Thursday, 5 August 2010

New Products Ahoy!

We have been offering free samples again. Why? It is part of my campaign to stop junk - you know the types of things, sound great in principle but end up on the Oxfam pile after one outing followed by six months collecting dust. I want all our products to be indispensable bits of kit that get used time after time, so all I ask of the testers is for their honest opinions. Would they buy the products? Would they recommend them to others? Sadly it does mean that we turn down some products, but one duff product would reflect badly on all the others so I keep trust my testers and keep the quality threshold high.

Not all products get as far as being tested by my valued testers. I am working with one Mum at the moment who has a potentially great product, but it is not quite ready for the market. We are discussing ways to fine tune the design to make it fulfil potential.

And some potential products do not even get as far as sampling stage.

I am looking for practical solutions to parenting problems - I am still working on how I put that into words. Making clear that I track down only the best, offer quality at or below RRP and that we just the best site ever. I have been working on the almost ready new version of the site - while my brain is like a tumble drier of words and phrases that have yet to be coherantly and concisely formed. I am hoping that when the new version of the site is live I will have the clarity to see some obvious solutions!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Last chance for Rockin Hoods

My first batch of Rockin Hoods have almost sold out - thanks to those of you who have emailed me with your lovely reviews. I am so pleased that you liked them, I only started making them as I needed a quick alternative to a coat for Sarita and then it became the most useful thing, that I could not live without.

I am having another batch made up - but I am slightly modifying the design (well, how I label them) so the next batch will be selling at £22.50. If you want to get hold of one of the last first edition hoodies - the last few are still available at £19.50 including FREE P&P. Buy now to get at this orginal lower price.

The new batch will be previewed at BabyExpo10 in Brighton on Sunday 27th June Stand number 92. It would be great to see any of you there!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Useless Inventions?

Hands up who has bought anything totally useless?

My list would be cotton cellular blankets and newborn baby cardigans. S was born in a heat wave but, as a first time Mum, I followed the 'list' of what I needed to buy. Anecdotally I hear that bath mittens and those whizzy nappy bins that enclose your nappies in plastic don't rate that highly.

Value for money came instead from a sling, it was quite expensive but per use the price was almost infinitesimal. The pram was not expensive but as it was, well, a bit s*** it never really worked for me and I would have been better off spending more time on Mumsnet researching and possibly a little more money on the purchase or maybe I should have bought second hand.

I want your feedback!
What have you bought that you wish you had not? Please leave a comment and I'll collate it into a survey. I am really interested by your thoughts.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Wow! What a lot of talent!*

I am proud, of you, of me and of the website. Let me tell you why!

This week I have had so much feedback about my own invention, the Rockin Hood . I have been told how it is perfect for use in Mei Tai baby carrier , I have heard how it is great when in a buggy and I have also had a reorder from a Mum who says that her 3 1/2 year old still loves it so much that she can't pass it onto her younger daughter and that she NEEDS a second one. The sample you see in this picture is one that I made for a little girl in a wheel chair who was was accustomed to having her anorak put on back to front, as her day carers would not lift her out of her seat to out it on correctly. Again, years later her frustrated niece can not benefit from the cast off as it is STILL being worn!

I am proud that I believe in the sellers that I have chosen. For example, I really believe that DribbleBuster is the best small bib. It was invented out of parental need and every aspect of the bib - from the choice of fabrics and soft backing to the quality manufacture and the ethics of the sourcing - has been perfected. I could have made more money from an alternative source but I believe that DribbleBuster has the quality that you should expect.

I am proud that I go against my nature, to support all potential suppliers, and turn down products in almost equal number to those that I accept. I will not sell anything if I would not buy it myself; my Mum is from Scotland and my Dad from Yorkshire, so if you believe in generalisations build a picture of me guarding our collective pennies. I used to work with M&S technologists, the people paid to maintain their high quality threshold, so I am trained to spot poor quality and if I would not accept anything but the best quality why would you?

I am also proud that the site is not just about selling! We take time out to celebrate amazing things and people. It may not be commercial but I prefer to highlight something worthwhile in my newsletter rather than just giving a sales pitch. My exciting news this newsletter is that our token 'Father' of Innovation, and creator of Baby's First Calendar, is skating from Bristol to London to raise money for FSID. Here is his the link to his Just Giving site, so please support him if you can.

