Where it all began...
How did I go from starting a business from my airing cupboard (as seen below) in 2020 to filming Dragons' Den in just 18 months? Here's the condensed version in my own words or if you'd prefer to watch some snippets from my journey scroll down to view my instagram reels.
What shaped me into a Founder who believed anything was possible
For some context I was born in London to a Dad that ran his own business in order to work in a job that involved his no.1 passion- Music. However this meant he worked 7 days a week and we lived a life where we were poorer than the families on the estate who were supported by council benefits. My parents were incredibly resourceful, my Dad never outsourced anything so he'd fix his own car and savaged second-hand goods which he fixed up. We lived in one bedroom so he even made a bunk bed in the built-in wardrobe for my sister and I to sleep. My Mum ensured we were always well presented and know one would know our clothes were from charity shops. We scrapped by and by the time I was a teenager I knew I'd need to work if I wanted the things my friends had. By the age of 14 I worked in the stock room of a stationary shop after school then cleaned and managed the reception at my Dad's music studios on the weekend.
The pandemic gave me the opportunities I needed...
Cast your mind back to 2020, we were in the midst of the pandemic, locked in our homes with the fear that came with uncertainty for our futures. Just months before we'd gone into lockdown I'd undergone life changing spinal surgery that has taken me from a life of living in excruciating pain, where even the simple tasks of sitting down for any length of time or walking my son to school had become unbearable. During my recovery I had felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what felt like a fresh start.
It made me question everything, including what I wanted my future to look like and what I'd always wanted to do.
Bringing my invention to life and seeing parents benefit from the stress-saving qualities I believed the Whizzer could bring, was a vision that constantly cropped up. After research I'd carried out over the years, I knew manufacturing a product takes huge sums of money and protecting your design alone is a costly process that is not guaranteed. I knew that to turn any product into a business you would need to build a customer base which can't be brought overnight- it would take marketing and advertising budgets that I simply didn't have.
However with the need identified, my product just a design on paper and the name Whizzer firmly stuck in my mind I knew if I didn't at least try to bring my idea to life I'd live to regret it if one day. I feared every time I walked into Boots that I would see a similar product on on the shelves.
So despite all the logical reasons why a Single Mum with no money, no experience and no team couldn't bring an invention to market, my crazy determined mind had other ideas. Thanks to the concoction of mental health conditions I suffer with, when I set my mind to something I become obsessed and have tunnel vision until I reach the end goal.
A can-do attitude gave me the right foundation
I'd found a way round all the hurdles I'd identified before starting. I'd used free resources from The British Library IP Centre to teach myself how to apply for all my IP protection. I'd built up a good credit score over the years which meant instead of being rejected for a loan I maxed out every 0% interest credit card I had. And I'd built up an incredible network of fellow parent run business who had successfully launched their brands. One of whom introduced me to a factory that supported me throughout the entire design and manufacturing process until we had a finished product that I was sending out to customers who'd trusted me with their hard-earned money and pre-ordered a Whizzer.
I'd sold everything I owned including my car. We'd gone without to the point where my elderly neighbour (aka Nannie Margaret pictured packing orders) would turn up with milk, bread and essentials for my son and I.
So each time someone suggested I put just £10 behind a facebook ad or a brand repping Mum asked for a freebie in return for them possibly sharing it on their profile I simply couldn't afford it.
Instead, I worked on every free way possible to raise my profile online. I did interviews, wrote blogs and relied on the power of organic sharing by happy customers who'd experienced the stress-reliving whizzer magic for themselves.
When set-backs turned to wins
I nearly gave up so many times but after the blood, sweat, tears and 7 days a week working through the night non-stop I just couldn't give-up now. I had a huge burnout that completely knocked me off my feet but because I had similar experience as a result of my Bipolar I managed to overcome it using the same methods. Every small win of a Trustpilot review or award nomination solidified me as a legitimate business that had a shot of success and pulled me out of the darkest of times.
The Dragons' Den calling
One year on-It had worked! I not only received an email from the retailer JoJo Maman Bebe to ask if they could stock the Whizzer in their 87 UK store but I also got a message from a BBC researcher asking if I would consider applying for Dragons Den. They followed up with a phone call and talked me through the process. My friend Helen had appeared on Dragons Den the previous year and I knew it was something I'd consider but didn't think I was anywhere close to being ready.
As luck (or strange circumstance) would have it I made it to the finals of Enterprise Nations Female Start-up of the year competition and after travelling to Bristol to pitch to a panel including Emma Jone MBE and in front of a room of successful women entrepreneurs including the Founder of GoHenry, the lovely Louise Hill. Following my first ever in-person attempt at securing a winning outcome I was dubbed 'The Next Trunki' by people in the room who kindly consoled me after my loss and said I should have won.
I was of course gutted because I'd been running the entire business from an old broken laptop so that prize alone would have been a game-changer not to mention the PR exposure and free money! It did however lead me on to being introduced to the Founder and Inventor of the Trunki, Rob Law.
Within weeks of the phone call from Dragons' Den, I was having a 1-2-1 zoom call with Rob who encouraged me to apply for the show. The rest, as they say, was history!
Part 2 of my Dragons Den journey is coming soon!