We’re mumpreneurs!

By at home

Staying at home to bring up babies needn’t spell the end of your career. For these two women, being a mum helped them spot a gap in the market, and the businesses they’ve built up as a result are going from strength to strength…

‘A scary moment inspired me to help other parents’
Louise Guinda, 32, from Aberdeen, invented the Safe Dreams Breathable Cot Wrap
‘I used to work as an accountant, but yearned to do something more creative and set up on my own.

Like many people though, inspiration never struck and I didn’t know what I could do. That was until my son, Ali, was born in May 2008, ‘My husband, 32-year-old student, Pablo, and I bought a cot bumper as part of a coordinated bedding set. We hoped it’d stop the baby poking his arms and legs through the bars. ‘But Ali was active, and liked to sleep with his face pressed up to the bumper. That concerned me, but I assumed that cot bumpers must be thoroughly tested and 100% safe. One afternoon, when Ali was four months old, I put him down for his nap. Going back to check on him, to my horror his face had turned blue. His mouth and nose were pressed right up to the bumper and I couldn’t see how he’d be taking in enough oxygen. ‘Quick as a flash, I scooped him up and shook him gently for a few seconds until he woke up. It was terrifying. Those few seconds seemed a lifetime. I whisked the bumper out of the cot immediately. But Ali kept getting his arm or leg caught between the bars and crying himself awake.’

A flash of inspiration
‘On mums’ forums online, people talked about the same problem. Some mothers had even resorted to sellotaping strips of cardboard inside their baby’s cot. But there had to be a better solution. ‘I found an American website which sold cot wraps – a piece of material to fix on the inside of the cot to stop babies poking their arms through. When mine arrived through the post, it was hideous – made from a similar material to trainers, outlined by a garish shiny border. Nasty to the touch, it also ruined Ali’s beautiful coordinated baby bedding. ‘There didn’t seem to be a decent, effective cot wrap on the market. And that was my light-bulb moment – my business idea!’

Making the idea a reality
‘But I was an accountant, not an inventor, with no idea where to start. I had to learn how to bring a product to the market, about textiles and sewing techniques, and about market research. I found chatting to other mumpreneurs, who’d launched products, through forums and Twitter to be an invaluable help. ‘After a lot of research, I decided on a padded cotton mesh material, as a baby could breathe through it if he or she was pressed up against it. Bearing in mind the hideous version I had ordered online, I decided that my cot wrap would be available in three attractive colours. ‘Having chosen a design, I filed a patent drawing attention to how my version differed from any other.’

A family affair
‘Everyone helped out. Pablo did some of the engineering drawings for the manufacturer, and my brothers designed the website and marketing material. Even Ali did his bit, posing in a cot for the website. ‘My little boy’s two now, and it’s hard to juggle childcare and business. I cram a lot in when he’s at nursery, and in the evenings. My social life’s had to be put on hold, but I don’t mind as I’m providing for our future. ‘It took until December 2009 to get the Safe Dreams Breathable Cot Wrap, ready for sale – it’s now available from www.safedreams.co.uk – Ali doesn’t need one now as he sleeps in a bed, but I like knowing my idea will give other parents peace of mind.’

 


‘I had three babies in a year and still launched a business’
Sarah Watts, 41, from London, founded 2littleboys.co.uk – an online and wholesale gift service. ‘My first child, Emily, was born in December 1998. When she was just 12 weeks old, I found out I was pregnant again. I’d hardly got over that shock when my husband Paul, 42, a film editor, and I went to a 13-week scan. The screen showed identical twin boys. ‘I was enormous by the time Ollie and Callum were born in early 2000, happily a healthy 7½lb each. ‘Going from being child free to a mum of three in such a short time was an adjustment, and I can’t remember much about the next few years – a whirl of nappies and parsnip purée! While I adored being a mum, I personally knew I wanted to do something else with my brain – something for me.’

Eureka moments
‘Coping with three small children gave me ideas for useful products that didn’t exist. At one point, when the whole family kept getting ill, there was so much to remember – hospital visits, antibiotics to dish out and cough medicine to pour. ‘One night, none of the kids could control their fevers. It was 3am and I’d forgotten who’d already had Calpol, so we started scribbling in a notebook to keep track. It occurred to me that a child’s medication diary would be a great product and that it could be marketed as a gift. ‘Other product ideas quickly followed. People had given me baby books when the kids were born so we could record their significant milestones. But there was not time to fill them in – day-to-day childcare took priority. Instead, I dreamed up The Christmas Yearbook for everyone to write in on Christmas Day. The idea was that over the years people would note down all their own momentous events of the past year, along with a photo. Eventually it’d be 25 years of family history in one book.’

Building the business
‘The first step was branding. I realised a photo I’d taken of the back of the twins’ heads would make a great logo. And from that we got the name of the business – 2 Little Boys. ‘We launched 2littleboys.co.uk with nine products. I was still very much a hands-on mum, so I could only snatch time here and there. But knowing I only had so long certainly focused my mind. ‘These days, there are 76 products in the range. We still retail online, but now wholesale to clients including Liberty and Fenwick. ‘We have won several awards, and it was a thrill to be nominated for a Mother At Work award, which involved taking the kids to Downing Street to meet the then Prime Minister’s wife Sarah Brown. ‘Emily, Ollie and Callum are now 11 and 10, and constantly in and out of my office at home. If things get too hectic I put a keep out sign on the door, but I like the fact that they’re buzzing around me. Whatever happens, my working day ends at 7pm when we eat dinner as a family. ‘I love what I do but it’s hard work. Becoming a mum prepares you for a lot, and I believe that if you can get through having children, then you can get through anything.’

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