My Journey with Bug Grip
By Jennifer Lake •
Bug Grip’s founder Jennifer Lake talks to us about her universal clamping grip, move into entrepreneurship and the value of inclusive design.
I am first and foremost a proud mum to three children. I am also registered disabled from an industrial injury, but I have never let this stop me, especially when it comes to pursuing my hobbies. These include acting as a football scout for a Premier League team, guest lecturing at universities and mentoring for Innovate UK Edge. Sports have always been a passion of mine, something which I have passed on to my children. My sons play football in the UK and are at university in London, and my daughter throws the hammer & shot put for u15s.
My inspiration for Bug Grip was from having my eldest son Kyle, it was him in the pushchair when I tried to navigate the pushchair and the shopping trolley. Kyle will be 22 this year; this just tells you how long I have been on this journey.
My Journey Into Entrepreneurship
I developed Bug Grip purely by accident, and out of great need. After having my first child and being stuck home due to complications, I decided that the cabin fever was too much: I had to get out. And while there was no one available to help me, I found the strength to get myself into the car with my baby to pick up a few things at the supermarket. I had big dreams to finally get out of the house and shop for myself and could not see a problem – stroller to balance me, walking stick tucked into the frame and pushing a shopping trolley! I did not see any red flags at all – I convinced myself I could do this. However, the reality was very different.
There I was on the starting line, like formula one racing, raring to go. As you can imagine, it did not go as planned. It all came to a head with the shopping trolley drifting off to the left and the pushchair straying to the right, and me battling in the middle! From the outside it must have looked like a comedy sketch, but internally it left me embarrassed, upset, and frustrated. I left that Tescos supermarket with nothing but nappies and a chocolate bar to cheer me up. It was then that I realised I could not complete a shop on my own, with a disability and a pushchair. I would always need help. It was this realisation that destroyed my confidence.
However when I realised that I was not alone in this situation. Surely everyone with children must go shopping or out and about? How were parents, especially those with disabilities, supposed to get around?
This was my eureka moment.
I had a problem to solve, and my first very crass prototype was born that day, formed from two hair clips and a hair band. There was an absolute need for this product in the market as nothing existed with such flexibility and universality. That was 20 years ago.
It was in 2003 that my father returned a loan to me. I had found a local business venture called BBV on Harlesden High St and met my first mentor George Poole. He was instrumental in the making of my prototype for Bug Grip. I won Mother of Invention and Channel 5’s The Richard Hammond show, as well as being featured on Business Daily at the BBC, and attended Babson University in Boston, the university for entrepreneurs through the NETS Programme at Westminster university. Bug Grip became a case study for the up-and-coming innovation cohort for Westminster University NETS Innovation Programme, which is now Middlesex University Baker Street site.
Bug Grip has been through three design changes and adaptations to make it inclusive to everyone.
Our latest inclusivity adaption is having an audible click for those with visual problems. We have also included an anti-theft solution by having a gap where you can put cable ties so it can stay connected to your property.
Product development and inclusivity
I have been lucky to test the product on my friends and family, who have inspired improvements and found flaws. The next testing stage will see the product made in the right material with a compliance company so that we can fault-find before it goes to market. Bug Grip requires a higher duty of care as it is to be used with children, and this means more in-depth testing. My Kickstarter campaign has started so that we can include all of these valuable elements to ensure that the product’s quality is of a high standard.
The barriers to market are always the same: finance and connections, and being female and disabled. I struggle to travel and promote Bug Grip around the country, especially with children in tow. This has also made it harder to find the time to focus on Bug Grip, which remained a part time hobby up until 2019. It was encouraging to win the Spark 19 award with the Design Council and the Sir Stelios award for disabled entrepreneurs. It has shown me that I am on the right track.
The gap in the market is enormous even today, with everyone struggling to juggle work & home life and their families, especially us with disabilities. Bug Grip can give you an extra pair of hands when you need it, which is great for those with children or disabilities has evolved into a secondary and tertiary market. Bug Grips universal design makes it appealing to people across professions and walks of life, such as campers, cyclists, disabled walkers, those in the music and film industry, DIYers, and those who like to travel. It was during my time at the Design Council on their Sparks Innovation programme of which I won a grant to push Bug Grip to market.
My mentors told me to not think big, but to think huge as its potential is massive.
I would say to all entrepreneurs, designers, and researchers to try and make your product inclusive to as many users as possible. This inclusivity will extend to your sales and reach into other industries and help more people, who will be willing to buy the product. Inclusive design was my starting point: I designed my product for a person who has a disability and needs confidence to go out on their own. I saw how it could help new parents with babies, wheelchair users who had a walking stick for short distances, older people with walkers. Our large cog, for example, is ergonomically friendly to those who have arthritis, missing digits or RSI (repetitive strain injury.) Finally, be confident in your product, as confidence and tenacity are key to success.
For those who wish to support Bug Grip and bring it to market, we have just launched a Kickstarter which can be seen here:
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This story has been categorised as:Design & Innovation
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