I have started a company called Really Simple Ideas Ltd. I invented SnoozeShade – a product to help babies sleep in their prams and pushchairs as a simple and secure alternative to draping things over the pram when baby nods off and when they need help getting to sleep when over tired.
What was your job before starting your business?
I have spent most of my career working in PR, marketing and events. I have never worked in retail or product manufacturing so it’s been a real rollercoaster of a journey over the last few months.
How did you go from your old career to your new business?
I left my last job as the hours meant I was never going to get pregnant and went freelance which allowed me the time to relax and then we underwent IVF which was all much easier as I was working from home. We were very lucky and our daughter was born in October 2007. I wasn’t planning on returning to work before she went to school but was getting a bit bored and so was doing a bit of local consulting for free and volunteered with my local NCT. I only officially started the business a couple of months after I attended the Baby Products Association show in October 2009 – a nursery trade show – with an early SnoozeShade prototype and had orders placed on the spot so that meant I had a very hectic Christmas and New Year getting everything ready for launch in February.
What were your reasons for starting a business?
I didn’t really plan it to be honest, it’s just happened and snowballed and turned into a great business that I can operate from home spending maximum time with Holly whilst keeping the old brain cells ticking away.
Did you use any childcare?
My mum has been amazing looking after Holly whenever she can. I have to work a lot in the evenings and sometimes get up early before Holly wakes up to get a few bits done. She goes to nursery for morning s about 4 days a week during term time so holidays are a challenge now but everyone including friends and family are mucking in to help me which is much appreciated.
How did you get your business idea?
I started working on the idea when Holly was very small as I got frustrated with my useless attempts to cover the pram with blankets and coats that would get dislodged at every chance and so I said to a few friends that I wish someone had invented something to help and they said why don’t you do it. (and stop moaning about it). I looked everywhere online and couldn’t find anything that was purely aimed at helping babies sleep – all the sunshades out there prided themselves on the fact that baby could see ou which was not what I needed.
What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?
The main obstacle has been working around looking after a small child and also that fact that I have no experience in retail or product manufacturing. I have however been very lucky with many kind people from the nursery world helping me and giving me advice which has been amazing.
What training, information or advice did you need to get started?
I went to my local Business Link and they sent an advisor round who was great – she had actually worked on a baby magazine and so was particularly clued up on the industry. I also spent a lot of time on the phone to the Intellectual Property Office who were very helpful in helping me protect my rights, get started with the patent process, register a trademark etc.
If you could give one piece of advice to a mum of a baby or toddler starting a business, what would it be?
I have a few pieces of advice I’m afraid – I would say do lots of research on your business idea to see if it has legs – this can be as basic as asking friends and family but ask them to ask relevant people they know who have no bias. Be prepared for criticism and use it as a positive thing, no idea is perfect and criticism can help you improve what you are doing and make it better. Do research on existing competitors or people who think they are your competitors so you have as much information available as possible. Believe in what you are doing, we all have bad days but I always say feel the fear and do it anyway. My final piece is to look at people you admire and ask for their help – you’d be surprised at how helpful people will be – they’ve all been where you are and I have had the most amazing support from some fantastic people.