Keira O’Mara, star of our Mum Inventor Series, talks about her work, what’s her new Top Secret project & top advice for fellow mumpreneurs.
Hi Keira, lovely to have you blogging for Kiddicare! Tell us a little bit about you and your family
Thanks Vicky! Hi everyone, I’m 35, I live in Birmingham with my husband Dan who is a Psychiatric Nurse and my two children, Sam, who is nearly 6 and Lily who is nearly 3, who are the inspiration behind my products. I set up my business Mama Designs, 4 years ago.
At Kiddicare we sell 2 of your products: Mamascarf & Babasac. Give us the 2 minute elevator pitch, please!
Mamascarf is a discreet breastfeeding scarf that gives privacy for breastfeeding in public but also helps to support the baby and means any clothes can be worn to breastfeed in. Babasac (below) is a multi tog baby sleeping bag with removable inner layers which mean it can be used all year round.
What was the inspiration behind both products?
I came up with the idea for Mamascarf as I was quite self conscious breastfeeding in public. I was always trying to cover up but found nothing to be completely effective. Blankets would overheat my baby, scarves and muslins would block my view of him and would have to be moved for me to latch him back on. I wanted a product that would allow me to see my baby throughout the feed, enable any clothes to be worn for breastfeeding, couldn’t be pulled off or fall off and if it could make it more comfortable and provide some support for my aching arm and back then that would be a bonus! When I looked around and couldn’t find anything, I thought about creating it and Mamascarf was born!
With Babasac we were going on holiday abroad and I realised that I needed to buy my baby Lily, a lightweight 1.0 tog sleeping bag to take with us. As if I didn’t have enough to buy already! It got me thinking that it would be useful to have a sleeping bag that you could use all year round, with removable layers, just like my multi tog duvet. Babasac is a multi tog or season baby sleeping bag with removable inner layers that easily zip out making it both 2.5 tog and 1.0 tog in one bag. It’s perfect for our changeable British weather and also for taking on holiday. It not only saves having to buy different tog bags but saves you space as you don’t have to store multiple bags.
There are more products in the pipeline which are also as a result of problems I experienced as a mum.
What advice do you have for fellow mum inventors?
Where do I start! Firstly if you have had an idea for a product or service and you are thinking of whether to take it further I would recommend doing some market research to test the market. This involves more than simply asking your friends and family who are always going to support you as they love you and want you to succeed. You could ask opinions at baby groups by running your own focus group or you can set up a survey, free online (sites like Survey Monkey) and you can post the link on Facebook and/or websites like Mumsnet and Netmums. Often if it is anonymous you will get more realistic feedback as people are not so worried about offending. If you set up a focus group, it is important to ask people to be really honest. If the feedback you receive is positive, you might want to think about getting a prototype made.
Juggling work and childcare can be challenging – how do you make it work?
I have a wonderful childminder where Lily goes for part of the week and Sam goes to school. I share school runs with a friend who lives nearby and I have a wonderful supportive husband. I recently increased Lily’s days from 3 to 4 which I felt incredibly guilty about but the business has become so much busier and it means that when we have our day together on Friday I get to focus totally on her. The great thing about working for myself is the flexibility it gives me. If I need to work in the evening I can, so if school closes because of snow, it’s no problem. I think the important thing for me has been making sure I have enough childcare. It’s not really fair on the little ones if I am constantly working around them, so I try to get everything done while they aren’t here or while they are in bed, so that I’m not distracted when I am with them. That said, there are times when things overflow and something comes up that requires an urgent response. That’s the difficulty of running your own business, you rarely totally switch off.
Which is your favourite nursery fair?
I love Harrogate. It’s the biggest trade show in the UK for all things baby. I love the show, it’s a great opportunity demonstrate my products, to meet up with customers, my friends with other baby brands and to check out all the new products which are coming out soon. It can feel lonely and isolated at times working on your own so this is a great opportunity to network and to spend time with friends who are in the industry. Here I am with Greg the buyer from Kiddicare, showing him my Snoodie dribble bibs!
This is a picture of Mamascarf, Babasac and Snoodie on the Prince Lionheart stand, who are one of my distributors.
Are you able to tell us about your next invention? Or is it secret squirrel?
Well I’m working on a new product but it’s still top secret. But I can tell you that the market research has been really positive. I showed it to a few buyers and had some great feedback so the next step is to design the packaging and run some focus groups with mums to get feedback. I love this stage, it’s really exciting! I’ll tell you what it is as soon as I can. I’ve got lots to catch up on now following the show. You can follow me on Facebook or Twitter…