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Working on a safe bet for putting bums on seats

Safety issues prompted Grainne Kelly to come up with an innovative product: the world’s first inflatable car booster seat for children. Kelly, who is managing director of Derry based BubbleBum, said her invention provided parents with a safe, cost effective alter native to the traditional car booster seat.

‘‘The law in both Britain and Ireland states that children must use a booster seat until at least the height of 135cm or 11 years, whichever comes first,’’ said Kelly.

‘‘However, barriers to booster seat usage included the inconvenience of conventional rigid seats, high cost and resistance from children to use a ‘baby seat’ as they got older. BubbleBum removes these barriers by being portable and convenient and cheaper than renting a booster seat from a car hire firm.’’

The bright, cheerful BubbleBum booster seat has been designed to appeal to children aged between three and 11. It is easily deflated and folds flat for storage.


The Daily dilemma

Kelly worked in the travel industry prior to establishing BubbleBum in 2009. She said the product was not intended for ongoing use in the main family car, but as a lightweight, adaptable alternative that parents could use in taxis, during holiday transfers or while car pooling.

‘‘As a mother and travel counsellor, I was aware of the daily dilemma parents and carers faced,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘Many clients complained that, even though they had booked their booster seats with the car hire firm in advance,
they were rarely available. ‘‘We conducted our own survey in schools across the North in 2010 and discovered that almost 40 per cent of children were traveling to and from school with no booster seat.’’

BubbleBum employs four people full-time, including an international sales manager, who is based in Britain. The company has sold 60,000 car booster seats, generating revenues of about €1.36 million. ‘‘BubbleBum is currently sold in 120 retail outlets across Britain and Ireland, including majors such as Mothercare, Toys‘R’Us and Amazon,’’ said Kelly.


Distributing worldwide

‘‘We sell through our distributors in 15 countries worldwide, including Singapore, the UAE, Israel, Denmark and Russia.

‘‘We have recently launched in Migros, the biggest retailer in Switzerland with 450 stores, and we have agreed deals with BMI Airlines and Emirates High Street.’’

Before BubbleBum can be sold in a new market, the product has to comply with the relevant regulations in each country.

‘‘I oversee all compliance and regulatory requirements, as sometimes information can get lost in translation,’’ Kelly said.

‘‘One wrong move could delay our progress indefinitely. It may be something as simple as a date on a label, but it is different for each country.’’


Increasing international sales

Kelly now plans to increase the company’s international sales in markets like the US and France.

‘‘We have a number of new products in mind, but for now do not wish to dilute our focus,’’ she said.

‘‘We are launching our e-commerce platform in the US soon and will have a different distribution model over there.

‘‘A new colour for the product will be released in time for September’s International Trade Show in Cologne.’’

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