Your Names and Ages: Rob and Ouvrielle Holmes (40 and 41)
Tell us about your family
We have been married for 15 years and have four children, Sam (12), Lucy (10), William (5) and Eddie (3). We live in a little village near the sea in South Devon. We feel very privileged and lucky to have four healthy children and live in such a beautiful part of the country.
What did you do before coming up with your business idea for Grobags and how was it making the transition?
Before starting Grobag, Rob ran another business which had no connection to the baby industry – it was a nightclub in Kingsbridge! Rob also worked as a freelance graphic designer, which came in handy for all first few years of catalogues, adverts and websites.
Ouvrielle worked for South West Arts in Exeter and was responsible for the funding of every theatre and gallery in South West England. With a Post Graduate qualification in Arts Administration, Ouvrielle learnt all the skills needed to start her own business.
When did you launch?
How did you get started? What research did you do before launching?
After our second child was born, we decided it was time to start up a business selling Grobag Baby Sleep Bags. These clever inventions had turned our first baby from a nightmare sleeper to a happy sleeping baby! We had spare offices above our other business, rescued our two best members of staff from our nightclub and started the business.
We carried out extensive research for 6 months before we sold our first Grobag. This included a steep learning curve including Safety Standards, overseas manufacturing, import and export, mail-order catalogue production, website design, logistics, manufacturing and product design – it was a very busy 6 months! This research brought us into contact with the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), the UK’s leading cot death research charity. We have worked closely with FSID since 2000 and donated over £500,000 towards safe sleep research.
How have you funded the business?
We borrowed £35,000 from the bank and then have funded ourselves organically over the last 8 years. We are fortunate to have been very well supported by our bank, even during these challenging times.
What made you think of developing the standard?
When we launched the business in 2000, there were no standards for Baby Sleep Bags at all, so we wrote our own manual of how to manufacture a safe Baby Sleep Bag. This guide was then used to form the basis of a voluntary Code of Practice, produced by the Baby Products Association. After a further 6 years, this Code of Practice was then used as the foundation for the new British Standard. All we ever wanted was to produce the safest Baby Sleep Bag possible and now this pioneering work has meant that all Baby Sleep Bags should be made to the same high standard.
What steps did you need to take to develop it?
A lot of hard work and patience. It has taken 8 years to get a British standard and in that time we have sold over 2 million Grobag Baby Sleep Bags.
What has been your biggest challenge so far in developing the standard? How have you dealt with it?
Apart from being very patient, the biggest challenge has been finding a consensus between all the other companies manufacturing and testing Baby Sleep Bags. In a situation like this there is a lot of politics, however the desire to produce a standard to safeguard the lives and health of children always overcomes any bumps in the road.
How do you fit in work with the family?
We are very lucky to have a part-time nanny who helps us, so that we can be at work 3 – 4 days a week and help at weekends if we need to travel overseas. The children have all visited one of our large trade shows, so that they can see how well Grobag is doing in the nursery industry. If it was not for the children, we would not have started our business! It’s very hard to switch off from work in the evenings and weekends and Rob has even had to make a wall holder in the kitchen for his Blackberry, so that the children get his full attention when at home! Like all working parents, it’s a constant juggling act…
Find out more at www.gro.co.uk