My last picture is about relationships. It could have been an excellent cartoon my Grandmother drew of her cowering under the carpet with shame at some transgression (any excuse to talk about her, I know, but also appropriate). Instead it is one of pure, blind joy. It is pink, it is commercial and it is, to be honest...hideous, but Sarita gave it to me for Mothers' Day. It is everything that I would never allow onto the site, but it now a prized possession (even if I may not display it too prominently).

I am proud of what we are achieving with this site, and of the plans that we are putting in place to make it even better. I hope that pride does not come before a fall, as this blog is about what we have achieved together and one step in a longer journey. It is about great products, tough decisions and also about the fun side of Motherhood. I hope you enjoyed Mothers Day and that it heralded the first day of a glorious summer ahead! xx

*This blog was part of the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop
that I usually write on my personal blog. But this week one of the options was to: Tell us about something, or show us something that you do really, really well and are proud of. It’s time to blow your own trumpets a bit folks! None of this British modesty and self-deprecation we all seem to be so good at…
- Inspired by Battling on AND Young and Younger who have both been celebrating their successes and achievements this week (And, as Josie say, rightly so, they are fab!)

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Hints for Mumpreneurs*

What are the career options for a talented Mum who wants to work flexibly? There are part time jobs, but they are hard to come by unless you are negotiating down from a full time role. Some recruitment companies do specialise in flexible working such as Capability Jane but there is stiff competition for each vacancy.

Next there are working from home options. Antonia Chitty wrote an interesting blog about current scams recently. There are many home business targeted at Mums, if you want to sell books, toys or kitchen paraphernalia. I was initially very cynical about these schemes, seeing the balance of advantage so heavily tilted in favour of the franchises / head offices. I have softened my view here - as these some of these schemes work for you and offer you substantial support and mentoring . Our site even features Barefoot Books (fabulous books with original artwork, published by a company set up my two Mums) which be such a WAHM* business.

So if you have an idea where do you go? What are some of the options for becoming a Mumpreneur*.

1. Getting a New Concept into Production.
Considering getting help and guidance via the B P A - Baby Products Association. They have the most amazing links and if you are starting a whole new concept this could be the route for you. This was the route favoured by Tilly Beasley of Wean Machine .

2. IP*: Copyright / Trademarking / Patenting
Cally Robson is the woman to know! You can join her organisation to benefit from her mentoring or just browse some of her website She's Ingenious ! It is dedicated to female inventors. The British Library Business and IP Centre is a fantastic source of information and training - which is not much use if you are based in Scotland!

3. Cottage Industry
In the days of the Internet there is no reason why a small business should not punch way above its weight. First point of call would be to get the Mumpreneur Guide. It is a great hands on guide, holding your hand as you take the first steps. There are some websites to network and advise, here are some to start you off.

4. Manufacture
Do you make it yourself, do you get UK home workers or do you source from abroad? If you do source from abroad do you go through an agent?
Your product will probably decide this for you. Some products just can't be made at home and need specialist tooling - if that is the case call in the experts immediately!

With my own invention, Rockin Hood , I initially made up samples and slowly scaled up production finding a great unit in London to make them up. UK manufacture can be an expensive proposition, and if I were to wholesale the Rockin Hoods I would need to go for off-shore sourcing to get competitive prices.

The first thing that you will need will be a decent sample, often called a counter sample in the trade. Good samples are absolutely key to getting yourself set up well, if you have not clearly defined your product via the IP* route.

To find manufacturers and someone to make a sample Business Link have a Skills Matching tool on their website, your local University might have some good contacts if you contact the pertinent department and don't forget your local council - mine has given me some great contacts (thanks Wokingham!).

If you are not sourcing a manufacturer locally you must have a decent intermediary. If there is a misinterpretation or a mistake that can be made it has been made already and will possibly be made again. WARNING if you go it alone it is a minefield. Many Mumpreneurs have found great factories in Turkey or the Far East via the Mumpreneur networks (see links above).

Two samples are better than one. Keep one pristine and trash the other! Wash it, iron it, tumble dry it, let our kids loose on it - can they get their fingers stuck it? Can they puke on it then it comes out of the wash looking as good as new? My first samples are STILL going strong and I am still learning from them! Three years on I am hearing that my first external sample is still being worn by my initial tester AND her baby sister. Without a proper sample to test you will never get feedback or be able to make it better.

One obvious hint from the site: if you would not buy it and love it then something is wrong. It needs to be the right product, at the right price in great quality - with that as a starting point you have great foundations for your business! All you need know are nerves of steel and a lot of luck; as Sam Goldwyn said, 'The harder you work, the luckier you get!'

