ophia Procter was communications supervisor at British Airways for practically a decade, working the airline’s client PR together with work on the London 2012 Olympic Video games. Shortly after the now-43-year-old returned from maternity go away in 2017, a company reshuffle noticed Procter face redundancy. Having simply invented a youngsters’ plate with a play observe across the edge to lure her fussy son to eat extra, she determined to make use of her redundancy bundle from BA to start out a enterprise of her personal.
“I got here up with the thought for Munchy Play after an extended day at work. I had simply picked my son up from nursery, and had ‘mum guilt’ for not spending time with him, so tried to make it up by cooking a nourishing meal. Besides, like many 18-month-olds, he had misplaced all curiosity in mealtimes. This specific day I’d made him a curry from scratch, however he refused to come back to the desk. I realised he was having an excessive amount of enjoyable along with his toys and the dinner desk was boring. So, I grabbed the trains and observe he was taking part in with, and put it round his plate. In that second every little thing modified. He not solely got here to the desk, however sat there and ate. That was my lightbulb second.
“After I took redundancy in 2017, I went straight into growing Munchy Play, while freelancing to assist fund it. After I checked out what was concerned in launching a brand new product — from mental property rights, to purchasing metal equipment — I realised it was a sizeable sum. I invested all of my redundancy and a few of my private financial savings to get it off the bottom — about £50,000.
“Having an incredible thought is one factor, and bringing it to life is kind of one other. The very first thing I did was due diligence — heaps and many analysis checking the thought didn’t exist, earlier than defending it with design rights and mental property. Subsequent, I approached commerce our bodies to discover a British producer: even when it price extra, I believed that folks belief British merchandise, I wouldn’t have the concern of provide chain issues, and I used to be eager to spend money on our economic system.
“As soon as I discovered the precise producer, they informed me I’d want CAD designs from which the metal equipment can be made, so I created a prototype and took it to the streets of London, thrusting it into dad and mom’ fingers for suggestions! Naively, I believed I’d have it carried out in lower than a 12 months. However as I used to be making a blueprint from scratch, there was a number of backwards and forwards, testing and failure. It took three years to make it occur. Alongside the best way although, l was spurred on by some nice folks. I obtained mentorship from Innovate UK and the ‘Inventor in Residence’ on the British Library.
“I used to be lastly able to launch — with a number of thousand plates able to ship — in March 2020. Properly, everyone knows what occurred subsequent. I had no alternative however to press pause on the launch. I continued freelancing, serving to small companies with disaster PR. Then, round Might, I realised that there was a chance right here. Dad and mom like me had been caught at house, exhausted from house education and childcare, on the lookout for any sort of mild aid – particularly if it may very well be delivered to their door. So I made a decision to overtake the marketing strategy to give attention to promoting on-line, and launched Munchy Play in June 2020.
“Launching in the course of a worldwide pandemic was undoubtedly not straightforward – however I took full benefit of all of the assist on the market. Amazon and Enterprise Nation had launched programmes to assist start-ups, which I joined. This obtained me on BBC Breakfast information! Joe Wicks’ workplace was close to mine, so I dropped off some plates for his youngsters, and some weeks later he used them on his Instagram account.
“Once we gained ‘Small Enterprise Sunday’ an initiative hosted by [entrepreneur] Theo Paphitis to assist small companies, our social media went into overdrive and it gave us credibility too. Six months after launching, I approached Mattel as a licence accomplice, and we’ve been working collectively ever since. Launching the Thomas & Buddies™ assortment final 12 months was a significant second.
“We’ve now bought 10,000 plates. The subsequent milestone is stepping into Excessive Avenue retail. Clients maintain asking us once we will likely be in John Lewis, Smyths Toys, Argos, Hamleys, Ocado and even on QVC. I might actually like to see that occur. We’re launching a brand new automotive plate vary and increasing into international markets — particularly USA — is one thing I’d like to take a look at as our firm grows, probably with the assist of buyers sooner or later.
“Taking redundancy was a tricky alternative, nevertheless it was the precise one. It enabled me to launch an award-winning product and gave me the liberty to work flexibly, one thing I’m grateful for as a mom.”