Caitlin Sykes ' Opinion

Caitlin Sykes is the NZ Herald's Your Business editor

Small Business: Parent entrepreneurs - Brian Ruthie, Clevabib

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Brian Ruthie is the dad behind Clevabib, a bib he designed and patented that aims to keep babies’ laps as well as their fronts free from spills.

The Clevabib baby bib.
The Clevabib baby bib.

How did Clevabib come about?

Clevabib is a baby bib I designed and patented, which attaches to a highchair or table via suction cups to create a neat little pocket to catch mess.

My 'light bulb' moment came one day when I was cleaning baked beans off my son's designer baby trousers while he was wearing a bib. As I was muttering naughty words under my breath I pulled the bottom of the bib forward onto the highchair and said to myself "if only the bib could stick here then these trousers wouldn't be ruined".

After discussing the idea with my wife we decided the idea had merit and we needed to protect it. I met with a patent attorney and worked towards securing the rights to my idea.

Once that was done we needed a website completed in time for The Parent and Child Show in August 2013, where I debuted the product. The feedback was fabulous and, although my business is only in its first year, the opportunities and leads have been happening faster than I expected.

What's working life like for you?

As my business is very new, and we have three children, my wife and I both work full time jobs to pay the bills. I juggle the growth of our business mostly after the kids are in bed.

Working life is full on right now as we try to move forwards in our normal careers while bringing up the kids and building the business, but every little win for the bib is a step closer to our dream.

What impact has the business had on family life?

The time, effort and money needed to get a business off the ground is massive and the impact it has on the family can be consuming. We do our best to focus on work, daycare/school and household needs through the week, then fun stuff with the kids on the weekend, so it has as little effect on the family as possible.

The kids were all involved in the design and testing of the bib. They all love it and my 10-year-old is very proud of his father being an inventor, as I am constantly getting questioned by his friends or their parents.

Only my 10-year-old can really understand why I spend so much time trying to grow a business to provide a better future, but he is immensely understanding and hopeful. The five- and three-year-olds are bit young to get it and that's why I try not to let it impact the time I spend with them.

What have been some of the other challenges?

They've been mostly financial in these early stages. We had a significant house deposit saved, which we instead decided to put into the business and it got gobbled up fairly rapidly. When they say it takes a $100,000 to start a business they are not far off and it will always be a burden until I can replace it.

Other challenges have been finding out how to patent, design, manufacture, import, market and so on. I don't have any family or friends who have been down the same path, so research, trial and error have been my only options.

Sales have been an obvious reward at this early stage, but the positive feedback from people seeing or using the bib has also been very rewarding and a huge reassurance that we made the right decision to invest all our savings in it.

What are your hopes for the business?

My hope is it goes from humble beginnings to a prosperous future.

My five-year goal is to be a work-from-home Dad, spending quality time with my family. My 10-to-15-year plan is to become a successful employer with my own factory/shop. To create jobs that help the community and create an enjoyable work environment for staff is something I aspire to be able to do.

This year will demand a huge push in marketing and sales if I am to keep moving forward. I have some outlet stores requesting my product in New Zealand and a possible opportunity with an Australian distributor. Attending trade shows, more advertising and increasing our product line will also make it a very busy year, but I have every belief in my product. My determination to get the dream life motivates me to keep moving forward. I will not relent in the pursuit of happiness!

What are your top tips for other parent entrepreneurs?

Go for it! You have to be mentally prepared and financially ready - expect to put a lot in for no return in your first five years - but if you truly believe in your idea then get stuck in.


Coming up in Small Business: From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Pinterest, everyone's trying to raise their social media profile. But is it translating to sales? If you've got a cool story about how you've used social media buzz to market your business (that's had a tangible effect on the bottom line) drop me a line.

- NZ Herald

Caitlin Sykes

Caitlin Sykes is the NZ Herald's Your Business editor

Caitlin Sykes has been a business journalist for more than a decade, including eight years at the award-winning Unlimited business magazine, where she was writer, deputy editor and, most recently, editor. She currently is the Your Business editor of nzherald.co.nz, specialising in issues relevant to small and medium enterprises in the New Zealand economy.

Read more by Caitlin Sykes

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