Here the two mums behind the hugely successful Cuddledry apron towel, share their experience and answer some vital questions to help mums thinking about making that all important decision to start up their own business.
Polly Marsh and Helen Wooldridge who started Cuddledry in 2007 first came in to the spot light after appearing on the popular tv show Dragons Den where they declined all three offers from the dragons and decided to go it alone. Since then they have gone on to grow the company themseleves and the Cuddledry brand has well established links with international, UK and independent retailers and one in twenty UK babies now has a Cuddledry towel. They have also picked up an array of business awards along the way.
When did you first realize you had a good idea for a business?
We had an overwhelming response when we did initial market research amongst parents, but the real crunch came when Mothercare came to see us at our first ever trade show and placed an order there and then!
Did you leave your current employment straight away or did you work both for a while?
We both worked for over a year in our other jobs whilst building up Cuddledry. A lot of time was spent working in the wee small hours but well worth it to get things moving, and without the risk of leaving our jobs.
How did you eventually make the decision to leave your current employment?
When we felt it was financially viable for us to do so.
How did you raise the money to start the business?
We both invested about £3000 each, and we paid for some things along the way via the salaries from our other jobs, but we have always ensured Cuddledry pays for itself, so from the word go we reinvested every penny to build it up organically.
Once you had a working prototype of your product what was the next step?
We took seven samples to a trade show (the samples only arrived two days before the show!!!) and promoted them like mad. Once we had some orders we THEN bought some stock. We took the stock to a public show and sold sold sold like maniacs to get the product out there and get some cash coming back in!
How did you manage to make meetings with buyers / get your product in front of buyers?
With professional business approaches – polite but determined calls and emails, and a well presented brand from day 1 (great logo, photography, and design), be sure to make a good first impression. We made sure the media featured the Cuddledry apron towel from the very start, which really added strength to our pitch. Professionalism and confidence – and a little bit of pleading of course!
How did you market your product?
People buy for their babies what others say they should, so we made sure enough parents knew how a Cuddledry makes life easier with a new baby, and they spread the word for us. We did this via the media and online reviews, as well as via health professionals and midwives.
What were the most difficult things you faced in the process of starting up your business?
Learning about manufacturing – definitely! It is such a steep learning curve and so easy to make costly mistakes. Talking endlessly to others who have done it before you – and truly listening to their advice – is the key to avoiding pitfalls.
What has been the most rewarding part of running your own business?
Receiving unprompted, lovely emails from mums and dads who have found our products make life with their little ones so much easier and more fun! Its amazing to think that there are tens of thousands of parents out there enjoying our invention, all around the world – it’s a fantastic feeling!
How do you manage running your business and being a mum?
It is a constant juggling act – never an easy one, but hugely rewarding. We use some childcare to help, but we can flex our hours around the needs of our kids, so we are always there at the school gate, and never miss special events. We can work in the evenings and spend time with them in the day – and truly feel that we are great mummies as we get so much reward from our business life too.
What would be your TOP TIPS for other mums who are considering starting their own business?
1 – Do your market research before you invest any cash – don’t just ask your friends, but ask as many people you don’t know as possible. Honest feedback can save costly mistakes at the start, and tell you whether your idea is truly viable. The school gates at 3.30 is a great place to get feedback from other mums!
2 – Listen carefully – talk to others doing what you want to do and learn from them
3 – Listen again – talk to your local Business Link and other business organizations to get advice on the nuts and bolts of running a business, especially the bits you have no experience of.
4 – A brilliant idea is nothing if you don’t promote it – marketing is so fundamental to ANY business, and so often forgotten. Don’t let your idea fail because nobody knows about it. There are lots of forums out there where you can go and discuss marketing ideas with other business mums.
5 – Do think carefully about balancing kids and work – imagine how you will handle it if things really take off. Its worth taking into consideration from the very start.
For more information about Cuddledry visit www.cuddledry.com