For busy mums on the move
Claire Mitchell, 39, from Yorkshire was juggling her work life, social life and young family when the idea for her invention struck her.
by Colleen Reid, Mindful Mum, 4th January 2012
Claire, her husband Rob, 40 and their baby daughter Mimi were heading to a family party when the inspiration for the Chillipeeps teat first came to them. Already running late, the family jumped into the car and set off. Just a few minutes into the drive, Claire had a feeling she’d forgotten the sterilised bottle she’d packed for her daughter. Before turning back to collect the bottle, Rob clambered over the seats to double check they hadn’t left it behind. Whilst her husband was hunting, Claire was asking herself a question that would set the foundation of her business, ‘Why hasn’t anyone invented anything that can directly attach to the carton?’.
After the party, the idea was still buzzing around Claire’s mind. She knew she had to act quickly with her inventive idea. She remembers, “When we got home that night we wrote reams and reams about how we were going to save the world with our fantastic innovation.” Without a minute to spare and in an act of hope, Claire and Rob contacted Peter Jones from Dragons Den asking him to phone them as they had come up with the next big thing.
The Chillipeeps journey
They didn’t receive a phone call from the TV dragon but they did receive an automated email response with advice and guidelines on how to patent their idea. Their half hour meeting with a patent attorney turned into a two hour business meeting after the attorney, who had three kids himself, fell in love with the idea. From there, the journey quickly picked up speed and before the couple knew it, they had beautiful concepts from a product designer that left them speechless.
The Chillipeeps teat attaches directly to any carton or many bottles so you can feed your little one when out and about on the go. The teat comes with a little carry pod to ensure it remains clean and sterile for your baby to use.
Their product journey hit an indefinite snag when they took the concept to manufacturers and found it would cost a quarter of a million pounds to take the product to the market and would end up too expensive to sell in the end. With a new product, they had little evidence that it would be a hit so investors weren’t able to commit to the idea.
With sheer determination, the couple continued on. Winning a competition gave them professional feedback and a simple solution that would prove the product a hit to investors. Claire says, “Yes we’d proven it had a great chance of selling and that actually, the way forward was to simplify the design. Simplifying it meant the initial investment to get it to market would be less, a lot less.”
Just four months after target, the Chillipeeps teat was redesigned, produced and hit the market. Although meeting inspiring people who have helped along the way, such as Bill Liao, Laura Tennison and James Caan, Claire’s journey isn’t nearly over. Her ultimate goal is inspiring in itself, “My ultimate aim is for my journey to take the innovation to babies that need it, into humanitarian aid, where we know it can make a difference.”
The art of juggling
Alongside taking the time to develop the Chillipeeps teat, Claire has been a full time care home manager, wife and mum. As a juggling mum, Claire finds her husband to be her biggest support, she says, “Like anyone who works, it is extremely difficult, Rob is a fantastic dad and when I’m away on business, he and Mimi have a ball, they are the best of friends which is brilliant. Chillipeeps is our life and part of our family! Mimi had been able to say Chillipeeps since she was two and wants to work for Chillipeeps when she’s older, now that would be incredible!”
The product has won an array of award including Overall Winner of the Baby Products Association Concept and Innovation National Awards 2009, Product of the Year 2011 from Barnoch.baby, and scooped ‘Highly Commended’ in the BANTA industry awards in 2011. Since starting her own business, Claire’s life has changed in many ways. She explains, “I have always been busy, but now I’m extremely busy! I’m up to my eyeballs in debt from developing the product and bringing it to market, but the great thing about that is I own 100% of the business and that means I can make the decisions and I can do what I believe is right.
“I have a real purpose in life where I want to make a difference, I fully believe that I have been given this opportunity to do that and I intend to fulfil my dreams of helping others.”
For those mums out there thinking of launching a new business, Claire suggests full research to make sure you don’t waste any money. She says, “Go for it, life is too short not to have a go. What I would say is that whatever you think it’s going to cost you and however long you think it’ll take you to get to market, multiply them by 10 and you’ll be about right. Be prepared to fight for your product, you’re going to have to. Make sure you have a fabulous sales person with passion and belief behind it and sell at every opportunity; you never know who you are talking to.”
For more information, visit the Chillipeeps website.