Washing your baby’s bottles is just one of those tasks: you know it’s super important, yet it feels like the biggest chore in the world. But what if it could clean itself?
It’s a daydream you’ve probably already had, elbow-deep in hot, soapy water – oh the things you could do with all that free time. One mum had the same daydream, only now, she’s turned it into a reality. Meet Shannon Gilleland, the inventor of the Pronto Bottle – the world’s first self-cleaning baby bottle!
What was your inspiration to start your own business?
I’ve had three previous businesses, but the inspiration for this one specifically was my daughter – and the sheer frustration I felt at how old school the parenting process seemed to be.
When did you know the timing was ‘right’?
I spent about six to eight months just toying with the idea while I was looking after my daughter. When I finally started researching the idea properly and talking to parents in earnest, I not only saw the hassle that parents were experiencing – seeing prams overloaded with nappy bags, mums juggling the baby bottle process, kitchen sinks overloaded with bottles, mums trying to get time to themselves in-between feeds and baby naps – but continuously received the response, “Oh my god, why hasn’t this been done already? This is amazing.” That response came from new parents as well as those whose kids were a fair bit older – and some even out of the house. It didn’t seem to matter who I spoke to, whether it was an Uber driver or a fellow business owner: they all had the same reaction.
How did you make your big break?
Honestly, there hasn’t been some magical big break moment – just a lot of blood, sweat and tears! So much work has gone into the development of this product, from when I first started researching different ways that we could actually solve the problem, through to interviewing parents at various times, setting up the crowdfunding campaign and creating our first prototype. It’s all been focused work. It’s been numerous little steps that, when you look back at it, probably seem like a big break – but really it’s been a very deliberate and calculated process.
What was your training prior to starting your own business?
The first lot of training I did was my Bachelors, 10 years ago. I actually majored in Animation, but somehow throughout our course work I kept falling into project manager roles and even wound up with an internship at a game studio for three months. That experience flourished into me co-founding my first business, a mobile games studio, with a friend and fellow student. We ran that for two-and-a-half years together before I move on to work for Electronic Arts (EA). After my contract ended there, I went back and studied Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
I’ve been able to apply all of those skills to this business – everything from the project management experience through to the design thinking processes from the entrepreneurship course.
What are the biggest challenges of being a parent and a business owner?
Oh man, where do I even start. The toughest part is probably going from being the main caregiver to working on my business full-time, but stilling winding up being the main caregiver when someone gets sick. It doesn’t sound like a big thing, but when you’re trying to get your business off the ground but have to take two or three unexpected days off every couple of weeks because your child has a really bad cold, gastro, fever, etc., it’s almost soul destroying at times.
Imagine that important meeting you’ve been trying to set up for weeks, and finally manage to nail a time in your diary for, then your child gets sick and you’re set back weeks trying to find time to schedule it again. Or you’ve booked into a networking event, but that afternoon you’re called home because your child has gastro – now you’ve missed out on the valuable opportunity to network with someone who could potentially help you move your business forward. You get the idea, right?
I have the utmost respect for anyone who is the main caregiver in the family who is trying to launch a business at the same time. It’s no wonder some businesses take so long to get off the ground.
What is your top tip for maintaining a work/life balance?
Throw the rule book out the window and realise that your work/life balance is what you and your partner and family make it, not what everyone else expects it to be.
I currently work Monday to Sunday but, once every three or four weeks, I take a day off during the week with my partner and we just spend the day together. We turn our phones off (mostly) and go out to lunch or dinner, and chill at home chatting about life, the universe and everything… usually with a wine in hand.
I also try to ensure that when I’m home at night, before my daughter goes to bed, so that I’m there and present for her. Lately, I like to chill with my partner on the couch watching whatever the latest episode on Netflix is that’s taken our interest. It’s these private little moments we have together where we get to unwind and share our days, trials and tribulations.
What is your biggest learning since starting your own business? Is there anything you’d do differently?
This is such a hard question to answer. At the very beginning I hired a mentoring company and, while my initial thought is that I wouldn’t have hired them if I had my time over, the few gold nuggets of advice from them are what sent me “out of the building” and gave me my “bingo” product discovery moment. Were those moments worth what I paid? I’m not sure. Would I have pivoted and come up with the product idea I’m working on without them? Maybe not. When you’re bootstrapping your business, handing over every penny makes you question everything – so you can see why this is a hard one to answer.
What do you do in your spare time to keep yourself sane?
Spare time? What spare time? Haha! But honestly, I like being busy or, at the very least, having my brain engaged. I listen to podcasts when I’m driving my car, plan my day when I’m on the train to work, read books about my favourite industry mentors or how to be more efficient when I’m on the plane – it’s just the way my brain works. It’s the happiest when it’s stimulated. That’s why I think taking time out with my partner on certain days is so important: to balance out how focused and switched on I can be.
What’s one thing other people should do who are looking to start their own business?
Starting a business is like having a baby. You’re never going to have enough money, you’re never going to have enough time, it’s never going to SEEM like the right time. Taking this journey will stretch you to your financial limits, then break those limits and stretch you even further. Having yourself as financially stable as possible is highly advisable.
Other than that, get a really good network of like minded people around you to support you as you go through this. If you’re a solo founder like me, this could mean joining an awesome co-working space that has similar or complementing businesses. This means that when you have those days where the proverbial **** has hit the fan, then you have a network of people you can call on to help you through it.
Finish this sentence: I can’t get through a work day without…
God, I’m going to sound like such a nerd here but… without my trusty paper planner, pencil and eraser. Nothing allows me to get my thoughts out quicker, and is faster to reference than the notes I’ve scribbled onto this planner. There’s no fussing about trying to log into a program on my computer, forgetting my login and then trying for the 10th time to remember my password. Nope, just whip out my planner from my bag and start ready or writing, that’s it.
I warned you I’m a nerd.
To support Pronto Bottle, head to www.igg.me/at/prontobottle/x/5404409#.