12 February 2015

Mumpreneur: Helen & Polly - Cuddledry

Today I have a lovely Mumpreneur feature for you from Polly, one of the mums behind the Cuddeldry Apron Towel. Polly has been kind enough to spare some of her busy time and tell us all about her journey. Check out the Cuddledry Apron Towel at www.cuddledry.com.

1. So first things first, tell me a little bit about yourself and your family?
Hi – I’m a mum to three gorgeous (Most of the time J) girls – Maddy aged 9, Sarah aged 7 and Reya aged 5. They do loads of different activies after school so after a full day working for Cuddledry, life steps up another couple of gears at 3 or 4pm as we dash around the region to meet various deadlines to get different girls to different activities with the right kit! All working mums will understand this! Married to my lovely husband Marshy (or Nigel to grown ups) who runs a sports hospitality company and we live in Quantock Hills, Somerset, with various chickens, dog, cat, fish – happy very busy family.  

2. What's the story behind Cuddledry?
Helen and her family, along with several other friends’ families, were staying at my house to celebrate my daughters’ first birthday (Maddy), 8 years ago. The children all had a bath together after tea, which the dad’s were in charge of, while the mums chatted and watched, amused as all the husbands struggled in exactly the same way as we always did – trying to hold up a towel in their teeth or under their chin, whilst simultaneously trying to pick up a slippery wet baby. Most towels (and most dads) ended up soaked, as the babies cried to be cuddled warm and dry.  All the mums said the same thing happened to everyone they knew too - Helen and I agreed if only there was some way the towels could tie around the adults neck, then all these issues would go away. We spent two weeks searching for something on line (we never dreamt for a  moment that there was nothing out there already) to find such an “apron style” towel, to no avail. After the shock of discovering there was nothing out there to suit our needs (and everyone else’s needs as by then we had asked everyone we knew and everybody said it was the same struggle for them at bathtime), we decided to make one. So there followed a couple of hilarious trials with us cutting up sheets to find the best design, and using a teddy as a demo baby…. until eventually we settled on the simplest design – which is still the same one we have today. Easy pull release on the shoulder so parents can safely hold baby at the same time as undoing the poppers (no fiddling behind the neck or waist, juggling baby with one hand), no other unnecessary straps or attachments to complicate things or make life difficult. We made it big. Massive in fact. It’s the size of an adults bath towel - so it lasts and lasts, rather than regular baby towels (which only last a couple of months). We also made it double layered for two reasons – 1- to ensure parents stay dry, and 2 – to trap air/insulation so it’s super warm for babies to snuggle into. It’s simple – pick up baby and cuddle them dry in your arms. Everyone is happy. And finally – it’s made using bamboo blended with cotton – for several reasons. 1 – it’s super soft and does not go rough like cotton towels can – great for babies skin – and it’s warmer too. 2 – Bamboo is 60% more absorbant than cotton so perfect for drying hair and skin – no need to rub, just cuddle. 3 – Bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial so great for newborns. 4 Bamboo is the most sustainable crop on the planet so it’s eco-friendly too. There is nothing but great things to say about this towel – it’s simply a must-have item for all new parents. And all new parents agree as voted by mumsnet for the last 7 years on the trot!

3. Where there any struggles along the way?
Yes – many. Neither of us had ever run a retail brand before so we learnt as we went along. There is a lot to learn and we asked for as much advise as possible to help us. We had to learn fast – about Intellectual Property, Import/Export, VAT, social/ethical compliance, manufacturing and supply chains, logistics and distribution etc..etc... Luckily we did know a thing or two about marketing, but another problem was we didn’t have big budgets to promote ourselves and we wanted to build the brand without taking on any risk or debt. So do you give away some of your equity to achieve the money needed for big media campaign? We took a decision not to and to do the best we could with what we had, as well as using the power of word of mouth. Social media is growing – the modern day word of mouth. Word of mouth and users who constantly buy Cuddledry towels as gifts for all their friends is superb. We have such a strong fan base and it’s great to hear so much feedback from parents writing in to tell us how Cuddledry has made their life so much simpler at bathtime. We used our common sense and our judgement as parents as well as business women. We aren’t ruthless business women, and we want to retain that work/life balance always – babies grow up too quick and we don’t want to miss out. We truly want to make all parents to benefit from the happy memories and simple bathtimes Cuddledry can offer.

4. Looking back is there anything you wish you could have done differently?
We wish we had loads of money for advertising and promotions – there are still a lot of parents out there who have not heard of Cuddledry towels, and it’s sad because they are really missing out.

5. What keeps you motivated as businesswomen?
Hearing such lovely feedback from parents or midwives/nannies and nursery care workers - knowing how much Cuddledry towels have changed the lives of many new parents. It’s truly a great product and we want every parent to experience safe, simple happy bathtimes with baby. In addition, we have created more unique, practical, innovative products for bath, swim and beach. Our new hair towels are taking the swimming world by storm! Every single child in my local swim club now wears a Cuddletwist after swimming (and I’ve said nothing about what I do for a living I promise!). Parents just love the fact there are no more wet clothes, and their children have nice warm heads wrapped up all the way home. 15 children leaving a swimming pool with cuddletwists on - that’s always motivating to see!

6. A lot of mums would love to work for themselves, what advice can you give them?
Make sure you test your idea. Whatever it is – make sure it’s not just you that thinks it’s marvellous. Take criticism seriously – and gratefully - you can change a negative into a positive if you listen. Ask for as much help and advise as you can – again, it’s about listening to people who are in the business and have experience and often know answers that may take you years of mistakes to learn. Having said that – if you receive conflicting advice, go with your gut feel. So called “experts” are not always what they are bigged up to be. But the more you ask, and the more you listen, the better decisions you will be able to make for yourself. Also having a business partner is crucial to both Helen and I because there will be times when you want to cry with disappointment, when you want to scream with frustration, and when you want to leap about with joy – and it helps to have someone to share all of that with!

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