When Katie Windridge – the force behind luxury bag range Forbes and Lewis met Touker Suleyman, investor and Dragon’s Den star, she happened to mention a new teething product that she had been developing. The Dragon, fashion entrepreneur and investor, was immediately won over by the idea and agreed to invest. Junior spoke to both Katie and Touker about the Matchstick Monkey, what they love about working together – and just what’s so good about this little monkey.
We’re fans of the Matchstick Monkey at Junior. The soft, bendy animal is a fun and easy way to help little ones – soft to touch, yet sturdy enough to withstand a consistent chomping. (We really love its little curly tail, to use as a clip for the changing bag etc). Cuteness aside, this teething monkey has been designed specifically to help both parents and babies struggling with teething pain, after Katie’s two daughters suffered terribly. More than just a baby-safe teether, the Matchstick Monkey is designed to help apply pain relief directly to the hard to reach back teeth, via its bobbled head.
The idea for the Matchstick Monkey came from exhausting personal experience, shared Katie, “My daughter Minnie had such bad teething pain. I was up all night and things were really tricky. I wanted to help by putting gels and granules onto her gums but I found it hard to apply medication to her side, or back gums without getting a nasty bite! I couldn’t find anything on the market to appropriately apply the medication”.
After her second daughter was born – and the teething terrors started again – Katie decided to do something about it. Coco was just six months old when Katie sketched out her first drawing of Matchstick Monkey and within 18 months, the teether has gone from paper to production. “It has been a busy year and a half!” says Katie.
Touker got involved after a fortuitous opportunity meeting. When Katie and her husband (and business partner) met Suleyman to talk all things bags, Matchstick Monkey had not yet launched. The initial feedback from mums was so great, Katie felt sure they had the product right and were ready to move it forward. When Touker and his team saw the monkey, “They thought the monkey was really fun and different. I discussed the reaction of the mums I had shown previously – I think they thought it would be a very useful cheerful toy that would make mums smile, as well as help their children.” Talking to Touker, he saw the potential immediately. When asked what it was that he found so promising about the product he said, “I just loved it right away! Sometimes you just have to recognise a great idea when you see one.”
It took the Dragon just 10 minutes to invest in Matchstick Monkey – a habit he’s keen to highlight is not his usual style. Yet Katie and her husband – and the monkey – had made a good impression on him and his team. Two of the most important criteria to base any investment decisions on are passion and drive, according to Touker. “I normally look at the entrepreneur initially” he tells us. “I look for their passion and drive, then I look to see if I can work with them and can add value to the business.”
Katie and Touker seem well matched in their approach. Katie similarly reported that, “You have to have the drive and passion to get through…and just believe in your idea and why you started it. It’s a process, three steps forward and two steps back!”
Famed for his entrepreneurial approach to product launches himself – having built a fashion manufacturing empire – he knows the processes and pitfalls involved in taking a product to market. As her advisor, Katie benefits from this experience, stating that, “The worst bits are all of the setbacks and initial problems that you come across when you start”, whilst adding cheerfully, that she gets a great satisfaction in bringing the product to life.
It’s a long road and it’s not without challenges, especially while raising a family, but that end-goal is the focus drives both Katie and Touker.
Rather like parenting itself, regardless of the teething pains (excuse the pun!) being an entrepreneur suits Katie. “I love product design… It’s so rewarding when you get people coming to you and saying how much you have helped them”. So, if you’ve an idea you’ve been sitting on since your little one arrived, maybe now is the time.
Of mumpreneurs and businesswomen in general, Touker states, “We need more mumpreneurs, especially in areas of babywear and childrenswear – they have hands on knowledge of the product and the requirements.”
There you have it, straight from the Dragon’s mouth.