NO it’s not easy.
YES it’s worth the effort.
And YES you can do it too!
So how exactly did a working mum go about inventing Flyway Kids Bed as a side hobby?
All it took were 5 steps to design and develop an award-winning product that changes the way kids fly economy. From idea to launch in less than 2 years!
1) Find a solution to a BIG problem.
Sometimes when I’m sitting on the floor next to my 2 boys waiting for them to fall asleep, I think of all the problems that parents face and dream of ways to make things easier.
I wonder why we just keep using products that were invented 50+ years ago even if they don't really solve the problems parents have today.
Millennials are living a life that our parents could only dream of. We are travelling more than any other generation and living a life full of experiences - all with our babies and toddlers in tow.
One night, after a long-haul flight, I thought of all the issues I had flying long-distance with my 2 toddlers…
- Carry-on luggage weight limits
- Trying to keep energetic toddlers in a seat for 15 hours
- Crawling on my hands and knees on the plane floor searching for toy cars and coloring pencils
- Not being able to go to the toilet because my kids had finally passed-out on my lap
- The stress of not wanting to upset fellow passengers
- The effort of carrying sleeping kids and a mountain of carry-on luggage
- And my own personal exhaustion, due to lack of sleep.
Who on earth decided that children would enjoy sitting on a plane seat made for adults for 12 hours straight? I spent hours on Google trying to find a product that would make things easier, and only came across 2 solutions. Convertible in-flight beds like JetKids BedBox looked great for whizzing around the airport, but were expensive, bulky and didn't look very comfortable with their flimsy mattresses; and inflatable cushions / plane seat extenders / flight hammocks like Plane Pal, Fly Tot and Fly LegsUp - which encouraged children to sleep with their heads on a germy plane seat, with no way to stop toys and coloring pencils falling on the floor.
And so, the idea of Flyaway Kids Bed was born.
I dreamed of a product that would change the way kids fly economy by transforming their economy class seat into the perfect place for them to sleep and play. It had to be light weight, pack small within my carry-on luggage and be cleanable...
A no-brainer actually and I was surprised this product wasn't already invented!
2) Build and test a prototype
My first full-size prototype was sewn from bed-sheets and I’m sure the staff at the Lufthansa Training Center had a good laugh when I checked to see if it fit on the seats in their aircraft training cabin.
But hey, it was all I needed to confirm dimensions, fit and function. And after a few rounds of adjustments, I was ready to figure out how to have my hand-sewn prototype developed as an inflatable that could be manufactured.
If you are thinking about developing your own product idea, take note! This was a key moment for me.
I spoke to several businesses who said they could physically make my product, but none could guarantee that their version of the inflatable prototype could be manufactured. And I knew from my 10 years experience in product marketing that:
There's no point having a prototype if it's not possible for a supplier to produce.
3) Consult a product development expert
What I really wanted, was to bounce my ideas off an inflatables expert. To find out if my design could be tweaked or improved in any way. So I Googled to find someone who would be happy to tell me if my design could be produced or not. Sounds like wishful thinking, but it worked!
I found an inflatables expert living just an hour away, with over 20 years experience in inventing and producing Swiss quality inflatable winter sports equipment and stand-up paddle boards. He was the perfect sparring partner for ideas to help fine-tune my design and he even facilitated the prototyping stage of my product via his reliable suppliers. All for free!
This stage of my product development process taught me that:
Sometimes you need to tell others about your great ideas to make them a reality.
4) Invite key stakeholders to contribute to your design
This step really defines whether your great idea will sink or swim. If key stakeholders don’t believe in your product, why should they stand behind it?
I involved the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Cabin Safety Officers from several major airlines in the final design of my product. Sure, I had to make several major design changes because of this, but imagine the alternative… These airlines could have decided not to allow my product on board their aircrafts!
Positive ‘word of mouth’ from credible, reputable players is worth more than you can imagine.
Instead, when I presented a prototype of my Flyaway Kids Bed at the IATA Cabin Safety Conference in 2018, the same airline representatives dragged colleagues from other airlines to my stand to show them my product!
The airlines who provided feedback to my design are my biggest fans! They are grateful that I took their feedback on board and proudly promote the key features and benefits of my product to other airlines on my behalf.
Key stakeholders will be your biggest fans if you make an effort to incorporate their feedback into your design.
I am beyond proud to say that at this conference, Flyaway Kids Bed was immediately accepted for use on board major long-distance carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and KLM. Today it's accepted on over 50 airlines with the list of airlines accepting it on board growing every day - check it out here!
5) Quality is Key
Now that you have a prototype that you believe in, the last step before starting production is to ensure you have a quality management process in place.
You have a legal obligation to make sure your product satisfies international safety and quality standards.
First, you need to check the legal requirements that your product is obligated to fulfill. And if like me, you are launching a product for a global consumer base, this can be a bit of a headache. So as a short-cut, I contacted INTERTEK, and asked them for a list of the physical tests and chemical requirements that they would consider important for my product.
Once you have this information, you need to check that your supplier can fulfill these requirements. But don’t take their word for it, before launching your product, make sure you have your product independently tested for official confirmation.
The next step in your quality management process is defining appropriate tests that you would like your manufacturer or a third party to perform throughout the manufacturing stage of your product.
For example, do you want them to check the raw materials for damages before starting production? Then say so! Do you want them to stress-test joins? Then say so! Define which percentage of products should be tested and provide them with a document to record results.
Finally, make sure you are at the factory when they start producing your product. Check that the first production samples are the same as your master prototype and make sure that your quality management process is understood by the team producing your product.
Bringing your own product idea to life is such an exciting and personally rewarding experience. And of course, there are more steps involved with developing a product: market research, competitor analysis, consumer testing, patenting, margin calculation, packaging development, supply chain logistics and the list goes on and on…
It can seem overwhelming, but by taking a deep breath and just focusing on one step at a time, you’ll slowly move towards your goal.
Finally, never forget why you are launching your product in the first place.
Your story will inspire, motivate and bring people together to help you along the way.
So let's not wait another 50 years to find a new way to move through life with our kids, the world needs parents to shake up the world of children's products for the benefit of other new parents!
Do you have a great idea simmering away in the back of your mind? I’d love to hear about it.
Have a fantastic day!