This time last year, what stage were you at with Skinny Sketcher?
I was in the early stages of the design process. The idea for Skinny Sketcher evolved from when I was asked to talk to my son’s class about being an architect during his school architecture topic.
I tried to find a fun resource to take along to class but discovered there was a lack of engaging architecture activities on the market, which was surprising as architecture is now embedded within the curriculum.
I set about creating my own activity for the day and knowing that kids enjoy active hands-on learning that involves the bizarre and ridiculous, I based the activity on famous lookalike buildings including The Gherkin, The Cheese Grater, the Birds Nest, The Armadillo and The Pringle.
The workshop was a hit and I soon realised there was a need for an activity that provided a fun introduction to architecture and it was something that I wanted to explore further.
My other aim was to get children drawing. Due to the use of the pincer grip, drawing is the ultimate activity to develop fine motor skills which are required in everyday life. I decided that my product would be a self-contained drawing kit, including everything needed to produce freehand drawings of the five famous lookalike buildings.
I then got onto the task of designing the product. It was essential that the fun element of the initial idea extended to the packaging of the product. I went for a pun-based on a takeaway coffee cup that would cause children and parents to do a double take when spotted on a toy shop shelf. Children often covet items from the grown up world, from mum’s high heels to dad’s power drill.
I knew children would love their own takeaway coffee cup, just like the ones sported by sleep deprived adults in every play park. With a nod to a skinny latte, I came up with the name Skinny Sketcher.
All inventors can identify with that painful initial stage when your big exciting idea is constantly swirling around in your head. You’re desperate to tell people and ask their opinion, but you have to impose a self enforced gagging order until you’ve secured IP rights.
I was fortunate that I had my children to test the product out on and I used a lot of their play dates as market research.
How did you find our Toy & Game Inventors Workshop?
I regularly read the inventors coverage in ToyNews and spotted the advert for the Workshop. I could see it was an amazing opportunity, quickly bought a ticket and booked my flight from Glasgow.
Getting to pitch your ideas to the toy industry’s major players was a fantastic opportunity that wasn’t lost on us inventors, some of whom had been trying to get in front of the decision makers for years.
I was expecting a scary Dragons’ Den pitch, but instead there was a friendly atmosphere and a genuine desire to provide advice, which is amazing considering how busy these people are.
I got great feedback on product development, pricing and how best to expand my range. I’m sure everyone who attended came away feeling inspired, energised and better placed to get their products on toy shop shelves.
How has Skinny Sketcher developed since then?
I’ve designed a whole Skinny Sketcher range with Asobi’s very talented designer who captured the vibe of Skinny Sketcher brilliantly. So now I have a range, rather than just the one product.
What advice would you give someone struggling to get their idea going?
There’s always the temptation to keep an idea hidden until you have a fully finished prototype. But try not to work in isolation for too long, as feedback at an early stage can improve your product and make the process a lot more enjoyable.
If you’re waiting for a patent or trademark then speak to close friends and family whom you trust to give you a subjective opinion and not just what you want to hear.
Attend the next Workshop as you’ll gain some fantastic advice and contacts. Keep start up costs low and tap into free advice and services that exist. Business Gateway provide fantastic advice and your local trading standards officer should advise you on safety procedures free of charge.
I joined the free business accelerator program Entrepreneurial Spark. ESpark provides mentoring and a network of contacts including IP lawyers, marketing specialists and funding opportunities. There’s even free office space if you need it.
Most importantly run your ideas past some kids – often their crazy suggestions are the ones to embrace.