BoginaBag: Kate Castle
The inventor on juggling family life and solving an age old dilemma
Company name: BoginaBag Website: www.boginabag.com Founder: Kate Castle Age: 34 Based: Winchester Staff Numbers: 2 Date started: 2010
Tell us what your business does: We sell a portable toilet designed for camping, festivals and all outdoor activities.
Where did the idea for your business come from? In 2008 I was camping in Dorset. Lying awake and desperate for a pee I decided there must be a better option than having to trek across a dark campsite to a toilet block. On my return I began hunting around for a portable toilet. Dismissing the bulky chemical based options I decided it was time to come up with a better alternative.
How did you know there was a market for it? I couldn’t find anything on the market that was portable and discreet.
What’s your USP (unique selling point)? BoginaBag is a unique portable toilet that is extremely light weight and very robust. It provides the owner with a solution to that age old dilemma of needing to go and having nowhere to go! It folds out as a stool, but when nature calls you then remove the cover, insert one of our specially designed degradable bags, relax and relieve yourself. Once you have finished, the “magic crystals” contained within a pad will absorb any liquid. You then remove the bag, tie the top and dispose of the bag in a bin. The bags completely cover the seat of the stool so there is no mess and it is completely hygienic and ready to be used again and again.
How will you differentiate yourself from the competition? Our product looks totally different from anything else on the market. It is more portable, discreet and can also be used as a general purpose stool.
What were you doing before starting up? I worked in retail management for B&Q. However, in 2008 I was made redundant, which gave me the push to start my own business.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? Yes, I have always been excited by new ideas and the challenge of running my own business.
What appealed most about being your own boss? Having two kids has meant that being able to juggle my family life and work is a massive bonus. Having said that it also means you end up working a lot of evenings.
What planning did you do before you started up? I researched the size and scope of the market and the potential competition. I then went on to instruct a company called Innovate to carry out a patent search to see if I would be able to produce and protect my product.
How did you raise the money? How easy was it? I self funded the patent search and product design process. I then found an investor who offered financial support in return for shares in the company. I wanted to protect my idea as far as possible so initially I only approached friends and family for investment. I was lucky enough to find an investor through this process fairly early on.
How did you find suppliers? I used a global e-commerce platform www.alibaba.com which enabled me to search and find quality suppliers quickly and easily. The site gave me the ability to see the products that factories were already producing and in some cases gave me a good idea as to pricing.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? One of the most frustrating experiences was when I contacted the UK Manufacturing Advisory Board and was told my product could not be manufactured within the UK. It would have been impossible for me to find the funds to visit factories in foreign countries but then I stumbled across Alibaba.com through a Google search. The website gave me the confidence to trade internationally by allowing me to see the products that factories across the globe were already producing and confidently source a quality supplier that I could trust.
Where is your business based? I currently work from home. This has its advantages especially when you are balancing childcare and work. It is not always positive though and there have been some rather stressful times.
How have you promoted your business? What has proved successful and what won’t you do again? By the time I got to market any minimal launch budget that had existed had pretty much gone. I therefore relied purely on getting free press coverage. I have been really lucky and I have managed to get a number of radio interviews, newspaper articles and magazine features that have really kick-started sales.
How much do you charge? How did you decide this? We currently charge £19.95 for one BoginBag which comes complete with a pack of five degradable bags. We sell on our own site www.BoginaBag.com and through a number of other online sites and retailers. We were keen to sit under the £20 mark and the product has been selling fantastically at this price.
What has your growth been like? What is your turnover? Are you profitable? Current turnover is £20,000 so far for year one, although we only started selling products in May so it is still very early days. The initial plan shows us making a profit by year two and we are on course to achieve this.
What’s the impact on your home life been like? Running your own business especially when it is a product you have invented is very absorbing. I often refer to it as my third child. I am learning how to switch off though and I have become better at ensuring that work and home life are kept separate.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up? Staying focused and positive – it is a long and complicated path from invention to market.
What was your first big breakthrough? Two moments stick out – receiving the first product sample and getting my first sale.
What would you do differently and what have you learnt? The most important thing I have learnt is that mistakes and problems are part of the process. It is how you deal with these that ultimately determine your success.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? When you are having a really bad day you have to try and remember that a good one is just round the corner.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan? In five years time I want to have built on the BoginaBag brand and incorporated an increased range of products into its portfolio. My exit plan is to come out of BoginaBag at a moment when I can maximise the return for myself and investors. It is definitely time to exit when I stop finding every morning exciting!