Allentrepreneur, which made its start just over two weeks ago, is proud to say the interview articles have gotten groovy feedback and requests are now pouring in ! One of the very first entrepreneurial idea that caught this blog’s attention was Thudguard, the toddler helmet. Today we get to have an interview with its inventor, Kelly Forsyth-Gibson. Read on.

Hi Kelly ! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a young 41 year old mother of 3 wonderful children who I love more than anything in the world. I was born and still live in the beautiful city of Aberdeen in Scotland. I was a secretary for many years before I accidentally became an inventor 10 years ago.

So what is your company about ?

Right now, my company is about getting an excellent end product to the customer in a fast but efficient manner whether that is direct to the customer’s home or a huge shipping order to a warehouse in the States. 

The patent application for my Thudguard invention was submitted in 1998 only a few short months after I came up with the idea.  In the past 10 years, my company has been through every developmental stage that it takes to make an idea become a reality.  It has been the biggest learning curve of my life.

How did the idea for Thudguard come about ?

Thudguard, baby safety hat invention, was born out of pure necessity to protect my one-year-old infant after she had a nasty fall, as I couldn’t find anything suitable on the market.  To see the distress of your baby with a head injury is enough to make you find a way for that not to happen again.  Ask any parent!

Quite true. Did you start your venture alone ?

Very much alone in the business sense but I did benefit from my family’s help and support.  10 years ago, local business support was very limited. Yes they could help the lady down the road set up a mobile hair salon or a young man with a removal van service but not a woman with an invention ! They didn’t know what to do with me. They sent me to their top person who gave me at least three good pointers and sheer determination not to fail took over from there.

After attending my local Enterprise Trust for the first time, I was advised to do 3 things;

1.     Get an accountant

2.     Get a legal representative

3.     Get expert endorsements for my invention

The first 2 were easy. I simply walked in to the biggest accountancy and legal firm in Aberdeen and said, “I don’t have any money but I have a really good idea.  Will you help me and when it works out I will pay you”.  Thankfully they took the chance and now have both been paid.

But the 3rd worried me somewhat.  I had made an appointment to see the head pediatric accident and emergency consultants at my local hospital to ask them what they thought of my baby safety hat.  If they had laughed at my hat I may have run out of their offices and never have looked back.  But they didn’t, in fact they said;

“Thudguard will be welcomed by many parents as a piece of equipment that may provide protection for children from a head injury. This can only be a good thing as even one accidental head injury is one too many. Avoiding head injury means reducing potential visits to the A&E department, which in turn may potentially save the NHS/ER resources.

Wow. Now that’s what I call inspiring feedback. How did you look for financing after that ?

The accountancy firm that I got on board developed a business plan with me and it was 3rd time lucky with the banks.  It really was touch and go but having the top legal and accountancy firms behind me, the bank couldn’t refuse, and things went from strength to strength after that.

Do you only sell the Thudguard online ? If so, have you ever thought of selling in specialized baby stores ?

Thudguard sells online in many different countries now and we are in the middle of developing the new retail packaging for worldwide retail outlets.

How successful has your business been since day one ?

Day one came nearly 8 years after getting Thudguard through all the red government tape as it took that long to get such an unusual invention to pass all the product standard certification and impact testing. We launched in 2005 and from selling a few a day over the internet to now, setting up a US website; see www.babysfirstheadgear.com a Turkish website; www.thudguard.com.tr as well as looking for distributors in Australia; see www.thudguard.com.au. We have also recently secured a Thudguard website an distributors in Singapore, South Korea and more recently, Egypt. So it’s safe to say that we are definitely growing.

How complicated is the Thudguard fabrication process ? How do you handle it ?

Finding a manufacturer for my invention was a night-mare and took a long time and I went down many wrong roads. Then it occurred to me that I should find a head gear manufacturer that had dealings with a similar fabrication process to what I was looking for and then it became obvious – rugby helmets were made of soft yet protective foam so they would know how to make my baby helmet….. and they did !

What consequences to your personal life has the move towards entrepreneurship brought about ?

The obvious ones like stress and obsession compromising the quality time between me and my children but I try to remember that, “No one on their death bed ever said, I wish I had spent more time at the office”!  And that usually gives me the perspective I need to keep my priorities in check.

That quote rings very true. What are the 3 toughest challenges your company has faced so far ?

1. Getting a British Standards Expert to write a new technical specification to test and pass Thudguard to.

2. Finding a company willing to take a license to distribute and market Thudguard for 2 years to give me time to learn how to do it by myself.

3. Taking over and running the company by myself ! 

Can we expect new innovations from you in the future ? Teen Thudguard maybe ?

Funny you should ask!  I am working on something just now that is going to be an amazing improvement to head gear for cyclist but can’t say too much about that! With regard to Teen Thudguard – Ha ha…..(You must have the same problem with teenage drinking in Canada?)… but I guess I had that coming as I am often branded as an “over protective parent”, and that’s just from my own children. My oldest son is 23 years old and still laughs when remembering that I wouldn’t let him cross the road by himself when young but guess what?  He now works on oil rigs all around the world and faces all kinds of dangers every day! My 21 year old son just passed his driving test and is about to graduate and take a year off to go around the world – without me! So I guess being a bit of a mummy bear while they were growing up hasn’t done them too much harm.

Hahaha. I’ll remember that. Last but not least, what advice would you give to a young person with entrepreneurial ambitions ?

Get a dictionary and find the word TENACIOUS.  Stick a picture of yourself next to it and never forget that this is what you are!

You got it Kelly.

Learn more about Thudguard and your baby’s safety on the official website.

 

 

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