Starting your own business… EVOLVING IDEAS!

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I can’t believe it, my little company Pipity was launched 2 years ago at the Devon County Show, and before that I spent 18 months turning my idea into a reality, that time has just flown by! It’s been a steep learning curve, and I’m often asked about how I made Pipity happen. With a few years of experience as a ‘Mumpreneur’, now seems like a good time to reflect and share some of my experiences and insights… and hopefully inspire and provide some insights if you’re venturing down the track of launching your own business!

Businesses start with an idea, and set of circumstances. Mine started about 5 years ago following our move from London to Devon. With 2 children in school and one at nursery, I had been dipping my toe into the world of freelance marketing and PR in London, when my husband set up his own business for the first time, and we decided to up sticks and move South West. I had been homesick for Devon for a ­­­number of years, having grown up myself near the beach and moors I was itching to get back to a life of wellies, crabbing and paddling and sharing that with our kids.

What was clear from the start, was work wise opportunities in Devon were considerably fewer than in London. Having always worked in small organisations, where brilliant people had made their ideas a reality, I realised that I really wanted to do that, and with my husband away a lot with work, it was an option with flexibility that I could work around our family life. I started to brainstorm, egged on by my entrepreneurial husband James. The lightbulb moment happened as I found my head in yet another bag trying to find the kids googles. ‘Wouldn’t life be easier if I had one bag, a set of packs to go in it and an organised hanging system so that it was easy to identify the snack pack, hats and gloves pack, swim kit pack etc and take it in and out of the ‘Family Bag’ as and when theywere needed – BINGO an idea was born.

Out came the drawing pad and sewing machine and I started making a variety of bags and little packs to go in them. I had a lovely time knocking out bags and packs and testing it all out. However, it quickly became clear that 1. Weight and size was an issue. 2. It was going to be a huge undertaking getting a bag, packs and a hanging system designed, manufactured and marketed on my own, whilst being a Mum to my 3 kids and often the sole parent in residence. As the reality set in, confidence and enthusiasm for my idea waned, I decided to go back to the drawing board. (My family bag efforts were not wasted, I still use my bag, and it’s great to see that my sister is putting prototype family bag number 2 to great use too!...both still going strong 5 years later!).

As Ipads, Iphones, games and Apps crept into our family life, I became increasingly uncomfortable about my children’s relationship with screens. I found that they were developing skilful negotiating techniques to get their hands on my phone/ipad and plug in. Watching them zone in and tune out just didn’t instinctively feel right. After a particularly moronic event when my phone screen didn’t survive a tug of war between the children, I put my foot down and decided that we were all going to have a screen free summer holiday! That stated, I appreciated that I had just cut my own work out - how was I going to keep them all happily entertained during our summer adventures. Luckily one of the packs that was destined for the family bag was for facilitating art and craft activities on the go. I stocked it up and off we went. I have to say that summer was fab, and it was great to have a screen break. Moods were better, we played cards, coloured, created and so the lightbulb flickered on again and a seed for moving forward was planted.

Of course ipads and iphones are a really attractive option to keep kids entertained on the go, when the prospect of scrabbling round the bottom of a hand bag for pencils, staining felt tips and scrumpled creations is the alternative. After ‘family bag’, I decided to approach this one more cautiously and set about doing a bit of research. I created a little online survey for Mums, and hosted a coffee morning for some Mum friends and asking them if a product to make creative activities on the go more manageable would appeal. Chatting about the options to keep kids busy on the go, I appreciated that a lot of my friends and family felt the same way about screens and the answers for a neat solution to make creative activities easy to do on the go were an overwhelming yes! I went back to the drawing board.

The result was the Pipity Pod. A neat hard plastic little pod, containing colouring pencils, rolled paper and a sharpener, that would slip neatly into a handbag. I found a local firm that could make it and who helped me to develop my drawings into a 3D design. The next step to making the pod a reality was to have ‘tooling made’. This was eye wateringly expensive, and I decided to do more research before seeking investment and taking the plunge. I gathered my Mum friends again and showed them the Pod Prototype. They were positive and encouraging, but listening to their feedback and ideas made me hesitate. In conversation the following comments lodged in my mind:

“Is there anyway you could fit scissors and glue into the pod”

“It would be so helpful if there was something for them to rest on”

“Is this for the Mum or for the child?”

“They can carry this in their own back packs, I’ve given myself back problems lugginground all my kids stuff”.

I digested the feedback, and did a bit more investigation about how I might position and sell my product. It dawned on me that once tooling was made, the cost to produce the products would have to be added on top and then I would have to market it to customers and buyers, all a huge, and expensive unrealistic undertaking, not to mention lack of experience selling to buyers! Plus, I appreciated that I had a gadgety product – something that Mums might like and buy on a whim as a practical bit of kit, but it didn’t excite, evoke any emotional response, and again my confidence and enthusiasm waned.

Feeling a little deflated we went off on a family holiday. After a breather and having let all the feedback, information and ideas settle into my brain I went back to the drawing board. I had learnt a lot and had clear objectives.

· I wanted my product to be for children, to excite them and evoke an emotional response, whilst providingparents with a practical and useful bit of kit.

· I wanted to include all the elements that my Mum friends were asking for.

· I wanted to be able to start small, test it and move forward… no expensive tooling!

· It needed to make a great gift, which gave me a route to putting it in front of customers at County Shows and Christmas Fairs.

Hours of drawing and sewing followed, manufactures found and products developed and the result is the Pipity Activity Case in the form it is today. Looking back Pipity started as something quite different, but exploring different ideas, researching

the different avenues and keeping an open mind taught me a lot. If you are perusing an idea it really helps to look at the big picture from the outset. Listen to others, be realistic about your ability and the financial input that’s needed to make it happen, know who it’s for and how you’re going to get it in front of them. Trust your gut feeling, if it’s a good idea don’t give up at the first hurdle - let it evolve!

Look out for my next blog about starting your own business … How to make an idea a reality!

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