Husband: Darren Jenner, Director of his own bespoke furniture company
Children: George 14, Hollie 13, Olivia 5
Previous Career: Restaurant owner – it was a very popular bistro called BH13 in Bournemouth. We used to do 80 covers a day and I loved it. I guess I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak!
What is the name and nature of your business?
I’m the creator of the multi award winning My Carry Potty travel potty, which has grown into a thriving international business. Our potty is now stocked in over 300 retail outlets in the UK including, 1000 stores in the US and is exported to 28 countries worldwide!
I’ve also written a book: ‘George and Hollie and the Magic Carry Potties’, which has been designed as a fun bedtime story adventure to take the fear out of potty training for little children. It also contains lots of hints and tips for parents and a free reward chart and stickers.
What inspired you to start it?
It wasn’t a light bulb moment that inspired me to start my business – it was a red faced moment! As any parent knows, when a potty training toddler (and in particular a little boy) has to go, they have to go NOW! That’s what happened to me when I was out shopping with my eldest child George one day. Faced with an emergency I had no choice but to whip out a potty and use it on the pavement. Then with no nearby convenient place to empty the contents I had no choice but to pour them down a drain in the road, well aware of the disdainful looks of shoppers around me! The shopping trip came to an abrupt end with me close to tears.
I went home and started sketching designs straight away, convinced that there had to be a better, more discreet way of dealing with a scenario that happens time and again during the already traumatic potty training period.
After months of sketching, focus groups, research, prototypes and testing, My Carry Potty was born and it’s been a whirl wind ever since with demand sky high from day one.
How does it fit in with family life?
Being a working mum, whether you’re working for someone else or working for yourself is always going to be a huge juggling act. However there are definite advantages to working for yourself to promote a product you passionately believe in:
You’ll undoubtedly work harder than you’ve ever worked before, but because it’s for something you 100% believe in those midnight laptop sessions are a bit less painful!
You can be flexible about your working hours and can choose to work from home which has meant I’ve never had to miss an important occasion, like a sports match, nativity play or first day in my children’s lives
Ultimately it’s all about balance. If I’ve had a week of blitzing work or have been abroad securing new distribution deals I’m strict about setting aside proper quality time with my children (and husband!) straight after. Those times are about us as a family and the iphone is banned!
Biggest learning curve so far?
Getting to grips with the figures behind the business. Unless you have a true understanding of your costs and margins you can so easily end up like a hamster in a wheel – working tirelessly without seeing the rewards. It’s also hard striking the balance between being ambitious for your business and not over stretching yourself. If you want to grow your business rapidly and there’s the demand to do that you have to make sure you surround yourself with strong teams that you trust so that you don’t compromise the quality of the product you’re offering.
Most positive experience?
Hearing the buyer of a big retail name say they want to stock your product is a buzz I’ll never tire of, but what gives me the biggest high is when
I see a My Carry Potty being used and blessed by parents in an everyday situation.
I was on a flight recently where one of the toilets was out of action resulting in long queues and waits. I saw a father using the My Carry Potty with his daughter and it was so discreet and easy for them. I saw another parent clock it too with real envy.
That’s when I feel real pride – when I realise my invention has answered a genuine need.
I’d love to see the My Carry Potty business continue to grow rapidly so that it’s accessible to parents wherever they are! We’re hoping to double our export figures over the next two years and we’re also constantly refreshing the range with new contemporary colour ways and styles.
Since inventing the My Carry Potty I’ve also learnt a huge amount about potty training in general and have been shocked to learn of the trend towards delayed potty training (the age of potty training has risen in the past 30 years in Britain from 2 years to 3.5 years). This trend has got hugely damaging environmental, social and even educational implications (with a growing number of children even entering our school system not fully toilet trained).
Since last year I’ve been working on setting up ‘Potty Training Academies’ with nurseries and have been blown away by the positive response we’ve had to our pilot programme. Rolling the My Carry Potty Potty Training Academies out on a national basis will be a big focus over the coming years….
What advice would you give to other mothers hoping to combine motherhood with a new business idea?
Only take a product to market you passionately believe in. You’ll live, eat, breathe and probably even dream about it for years so you need
to believe in it 100%!
Immerse yourself in your market. Social networking is a great way of doing this. I spend at least an hour a day on Twitter and Facebook.
It keeps me in touch with the trends and I have a constant dialogue with my customers so I know what they like and what they’re looking for which is gold dust.
Be aware of what a tough market it is. If you’re inventing a product for the nursery market, it sounds basic but visit baby shows, go to shops like John Lewis, Mothercare and Babies r Us and check their stock and go online and do your research. It’s a tough enough market when you’ve got a genuinely unique product, so don’t even contemplate financially backing a product until you know it’s significantly different or better than what is already out there!.
Don’t take your family for granted. Love your business but love your family more.
Be prepared to get down and dirty! I tested every single potty from our first ever container of 3000 to make 100% sure there weren’t any leaks.
Invest in good childcare. If you trust the person who is looking after your children when you can’t, it’ll give you the headspace you need to focus on your business.
Enjoy it! You work hard for every success so consciously revel in those moments. They’re what it’s all about.
For more information about My Carry Potty go to: www.cheekyrascals.co.uk / www.mycarrypotty.co.uk