With Father's Day on the horizon, we thought it was time to catch up with a couple of Dads who've also set up successful businesses inspired by their children.
Marc Ward is the inventor of the innovative JAMM door stop, the world's most effective door stop (£4.95 from www.hippychick.com) and Paul Clubb is Joint MD of My Buggy Buddy – a multi award winning range of essential pram accessories (from £5.99 at Hippychick)
How many children do you both have and what's the best thing about being a dad?
Marc: I've got two sons and seeing their personalities develop is incredible. They never cease to amaze me. When we were developing JAMM and trying to secure financing for it, life was pretty stressful. One day Oscar who was then only 3 took a JAMM prototype shopping with us and said 'I'm going to show EVERYONE this.' It was his way of showing us how proud he was. It's a moment that touches me to this day.
got three fantastic kids – Ellie 8, Isla 6 and Joshua, who's nearly 2. Life is incredibly busy but I wouldn't have it any other way! Mucking around and just having fun with my kids is the best thing about being a Dad. It's a clichÃ© but it makes me feel like a child again.
Is your nursery business your only business or do you have another job?
Marc: Back in the 80's my Dad set up a surf brand 'Fat Willy's Surf Shack' in Cornwall and my wife and I still run that business today. It's definitely helped us out in understanding some of the basic principles of retail.
Paul: I've been a police officer for nearly 20 years now. My current role as an Explosive Detection Search Dog Handler couldn't be more different from my role as MD of My Buggy Buddy, but that's why I love both.
What inspired your invention?
Marc: As any
Dad knows, seeing your child in pain is awful and you'd do anything to avoid it. When my eldest son was two he trapped his fingers in the door. I'll never forget the howls or how severely swollen his little fingers became. I disappeared into the garage determined to create a door stop that would protect my sons and other children more adequately. My wife likes to joke that I didn't emerge for another 18 months!
Paul: My Buggy Buddy's first product, which is now our best seller, was the My Buggy Buddy Clip, £5.99. I created it for my wife after she had her handbag stolen from on top of the hood of our buggy. My wife was often asked where she had got it from and it went from there.
Our second product was inspired by our experience as policemen (my My Buggy Buddy business partner is also on the force). We noticed a huge increase in the reporting of buggy thefts and set about solving the problem with a simple combination lock designed specifically for prams.
What has been your biggest challenge in getting your product to market?
Marc: Designing a totally unique product makes perfecting the manufacturing process challenging. The blend of materials in JAMM makes it difficult to mould but is essential to its performance. It's taken about 18 months, 14 prototypes and quite a few grey hairs but if it stops even one more child experience an accident like Oscar's it's been 100% worthwhile.
Paul: As two Dads with no business or retail experience every day is a challenge but if you've got a strong product, listen to your market and surround yourself with good people anything is possible!
What sacrifices have you made along the way?
Marc: We have
given up more weekends than I can count visiting trade and consumer shows all over Britain and Europe. It's been tough with a young family and a shop to run. My wife has put her career as a professional Cellist on hold to support me in making JAMM a success. In the last year JAMM is starting to stand on its own as a business and that's a brilliant feeling. Coralie playing her first professional event again was a real turning point. It showed that we were starting to breathe again.
Paul: Lots! The main sacrifice has been time. Whilst most of my colleagues have time off during the week because of our shift patterns, my time is spent answering emails or getting ready for the next trade show. But I wouldn't have it any other way and am lucky to have a very supportive wife.
What advice would you give to other Dads wanting to set up a business?
Marc: I'd tell them to estimate how long they think it will take to develop their product and how much they think it will cost and to double it! Starting up your own business isn't a picnic but seeing the product you've developed on the shop shelves or in someone's home is a buzz that's hard to beat.
Paul: I'd say go for it - if you've done your research and know you've spotted a genuine gap in the market. You'll be in for some of the biggest challenges of your life but also some of the most rewarding moments. When we've won prizes for our products or business it's been an amazing feeling. Making your family proud of you makes it all worthwhile.
by Kathryn Crawford
To check out Paul and Marc's products and many other innovative products invented by parents and designed to make family life easier go to www.hippychick.com
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