Shannon Gilleland, founder and inventor of the Pronto Bottle, came up with the innovative idea of a self cleaning baby bottle while juggling the bottle prepping process in the back of the car, while parked outside her husband’s workplace one day.
The self-cleaning baby bottle can sterilise itself while you’re on the go, without the need to wash multiple bottles or boil water to fill the bottle before hand.
“I thought to myself that if someone was looking into the back seat, they would surely have laughed at how ridiculous the process of preparing a baby bottle was while on the go. “I surveyed 100 parents and they all seemed to be struggling with the steriliser, boiling water or having to carry around heavy pre-filled bottles process too.”
I grew up as a kid on a farm in South Africa and there used to be an Afrikaans saying, which translated meant “farmer makes a plan”. It’s something that shaped how I viewed solving problems in my day to day life, and something that I have brought into my parent life, but into my work.
So, when I had my daughter, it was only a matter of time before I came across a big enough problem that I felt was worth me putting my time and energy into solving it for everyone.
When I was sitting in the back of the car juggling baby bottles, and the “farmer makes a plan” thought went through my head, I knew that I had to solve the problem. I knew that there had to be a better way than what we had been doing for the last 60 years… Yep, the process hasn’t changed much in that time. I mean sure we have more technology to help us, but nothing has actually reduced the amount of tasks we have to go through to actually prepare a bottle.
Plus, as I became more eco conscious, finding a way to reduce plastic waste and reduce the amount of items needed to be consumed by a baby was a bonus. I don’t know about you, but seeing so much baby waste (toys, clothing, nappies, etc) being consumed by one little baby horrified me.
As a startup business one of the biggest challenges that I’ve faced, like so many others, is trying to fund the initial stages of the product development journey. There is only so much bootstrapping you can do when you’re starting out, especially when you get to the point of leaving a full time paid job to work on your business. Banks are so risk adverse they won’t fund start-ups, accelerator programs want you to be at a certain stage and have done a set level of validation to prove your idea has legs before they accept you into a program and you’re definitely not at a level of approaching Angels or VC’s yet.
Also finding the business knowledge base to support you during the different stages you need to progress through or finding the right pathway for you to take is difficult too. Often you come from a background that has one set knowledge base, for me I was lucky and it was project management, but that certainly didn’t set me up for understanding the challenges that came with developing a physical product or how I should be thinking about manufacturing, finding suppliers, thinking about the supply chain, etc.
Shannon’s Tips for business owners
1. Get financial advice for your personal finances as well as for your business as soon as you can. The healthier your personal finances are, the easier it is for you to bootstrap your idea till you’re at the next stage and able to ask for funding from external sources.
2. Also don’t forget to “get out of the building” and start speaking to your potential customers as soon as you can to validate, or invalidate the idea, before you even have a product. No point putting a whole lot of time and effort into developing a product only to realise down the track, when you start actually speaking to potential customers that you haven’t developed something they actually want or need.
3. Just keep in mind, like when parents are trying to find the perfect time to have a baby, the truth is that sometimes there is no perfect time to start. Baby or business wise. You will always be stretched for money, for time, for resources. Sometimes you just need to get up and do it. Whatever your passion is that is burning in your gut, that keeps you awake at 2am in the morning, that makes you feel miserable having to go to your normal 9 to 5.