Mumpreneur and Dadpreneur Profile: Neil and Laura of Magic Whiteboard

Watch out for Magic Whiteboard at this weekend’s Baby Show in London. You will also be able to buy Magic Blackout – ideal to block out light in any nursery bedroom window.

Magic Whiteboard logoName of Business: Magic Whiteboard Limited – create a whiteboard from a roll – anywhere, in seconds!

Your Name and Age: Neil 37, Laura 31

Tell us about your family: 

We have been married for 7 years and live in Worcester, I used to work for the NHS at the local hospital, I was Head of Continuous Improvement, Laura is currently on maternity leave with our 12 weeks old son Morley. Laura works at Worcestershire County Council. We also have a 3 year old daughter, Ella.

Magic White Board use_itWhat did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?

I originally had the idea for Magic Whiteboard, the birth of our daughter Ella in 2006 inspired me to do something different – Magic Whiteboard is accurately registered on Ella birthday.

Laura and myself had full time jobs and we did Magic Whiteboard and evenings and at weekends.

I worked for the NHS – my job involved improving things to make it better for patients and staff. I has worked in NHS for 15 years. After the Den I went partime at the hospital for 6 months, however the business grew too much and I am now working full time for Magic Whiteboard.

Laura continued to work at the County Council – commissioning support officer and help out at evenings and at weekends. Since June 2009 Laura has been on maternity leave and helps out  – fitting things around looking after Morley.

When did you launch?

We launched Magic Whiteboard 3 years old  – June 2006. Things really started to take off in August 2008 following our appearance on Dragons’ Den. 

How did you get started?

I had the original idea because I used to train a lot of people in my job at the NHS. I used to use a lot of flipcharts. I was fed up using these – there are cumbersome, you waste a lot of paper and they are not easy to carry.

I managed to track down someone who could make Magic Whiteboard and ordered £1000.

What research did you do before launching?

Not that much really, we knew from our jobs (we both did a lot of training) that there was a need for a portable whiteboard on a roll that could be used anywhere

How have you funded the business?

We funded the business by still working and from savings.

How do you promote your business? What has worked best?

We initially started to promote online, trade shows, advertising in magazine (this is expensive and often does work). The best thing we did was go on Dragons’ Den – sales increased 10 times overnight. Which? magazine and Good Housekeeping recommended our products was a great boost for sales.

What has worked well about your business?

Following Dragons Den – Theo Paphitis started to sell Magic Whiteboard in all 240 Ryman stationery stores immediately. Office Depot and Viking Direct some followed.

Developing new products is key to success – we started with Magic Whiteboard (a portable whiteboard on a roll that sticks to walls, doors, windows using static, and leaves no marks). We then developed Magic Blackout Blind – this is a quick and easy way to blackout windows and helps stop children waking up at dawn due to bright sunshine. It helps parents and children sleep longer. It a temporary way to blackout windows.

We have also developed Magic Blackboard – a black version of Magic Whiteboard that you use with chalk and chalk markers. Ideal for using with children.

 What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it? When the pound devalued against the euro this caused our costs to increase 20% overnight. This obviously effects the profitability of the business

How do you fit in work with the family?

We take the kids with us to trade shows, Laura manages the child care and I am now running the business full time. Since leaving the hospital I am spending more time with the kids and we are doing more together as a family of the weekend.

What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?

You need to be very determined and patient. The way the market works is designed to be very slow – especially for new products. We will need to work extremely hard to get your product to market.

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