Bottle Buddi

From mum to inventor and successful entrepreneur

When Sarah Hyde, a single mother from Plymouth, saw her young daughter struggling to manage her school books and water bottle, she was determined to find a solution.

Named Innovation Award winner in the eBay for Business Awards 2018, she has since gone on to build a successful niche business, selling a range of handy bottle holders designed for infant school pupils.

Sarah launched her eBay shop, Bottle Buddi, in 2016, and with orders coming in from across the UK, she now has ambitious plans to grow the business, with a range of products designed to help make life a little easier for parents.

Here is her story.

How did you end up launching your own eBay shop?

In 2014 my daughter started primary school. Little did I know how annoying yet important her water bottle was going to be!

It seemed like there were just never enough hands.
Tweet this

She would try and carry her book bag and water bottle, and it would either leak in my bag, leak in her bag, or be dropped, with her little hands struggling to keep hold of everything. Worse still it would be forgotten all together, meaning she probably wouldn't drink any water throughout her busy school day.

I tried all sorts of things, including putting it in a sandwich bag that I hung over the handle of the book bag. This worked but didn't look great and wasn’t an ideal thing to have around young children. It also meant we were always needing to buying sandwich bags, as they’d get lost or broken.

I started searching online for other solutions but couldn't find anything. I had an idea in mind, so decided I’d do something about it. I was a single mum at the time, with no money and having never done anything like this before, but I decided it was too good an idea to just sit back and let someone else do it!

I knew if there were parents out there like me, then I had a business. I just never realised how big the demand was going to be!
Tweet this

When did you sell your first item on eBay?

It took me 18 months (and a lot of asking myself ‘can I really do this?’) to turn the idea into an actual business, ready to sell to customers.

I started off buying some material on eBay and got my dad to create a prototype. It then took a lot of testing and refining before I hit on the exact design I wanted to take forward. My dad used to fix parachutes in the RAF, so he was a dab hand with a needle and really helped me here. Managing to blow up his sewing machine in the process!

Finding the right manufacturer took a lot of time, as it was hard to find someone who would make a minimum amount of the product, for the right price and who were in the right location. I luckily managed to find a local manufacturer in Plymouth where I’m from, which was brilliant.

Trust was also crucial, as my idea wasn't yet protected.
Tweet this

I then needed to get the intellectual property rights. This didn't take long but it did cost money. Money, which at the time I didn't have, so it was a big risk for me. Expenses just had to go on my credit card.

By July 2016 I was finally ready to start selling! I decided to call my new product the ‘Bottle Buddi’ and had 1000 items made. I created a simple website and thought eBay would be the perfect channel to bring the product to market, as it’s so easy to start selling and there’s a readymade audience there.

I began by listing the Bottle Buddi in eight standard school colours, with loads of images and clear descriptions, and it didn’t take long for the first products to sell.
Tweet this

How did you grow the business?

The business quickly took off and I’m now in my third year and everything is going really well.

As it stands today, I have sold approximately 14,000 products, with orders coming in from all over the UK, including bulk orders from schools and other stockists.

After finding Facebook ads didn’t work very well for me, I started running some paid adverts through eBay and that’s really boosted my sales. Alongside the Bottle Buddis I have also expanded the range with other products, including a drinking bottle and Bottle Buddi designed for use with mobility scooters and wheelchairs.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Running a business on my own is challenging but it’s been amazing to see and hear how a small material pouch has changed parents’ lives!

If we can help our children to drink more water, then all the hard work that has been put in to getting to this stage, has definitely been worth it.           

What does the future hold?

My plan now is to build on the success of Bottle Buddi to create a store that offers a range of tried-and-tested, quality products designed to make like easier for parents.

I have been researching and sourcing lots of new products to add to the range and have many new ideas to work on. I have also found some great suppliers, including a mum like me with a fantastic product that helps reception age children.

Why did you enter the eBay for Business Awards?

I knew one of the winners from the previous year’s awards and was inspired by her success to have a go myself. I saw what she had done and thought I’d love to be part of that.

The whole experience has been fantastic.
Tweet this

The concierge service I won as part of my prize has been invaluable. I’ve been able to pick their brains to ensure my listings are optimized and they’ve also been great in helping me finetune everything I’m doing.

The money was very handy too and has gone towards upgrading my website, to provide an even better experience for my customers.

Top tips

1.

Listen to any advice that is offered

When you start a business and you don’t have lots of experience, whenever someone offers their advice or time, take them up on it. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they’re from, soak it all in. There is so much free support out here. Never think you are too good to listen to others, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t listened.

2.

Customer service and word of mouth is key

For me, if one parent has a good experience, then they will tell another, and another, and so on. If you have a good product and provide great customer service, then you’ll need to spend less money on advertising as those things will drive sales for you.

3.

Life is short so just go for it!

If you see yourself as an inventor or entrepreneur don’t sit on your idea and wonder ‘what if’. If you do, you will always be wondering, or even worse see your idea out there and being done successfully by someone else! There are so many free resources for people who wish to start a business and have no idea where to begin. I know, as that’s exactly what I did! Depending on your status and the type of idea you’ve had, you may also be entitled to funding. Networking events are also key, even if this is new territory for you, throw yourself in at the deep end and meet like-minded people.

Want to be an eBay for Business award winner just like Sarah? You could win an all-expenses-paid trip to the USA, as well as up to £5,000 in prize money, plus much more. You’ll find loads more information about the awards and how to enter, here.

Social post: Meet Sarah – seeing her daughter struggling to carry a water bottle and her school books led her to invent an amazing new product, and a successful online business in the process #ebayawardsuk via @eBayUK_News
Tweet this
Established
2016
Did you know
Sarah was a a single mum with no business experience when she started Bottle Buddi
Visit
Shop

ebay.co.uk

Visit

Linkedin

Follow

YouTube

Subscribe

Twitter

Follow

Get in Touch

Contact