiles--so named because new babies find the black-and-white shapes visually stimulating. They sell for $20.

President Wimmer, 41, designs new toys, while Vice-President Ferguson, 47, handles sales and marketing. Operating out of a former Denver grocery, Wimmer-Ferguson has sales of more than $1 million. It now has three products: the Stim-Mobile; Pattern-Play, a set of black-and-white vinyl cards; and Double-Feature, a mirror with bold graphics on the back.

Due out later this year are red, blue, and yellow Stim-Mobile parts for older babies whose eyes recognize all colors. Also in the works are soft toys that appeal to tiny ears and fingers. But there can be too much of a good thing. Wimmer-Ferguson won't be turning out zebra-striped crib sheets, for instance. Overstimulation, explains Wimmer, turns babies cranky.