Posted on February 9, 2011

Mumpreneur Feature – Claire Mitchell

Mum in Business

The lovely Claire Managing Director of Chillipeeps is our Mumpreneur feature on the blog this morning. Thank you so much for your time Claire it is lovely to read about someone with such passion for their business!! You can also find Claire on Twitter @Chillipeeps :O)

Who are you?
I am Claire Mitchell, I’m married to the fabulous Rob who admirably puts up with me and we have a beautiful three year old daughter Mimi who arrived by surprise 19 years after Rob and I met at school and she has changed our lives and then I have my other baby ‘Chillipeeps’ and she has also changed our lives!

We live in North Yorkshire with dogs and chickens & I love Random Acts of Kindness.

What do you do?

Managing Director, Entrepreneur, Inventor & Mummy, which all together make me a Mumpreneur of Chillipeeps Limited, Innovative Solutions to everyday problems, aiming to make your life a little easier.
I work all the hours I can keep awake well until I collapse and sleep in front of the telly. I spend any spare time with Mimi who I absolutely adore.

When did you establish your business?
My journey began in 2007, when we formed the company, and we are due to start trading in March 2011, when we launch at the Harrogate Nursery Fair and we are very excited!!

What made you start your own business?
September 2007, I was driving to a party, I knew I had a carton of ready made formula but I couldn’t remember if I’d put a sterilised bottle in the car. Late setting off and in a mad new mummy neurotic way I begged Rob to climb over the seats to check for the bottle whilst I was ranting ‘Why hasn’t anyone invented anything that can directly attach to the carton!’ Why hadn’t anyone? EUREKA!

Now I have to tell you that we did have a clean sterilised bottle in the car, and normally that comment would’ve been forgotten but for some reason that day after the party when we got back into the car I told Rob I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and neither could he, so we discussed it all the way home. Once we got home we researched the Internet and all the baby catalogues that I’d accumulated during pregnancy and there was nothing to be found. So we talked all night, recording our ideas.

My invention the Innovative PCT Patent Pending Chillipeeps Teat solves a common problem many people experience when out and about with young hungry babies and no clean sterilised bottle to use. One version The Chillipeeps Teat will be sold in a pod, reusable by being easy to clean and re-sterilised, re-sealable for later use.

That first night we discussed how we could make a business from the idea, we knew immediately that it had an opportunity to be huge and so of course I emailed Peter Jones from the Dragons Den that night not knowing who else to contact telling him we had a brilliant idea. I immediately got an automated email response back saying ‘If I hadn’t patented it, not to tell them as they can’t keep a secret and they have to involve a lot of people in the decision process.. this is how you patent.

The next morning I rang the patent office for my free half hour session with a patent attorney. I walked into that meeting all nervous and excited. A head master of a guy walked in, although he’d like me to now change it to George Clooney, and said ‘What is it!’ ‘What am I doing here’ so I told him my idea and for the next two hours whilst the poor guy who’d organised the meeting was pacing up and down the corridor outside, George Clooney who became so enthused about the idea, gave me some brilliant business advice, you see I’d already found out all about patents when I knew I was coming to the meeting, I didn’t want to waste the half hour being told things I could read about, instead I wanted to pick his brains. So thanks George without you, I probably wouldn’t be standing here today. At the end of that meeting I wrote ‘It’s a GO-ER!’

The first thing I needed to do was set up a company presence, a company name was very easy for me as I already had a URL that I loved and was keeping for a special day – Chillipeeps, I asked the accountants if I could have Chillipeeps Limited, I could, so that was that and the name has proved a great success, everyone remembers Chillipeeps!

I needed a logo, after my daughter was born I had painted a picture for her room of Rob, Mimi and I, three bald smiley faces, well they were both bald and I decided that I would be too for the painting. That was my logo and the logo that we have today is an enhancement of that, PopaPeeps, Minipeeps,and Momapeeps who are Rob, Mimi and I.

I opened a bank account, and wrote and framed the first cheque as a incentive, it just says ‘The Mortgage’

Rob and I had funded everything, but when we went for product costs from a Manufacturer, the tooling costs stopped us dead, phenomenal is all I can say. So at that point, which was Credit Crunch, Pre-Budget 2009 we realised that we needed to try to obtain funding, not great timing, but we did actually manage to gain the interest of a Business Angel, who loved the product, but they had no industry proof that the product would sell, you see we’d kept everything under wraps to that point, no one knew about it, no one, the industry certainly didn’t know, we hadn’t even told our friends and familys, they knew the company name, but had no idea what the product was.

