Sleep Deprivation Helped Me Create My First Business
Honesty is usually the best policy so I’ll have to admit that I never set out run my own business – until I became a mum I had no desire whatsoever to do so. And while I’m being honest I might as well confess that my business came about quite by accident.
I came up with the idea for my product, BlindSides, because after buying blackout roller blinds for my children’s bedrooms I was really disappointed that they still let in light down either side, particularly as they were made to specifically fit our windows.
I searched unsuccessfully for something to cover this gap at either side of the blind and so using things I could find around the house I came up with my own Heath Robinson solution. I like to be able to open the blinds in the morning and after nap times to let daylight in so sticking the blinds to the window frame was not an option. It had to be something that was quickly and easily removable and/or allowed the blind to still be opened and closed.
BlindSides come in pairs, one for each side of the window. They hook over the top of the roller blind or curtain and bridge the gap between the edge of the blackout blinds or curtain and the wall or window frame, blocking out the sliver of light that gets through. The length of the BlindSides is easily adjustable so they can fit your windows exactly. A flexible top strip can be molded to make the BlindSides flush to the wall and they have a weight at the bottom to ensure they stay in place.
BlindSides can be used with curtains or roller blinds and are portable so can be taken with the user to other locations, for example on holiday. I hope that our simple product will help add much needed extra sleep to both your and your children’s lives.
Back to Business…
During my search I also learned that it was “normal” for so called blackout blinds to leave gaps at the sides which still allowed light into the room. This is because the mechanism of the blind doesn’t actually allow the fabric to stretch all the way to the edge.
It was actually my husband (I was too sleep deprived having just had our second child) who saw my home made solution and thought they could actually be a product of real use to other people – parents who want to ensure their childrens’ rooms are as dark as possible, shiftworkers, or in fact anyone who likes to sleep in a properly dark room…. and so BlindSides were conceived.
For the first six months progress on creating BlindSides the business was slow – it’s difficult to get much done with a new baby and toddler in tow. But slowly I took baby steps (excuse the pun). My husband came up with the name early on while we chatted as I fed our baby. And nap times, when I didn’t also need to sleep myself, were spent researching the potential market.
Once I was convinced that there wasn’t another similar product available, I engaged an intellectual property lawyer to investigate whether anyone had applied for a patent for a similar product that would prevent us from doing so. If there had been I think I would have stopped here, fortunately there wasn’t so I ploughed on looking for a product design agency that could turn my make do and mend version into a proper product. With that done, I needed to find a factory and although I would dearly love to manufacture in the UK, at the moment we are working with a Chinese company. I do still hope in the future that we might be able to manufacture locally.
Getting to the stage where we were ready for production took quite some time, but again I was juggling my business with a young family. I am now much more realistic about how long things take!
I took delivery of our first order from the factory in July this year and started selling immediately via my website. At the same time we were also fortunate enough to win UK nursery retailer Jojo Maman Bebe’s Invent with Tom competition. This is a scheme run in conjunction with Tom Pellereau win of the 2011 BBC Apprentice programme to provide inventors of nursery products the chance to reach a broader market and the opportunity to be stocked in its boutiques.
This summer has been spent selling directly online as well as appointing a distributor for the UK retail market called Ardega Nursery Distribution. I have limited time and little experience of dealing with retail buyers so decided this was the best route to grow the business. This relationship is already bearing fruit with BlindSides now being stocked by Amazon UK.
Right now, our UK patent is still pending and we have also filed a UK trademark application.
Looking to the future, we are already exploring opportunities to sell internationally via distributors. And while I hope we will expand our range, it I’m truthful it may have to wait for another Eureka moment…