The rise of the ‘mumpreneur’

More mums than ever are thinking up their own inventions and making money from them. We outline how mums can capitalise on that ‘light bulb moment’ EVERYONE knows that mums are full of bright ideas – and it seems the recession has prompted them to make money out of their ingenuity.

A survey has found that more than one in three (39 per cent) of mums have used their skills, creativity and initiative to earn money in the last year, with a third saying the recession has played a part in their mounting number of ‘light bulb moments’.

An amazing one in six claim to dream up new ideas every fortnight in a bid to put themselves in a better financial position, coming up with ideas ranging from shape-memorising wool to wheelie bin covers, which 28 per cent of mums say are reactions to daily household problems.

In fact, 22 per cent find their inspiration while spring cleaning.

Now, The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, which carried out the research, is hoping mums with bright ideas will inspire their children to put their own ideas and inventions to the test in the National Science & Engineering Competition, which culminates at The Big Bang Fair.

As well as taking inspiration from their own brilliant mums, young people can follow the example of famous mums such as the actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who invented the Wet Wipe Nappy, which incorporates a sealed pocket on the outside that can be filled with cleaning wipes.

Perhaps a more ordinary mum inventor is Cara Sayer, a mum of one who invented SnoozeShade, a blackout sun shade for prams, car seats and cots.

Ms Sayer explains that she invented SnoozeShade after struggling to find a similar product to help her young daughter Holly, now aged four, sleep in the sun.

“Like many great products designed by mums, SnoozeShade came about from a personal need,” she says.

“When Holly was younger, I spent a lot of time hanging coats or draping blankets over her buggy to block out the light so I could protect her from the sun, and so she could sleep properly.

“But as any mum will tell you, this isn’t very practical as they kept falling off.

“I came up with the idea of creating a shade that could be attached to the buggy and thought that this was something that could really benefit other parents.

“One day, I rather foolishly said to a few friends that someone should invent something – so they said ‘go on then’.”

Ms Sayer had such a positive response from her mummy friends about her idea that she thought about turning it into a sellable product and did some market research.

“Once I had established there was a demand for my product, I had to decide how I would get the word out there,” she says.

She took an unfinished prototype product to a nursery industry trade show, “jumped on everyone who passed”, and the major retailer Jo Jo Maman Bebe placed an order on the spot.

From then on it was “full steam ahead”, says Sayer, and just three years later, SnoozeShade is sold in more than 1,000 stores throughout the UK, and in more than 20 other countries.

“Creating SnoozeShade has been a real learning curve, and I loved being involved in every step of the way,” Ms Sayer (40) says.

She advises other mums with bright ideas to ensure they have some funding, as it can be very expensive to launch a product.

A clear business plan outlining income and outgoings is key, she says, as is speaking to someone who knows about marketing – Ms Sayer used to work in marketing herself.

She says she enjoyed learning a lot about the science and engineering process behind inventions, and certainly The Big Bang Fair research found that nearly a quarter of inventive mums get to grips with the science and technology principles behind their ideas.

The Big Bang Fair is supported by Mark Champkins, a former British Inventor of the Year, who says: “This research shows the recession has sparked a real ‘can-do’ attitude among ordinary mums who are looking to make some extra cash – and it’s amazing to see that they’re turning to science and engineering to make the impossible possible.”

Mr Champkins, who has thought up numerous inventions, including self-heating crockery, fruit-friendly lunchboxes and school bags that cushion school chairs, gives the following tips for new inventors:

■ start with a good problem. By identifying a problem that people would really like to see solved, you know you’re in a fertile area

■ get better at noticing – how people behave, what things are made of, how they’re likely to have been made, and how well they work. This will open up opportunities to improve things and create better products

■ stay child-like. Kids ask why things are the way they are and maintaining a questioning and open attitude is useful in interrogating the way the world works and imagining new and better ways to do things

■ combine two previously unrelated things. Most ideas are founded on something that’s gone before but there’s skill in combining products or concepts in a new way that achieves something unique

■ play – creating new things should be fun. Feeling relaxed and free to mess about and try out new ideas is key to being in the right state of mind for inspiration to strike.