So I decided to enter the Baby Products Association Concept & Innovation Awards 2009 and we’d see what the industry made of Chillipeeps. I really needed them to love it, this was a massive deal for us.

So I sent off my application and was elated when I was shortlisted and invited to London to a DRAGONS DEN STYLE (their words not mine) presentation to a panel of industry professionals. The finalists would be invited to the BPA Baby & Child Fair in October 2009 where they would be given the opportunity to showcase to the industry for 3 days and where one of them would be announced the winner. I travelled down to London on the day and went in all excited and nervous, again. It was my turn, was I ready? Of course I was! I walked in ‘Good Afternoon, I’d like to introduce Chillipeeps Ltd, innovative solutions to everyday problems, making life a little easier. I am Claire Mitchell, Director, Entrepreneur, Inventor and Mummy! Well all I can say is at that moment, that the emotions of it all came flooding out and I sobbed my way through the presentation, trying to make light of it by saying I was going for the sympathy vote and easy questions at the end. I made it to the end wiping my nose on my sleeve and after the Q&A session, I was asked if you make it to London, do you think you’ll cry, ‘Probably but they’ll be tears of joy’ I left absolutely gutted, I’d blown it, I sat in Gordon Ramseys restaurant in the hotel, had a drink, stopped the tears and set off home.

The BPA said they’d email us the next day if we were a finalist, I waited till one then had to go to a meeting, I hadn’t done it, I was so cross with myself, shouting at myself all the way to the meeting, what an idiot! Rob rang me whilst I was out, asking for my passwords, so he could check my email, I didn’t really want him to, until he rang back about a second later and said ‘I hate to tell you Claire you’ve done it’ ‘I’d done it!’ How on earth did they see past the tears! We scored highly and there wasn’t even a category for emotion, not that I realised that I was being scored on the day anyway!

Anyhow, The BPA had split the competition into 2 and there were to be, One Concept Winner and One Innovation Winner, I was one of three finalists in the Innovation category.

I prepared for the show making the most of my plinth, that’s all we had. The competition Winners were announced on the second day by Tim Loughton MP Shadow Minister for Children.

Now I needed to win this, so imagine my horror when they announced the concept winner as Robert a fabulous guy and then they announced the Innovation winner, my category as Gavin another fabulous guy BUT OMG I hadn’t done it, what was I going to do, I needed to win, How would I tell everyone, Pardon, Sorry, What was that you just said Tim ‘…and the overall winner’ but there are only 2 awards, overall winner, I’m still in for a chance, what’s going on? Sit Up Claire this could be you…… is Claire Mitchell with Chillipeeps’ OMG I’d done it.

So I am thrilled to say that we are the Overall Winners of the Baby Products Association National Concept & Innovation Awards 2009, Brilliant! By the way, I emailed Peter Jones to thank him for his patent advice and to tell him we were winners, of the BPA and of the Women On Their Way Outstanding New Product Award 2010, so let’s hope when we launch in March that 2011 is the year that you and your BABIES love it too!

What do you love about working for yourself?
I can make all the decisions, although I also loathe the fact sometimes that all the decisions are mine. I spent Christmas hiding in bed, very stressed about making a decision, once it was made, I resurfaced again lol. 
Is there anything you do not like about working for yourself?
First answer, absolutely nothing
Second answer, it can be very lonely. I have set up a local MaD (Masham & Dales) Women In Business group who meet at the pub one a month, to chew the business cud, all welcome :o)

Is there anything you would go back and do differently if you could?

Nothing, as every step of the journey has given us a better product & made us into a better company. I just wish that there was a definitive list of things that were required.
The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is to go with my gut instinct and make the product as simple as possible, it REALLY is cheaper to manufacture the simpler it is!
 What advice would you give to a Mum considering starting her own business? 
  • Do it, you only have one chance at life and yours is here and now, so just do it!
  • Create a business presence, very important to be seen as taking your business seriously
  • Aim for right first time, Poke Yoke to avoid inadvertent errors
  • Get exposure at the right time
  • Only pay for necessities & expertise, an example is I host and have created the Chillipeeps Website, which works for now, I can update it every minute if I want at no cost,
  • LISTEN to everyone
  • BELIEVE in yourself and your service/product
  • Be Yourself
  • Remember it’s not about the person, but the product/Service that you have
  • It is not what you know but who you know, so network, network, network!
Good luck!

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1 Comment

  • Reply victoria February 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    This was a long post. But I was entertained thoroughly! was contemplating ending my business but you guys are such inspirations! thanks for being u! x

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