My Big Idea: How getting to grips with my babies gave birth to new business
Ollwyn Murphy, a mother of two from Templeogue in Dublin, was inspired to start her business by watching her children learn to crawl. After going back to college as a mature student she founded Creeper Crawlers, a baby suit with grips which is now sold in Mothercare.
'WITH a background in neurological development and having worked with kids with special needs, I know how important crawling is to development. I have two boys who are six and eight now and first had my idea while they were learning to crawl.
We all have tiled and wooden floors now, which is far better for the respiratory system than carpets, but much slippier for babies. When my first child was learning to crawl I used to take him up to the landing, the only part of the house with carpet, but when I had two I lost the freedom to sit on the landing floor for hours. I'd buy remnants of carpet, anything with traction, to help them learn. It was then that the idea occurred to me of babies' clothing with in-built grips.
In 2011, after a divorce, I went back to college as a mature student to study for a masters in education at NUI Maynooth. My confidence was a bit knocked but I decided to enter the college's entrepreneurship competition with my idea – and I won. I was awarded €6,000, which went straight back into Creeper Crawlers.
My kids were really involved in the process of building up the business. I wanted them to be part of it, not to resent it. They've helped pick packaging, colours, everything. I found a manufacturer in China, which I was able to organise through contacts at home. No Irish manufacturer would take on what I was asking.
Mothercare placed my first order in December 2012 and the product was on shelves by February. Mothercare has exclusivity for the first six months but after that I'll look to sign up more retailers and hopefully start expanding overseas, into the UK and other English-speaking countries. I should be profitable in three years but that could be less depending on how fast I expand. The baby suits cost €14.99 each and come in cream, pink and blue, in two sizes. I have sold about 3,000 so far, through Mothercare and my website. About 70,000 babies are born in Ireland every year so there is a big market available.
Funding has been my biggest challenge. Most has come from family and I have also just secured €10,000 from philanthropic organisation The Ireland Funds and their business plan competition. I was turned away by Enterprise Ireland because I don't manufacture in Ireland, but my business has lots of growth and jobs potential so I will apply again.
I think government funding needs to look beyond the food and technology sectors. Just because I'm not building a Dyson doesn't mean my business can't be successful. The judges at the Ireland Fund – and there were 12 of them – said the beauty of my idea is its simplicity. Entrepreneurship is about finding a gap and filling it with a simple solution."