About 65,000 babies are born in Ireland every year and over 130m globally, with parents here spending up to €5,000 on baby products in that first year. That’s a big market.
For BubbleBum founder Grainne Kelly, the idea for her business arose when she found car rental companies didn’t provide booster seats for a trip in the UK. “When I suggested an inflatable seat they laughed at me,” she says.
Ms Kelly contacted crash test laboratories in the UK. She was told that an inflatable seat would not pass a safety test. Undeterred, she flew to China in 2009, got a prototype made and within nine months had brought the product from concept to launch.
Suzanne Browne and Martina Craine of ClevaMama came up with the design for their first product, an apron-style bath towel when their children were babies. “Every parent has the same issue when you take the baby out of the bath you think how am I going to hold the baby and the towel at the same time?” Ms Browne says.
Ollwyn Moran of Cognikids first had the idea of a “crawl suit” when she was training in neurological development.
The ClevaMama sisters had set up an online business and wanting to move into exports they realised they needed their own brand.
Their first designs were sketches “on a scrap of paper”.
Many mothers create solutions for their children, and they don’t even realise it, Ms Kelly says. “It may be a process like the way they get their bottles ready for their baby’s feed, or it may be a way of attaching their bag onto their stroller. They may not realise it’s an opportunity.”
Ms Kelly’s goal was to make BubbleBum into a global brand. To crack the American market, she convinced her husband to leave his job and move to the US with their two sons. That was in early 2010. In just over a year, the product was ready. The BubbleBum seat was given a “Best Bet” rating by a national highway safety organisation and later won a major innovation award. That led to a deal with chain giant Walmart.
Ms Moran’s idea resurfaced when her first son, who had been born prematurely, was trying to crawl but “was struggling on our wooden floors at home, slipping and sliding all over the place.”
A few years later Ms Moran had the opportunity to turn her idea into a business when she won a student entrepreneur competition with her crawl suit idea.
Ms Kelly at BubbleBum says in the US being an Irish brand is “a great selling point”. Constantly innovating is key to success. Ms Moran says she is “obsessed” with researching early child development.
Cognikids’ products are based on different stages of development.
The appeal of ClevaMama’s products is the simplicity, Ms Browne says. Exporting to over 40 countries, the apron towel is still one of the brand’s best-selling products.
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