Shopping trips with children in buggies could be about to become less onerous, thanks to the ingenuity of two working mothers. Charlotte Evans and Carolyn Jarvis have come to the rescue of parents who struggle to manage a pushchair when they are weighed down with heavy bags by creating a practical design solution known as the Buggy Boot.
The multi-purpose accessory, designed with the support of Kingston Universityâ€™s Enterprise Exchange, consists of a shopping holdall on wheels able to be attached to the rear of a buggy. The hard-based bag with adjustable fastenings is easy to access and has plenty of room to hold purchases, while its top doubles as a resting place for shopping baskets as parents make their way around stores. â€œFrom our own personal experience we knew standard lightweight buggies simply werenâ€™t designed to cope with shopping bags,â€ Ms Evans said. â€œEvery time I tried to put any shopping on the handles of my buggy it would topple over, leaving me with items strewn across the floor and a child in tears. After talking to friends, it was clear there was a definite gap in the market for a foldable shopping bag that could easily be attached to a buggy and wouldnâ€™t make it overbalance.â€
Realising they needed expert guidance to work through the complexities of turning their initial concept into reality, the duo approached the Universityâ€™s Enterprise Exchange for help. They signed up to The Virtual Company scheme, gaining immediate access to a wealth of business knowledge and services. Under the watchful eye of mentor Alan Finn, who provided advice on market and patent research and design modifications, the pair applied for funding and visited their first trade shows. â€œWith our mentorâ€™s assistance, we were able to adopt a step–by–step approach, working through the process of what to do next and managing the early stages of the development of the prototype,â€ Ms Evans said. â€œHe also helped us secure Â£29,000 of funding from the South East England Development Agency, which was a vital boost for the project.â€
Expected to roll off the production lines later this year, the Buggy Boot is already generating considerable interest in the marketplace and has attracted a stream of conditional orders at trade fairs. The idea has been so well received that Ms Evans and Ms Jarvis were shortlisted for the British Female Inventor and Innovator of the Year title in 2006.