Doddl – Ergonomic Children’s Cutlery – Women Talking talks to Catherine Dodd, founder and CEO of doddl, an award-winning, ergonomic children’s cutlery company. Cat is a mother of three, including twins, and her lightbulb moment came when she was struggling to spoon-feed them all at once. The business grew literally from her kitchen table to now being stocked in 30 countries.
What was your career Catherine before you had your children?
I worked in waste management, which at times meant going through the rubbish of people that violated recycling rules. At the time, it was a very male-dominated environment, and it had its challenges. After I had my daughter, I did return briefly but was already pregnant with the twins, so left permanently soon after.
What have been the highs and lows of producing your cutlery range?
There are so many!
The biggest high without a doubt is getting the feedback through videos and images from parents about the difference doddl makes to their lives.
Visiting china and getting the manufacturing set up properly (also links to the lows below!)
Selling our first sets at shows.
Moving from just me to growing a team and building a viable business.
Launching in new countries, proving that doddl is relevant to any child in the world!
Achieving Investment in the business at the end of 2020
Managing 3 young children while setting up the business – this was exceptionally hard and took significant resolve and determination to keep going!
The financial pressures of starting up, re-mortgaging to fund the business and trying to grow with such limited cash flow.
Difficulty in manufacturing – we shipped the tools to the UK from China so we could manufacture in the UK, but the process was far too complex that in the end our UK manufacturer couldn’t get it to work and the tools had to be shipped back to China at great expense for them to manufacture – probably set us back about a year.
Family politics: I got help from my family to get my business off the ground and this brings its own challenges and is very testing on relationships.
The constant roller coaster of ups and downs with running your own business – especially a start-up. A nice steady plateau would be great sometimes. There are many disappointments you face when you’re growing your business – especially when you have very few connections and very little funds.
How long did it take to produce the range from your original lightbulb moment?
The lightbulb moment was at the end of the summer of 2013 and we started properly selling doddl in 2016 so around 3 years
What makes your range unique and why?
At Doddl we make clever kids’ cutlery that’s specially designed to teach little hands. There is no other cutlery like doddl on the market that is so functional yet beautifully designed. Our ergonomic knives, forks and spoons are perfectly shaped to make it much easier for young children to hold and control, as well as encouraging the development of the pincer grip – a key development skill for young children. And because doddl solves the cutlery problem mealtimes are much less stressful, allowing children to also gain from the social benefits of sitting down at the table and enjoying food together rather than the whole mealtime experience being stressful and overwhelming (especially for the parent!)
What would be your advice for anyone hoping to start their own business?
If you have an idea that you truly believe it, never give up, don’t take no for an answer. Look under every stone for advice and support and build your networks. Thoroughly research both your idea (whether product or service) but also the business side in running your business. It is easy to skip some key elements around the business admin/finance side of things which will cause you problems further down the line. If you do not have big budgets, then your product or service has to really stand on its own 2 feet (i.e., be amazing) otherwise chances are, you won’t make it.
Why is it important for children to be able to feed themselves?
Encouraging independence helps development, self-feeding is a huge opportunity to help a child to develop their independence.
Self-feeding helps develop hand-eye coordination, dexterity and control.
Self-feeding helps avoid over-eating as children will learn to recognise their full signs and be able to better manage them.
If a child can feed themselves, they can really enjoy the social benefits of mealtimes, being part of the conversation, exploring new foods, textures and tastes, which is essential to their future development and their relationship with food and mealtimes.
Are there other areas you feel could be improved to help new mothers with young children?
At doddl we’re fully focused on making mealtimes easier and more enjoyable for families by taking standard everyday products that just don’t work well for children and making them better. Its simple design backed up by thorough research. Within the mealtime space, there are definitely more products that can be improved. All I’ll say right now is watch this space!
What are your future plans?
We’re focused on product development to add to the doddl range which is always exciting. We’re also committed to building on our growth in the UK as well as launching doddl in new international markets.