* Terminology.

Mumpreneur - It is a bit of a Marmite of a word, you either love it or hate it.
Acronyms: WAHM - work at home Mum, SAHM - stay at home Mum.
IP Intellectual Property - the world of patents and trade marks.
Enter a whole new world of terminology!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Words don't come easy...Can you help?

Products made by Mums for Mums? Would you go for it? Obviously I would, as that it why I set up Mothers of Innovation, but it seems that the image I have of talented Mums is not shared by all.

I started to get some feedback about what people really thought about the concept. The first reaction was, "So what?" If I elaborate saying that they made the products because they could not find what they needed the eyes start to focus and the ears prick up - I have made my point.

It is all very well knowing that we sell quality products, that offer a genuine solution to real family conundrums, but how do we get the message across? It does not help that we sell things my some Mums who have build up international reputations and substantial businesses along side exciting products from start up companies.
Take, for example, The Wean Machine, another of our new products. Winner of the 2009 Innovation Award and now selling at our site for £19.40 including postage (less than RRP). It is affordable quality that really works! But we also sell, for example, The Splodge Box an interactive book and box-set with five ethically sourced, multi-sensory gifts plus CD. Now how different are they? They are both innovative quality products but so very different!

My word cloud would be:
Quality products made by Mums
Invented when they could not buy what they needed
Affordable quality
Talented Mumpreneurs
Not run of the mill
With the added extra that only a Mum could consider

So how do I combine there thoughts?

A website selling practical solutions invented by clever Mums when nothing else was good enough. To give, to wear, to enjoy and to love xx

Great family solutions from Mums: products invented by resourceful Mums when they could not live without them. Products for babies, children, Mums and their homes.

Practical family solutions for families, invented by Mums in the absence of what they really needed.

Practical family solutions for families, invented by Mums when they could not find what they really needed.

Tried and trusted family solutions: products invented by Mums when what they needed was not already for sale.

Earlier versions:
Great products made by those who know best
Mum sense not nonsense

I like the top one as I can use either sentence in isolation to make it snappier. I would really value any help. If anybody comes up with an ideal solution I am sure I will come up with a thank you gift.

Either leave a comment or you can vote on the poll =>


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Ultimate Parenting Guide

Dear Gina Ford,
I am sure that you mean well, and you have plenty of fantastic experience but....

On Monday morning GMTV will be doing a section on Gina Ford. Did you read her book? Did it help? I read it after one of our antenatal group informed me that because I was such a hippy (based only on the fact that I was planning to use washable nappies) I would never read it. After vowing to avoid parenting books I then read the lot - well, a sizable number and, wow, there are a lot out there.

I now have a theory that we just keep on reading books until we find one that just reinforces our original prejudices (or tendencies). So if you are the kind of person who needs rigid schedule Gina Ford may well be just what you need. I just loved Deborah Jackson's Baby Wisdom as it was more about anthropology, history and myth.

This got me thinking - if we will twist what we hear anyway to suit our styles there must be abundant information out there. There was was a programme on last week about the business advice encoded within Beatrix Potter; as resourceful parents (or parents to be) we must be able to find sage advice in whatever we are reading.

Nutritional advice from Charlie and Lola? Drink pink milk
Tact and diplomacy from Peppa Pig? Er - this could start wars
Dancing by Angelina Ballerina? Sorry, they have that one covered
Time keeping advice from Cinderella? Listen to your elders and don't be late (okay, so many fairytales are just an elaborate way to avoid being too direct with advice).

Let me know your gems!

The consensus amongst the Mums who sell on our site has been that on the job learning works best for us, and if in doubt ask friends and family for advice. However, I have collected a few pearls of wisdom to share with you.

Don’t stress and try not to listen to too many tips… every child is different. Oh… and by the way your friend's baby doesn't sleep from 7 to 7.
Tammy, Mum and designer of Green Cheeky Monkey

Teach your child discipline.
Mum and Grandmother, Alison of Dribblebuster

No means No
Mum and Jeweller, Heather Stowell

Try and make time for lots of family time.
Keira, Mum and creator of (the Celeb endorsed) Mamascarf

Love your children but also be strict when it comes to rules and things they may do or not. Letting your children do whatever they want is definitely not the best. I think that I am a bit of an “old school style”
Dinorah, Mum and designer of the Gizmoroo collection