When Polly Marsh and her best friend Helen Wooldridge decided to invent a new type of bath towel for their babies, they had no idea it would result in the birth of a brand new company. We chatted to the inspirational mumpreneurs behind the Cuddledry, newly launched in the UAE
It seems like such a simple idea. How did you come up with the Cuddledry concept?
When my eldest girl was one, we had a party where several friends attended at our house and stayed the night. All the babies were in the bath together and the dads were doing the bathing. Helen and I watched as they struggled to hold a wriggly slippery baby as well as try to hold up a towel in their teeth or under their chin etc... We laughed as we said the obvious thing would be to tie the towel around their necks and problem solved! But we also were interested to note that it wasn’t just us, or them, but every person who has ever bathed a baby - everyone faced the same issue. So we researched into trying to find something and were amazed that nothing fitted the bill. There appeared to be nothing on the market anywhere that promoted an “apron style” towel. So we made one. Hilarious evenings cutting up sheets to find the best design to fit the job in hand, using teddy bears and dolls to work out the best design. Then we had some samples made up and launched the concept at the UKs largest nursery trade show.
Your ‘invention’ is now a product that is being launched worldwide, and has won more than 40 awards. At what point was it that you discovered you were onto something really big?
We took our product to a trade show, at the launch we were still convinced that someone would day they had seen a similar idea before, but no one did. In fact Mothercare came on the stand and said it was the best product they’d seen at the show, and placed an initial order straight away! When surveyed most new parents say taking babies out of the bath is their most stressful moment, knowing this makes us even more passionate about getting it right.
It’s all happened in a fairly short space of time. What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
There have been quite a few. But the biggest have been juggling family and work together - trying to do both jobs well and give each full time job the input and effort they both deserve.
You were working career mums prior to this project. Has creating the Cuddledry enabled you to spend more time with your family?
The way Cuddledry works as a company is also unique. We operate a remote working model where all the members of our team (nine of us) work from home around their family commitments. So we work the same number of hours as a full time job but its four or five hours in the day, some at night, and technology also means our Ipads and iPhone are a mobile office, enabling work to be done even while we are out and about with the children. So yes - we couldn’t do a full time job any other way and still be there for our children every day as we are.
What’s the hardest thing about running your own business?
Controlling the cost of a high quality item but still being able to offer a price that works - we want Cuddledry to be the best, and it is the best, but that always comes at a cost. From the fibers we use (we use a special blend of bamboo and cotton which gives the fabric anti- bacterial qualities, its more absorbent, and much softer) to the size of the Cuddledry apron towel (it’s as big as an adults bath towel so at least double the size of regular baby towel) and the fact its double layered and high quality, so beautifully finished.
What’s your advice for other mums who think they might have a unique business idea?
Ask for opinions and advice from everyone you know, as well as experts in the field. You need a good product, but you also need a way to get it to market at a price that meets consumers’ needs. Always ask for advice from as many sources as possible. If you don’t have the expertise, ask someone who does. We outsource a lot to ensure we have the best person for each role within the company - whether that is professional logistics and distribution, or making sure we have someone on the team who speaks the right language. We happily admit that we can’t do it all. Make sure you are honest about your own strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re looking for fabrics that are perfect for baby’s delicate skin, bamboo fibre is the new buzz word. According to the latest reports, this eco-friendly, biodegradable fabric is not only softer than all known cottons, but it is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, absorbent (soaks up to 60 per cent more spills than cotton) and it’s better for kids with allergies and soap sensitivities because it’s hypoallergenic. Personally, we’re sold on the idea – especially as bamboo is one of the world’s fastest growing plants, which means resources are abundant and replenishable too.
The Cuddledry is now available at most major baby retailers in the UAE, including Mothercare and Bumble Bee, Dhs240 each.