A smart idea to help children make their own beds? Read on, writes Jo-Marie Baker
When Suzie Finnigan bought a set of bunk beds for her son, she thought life would be easier.
Instead, they caused endless frustration, which has led to a new business, one the Tauranga mother hopes will solve a daily chore for parents everywhere.
Finny & Co's bedsheets ingeniously solve messy beds.
Even preschoolers can manage them all by themselves.
The clever design means the top sheet never comes untucked so the bed is much easier to make, especially if it sits right up against a wall.
The Matua mum-of-three believes her invention will help Kiwi children become more self-reliant, and save their parents precious time on busy mornings.
"Too often we parents think it's easier to just do the job ourselves. But those self-management skills are really important for children to develop. I love the idea that kids can take responsibility for making their own beds and it's not something you have to nag them about."
The entrepreneurial idea took shape in 2009, when Suzie and her husband, Matt, bought bunk beds for their son, Lucas.
"We had a small house so thought it would be a great space saver. But it soon became apparent they were really difficult to make," Suzie recalls.
"Trying to tuck the top sheet in (especially on the top bunk) was just such a nightmare. I ended up leaving the beds alone. Ignoring them was the best option."
An internet search for sheets designed specifically for bunk beds proved fruitless, so Suzie began experimenting with her own sheets and a sewing machine.
Too often we parents think it's easier to just do the job ourselves. But those self-management skills are really important for children to develop.
"I started off by sewing the top sheet to the fitted sheet down one side and across the foot of the bed which worked. But once you'd done it, you couldn't rearrange the bedroom and have the bunks accessible from the other side. Also, with kids, the top sheet gets pulled around a lot and it just ended up ripping.
"Also, washing was a nightmare because you had a whole lot of fabric joined together. It was difficult to dry and fold them up again to put away in a cupboard."
Suzie was sure there had to be a simple solution. Fifteen or more failed prototypes in her garage are evidence of her determination.
"I've been to the shops so many times and bought sheet sets and started to modify them before thinking, 'This isn't going to work - next one'.
"But once I figured out a solution, friends started to ask me to make some for them. It got to the point where I couldn't keep up with orders. I decided that actually this is something that could help heaps of people."
So Finny & Co was born.
Suzie is a former food technologist and product development manager for Fonterra.
While she was at home raising her children, Grace, Lucas and Meg over the past decade, she has completed a Masters of Business (MBA).
"That gave me an understanding of marketing, economics, how to structure a start-up, accounting and the law. It probably gave me the confidence, knowing that I had a base of knowledge, to step out and do this."
Her first shipment of Finny & Co sheets arrived in January, and was a surreal moment for the 38-year-old, who has meticulously designed her product, packaging and brand to appeal to Kiwi families.
"I wanted a high-quality product but one that would portray New Zealand's relaxed lifestyle and the fun of having kids. This is something for all ages, not just preschoolers, so I didn't want the product to look baby-ish."
Already, her sheet sets are helping families around Tauranga solve an age-old problem.
Otumoetai mum Vanessa Hays bought a set and says mornings are now less stressful and her daughter, Anna, is enjoying making her bed by herself.
"At age 6, having that independence is important. She is learning to self-manage some daily jobs around the house and this gives her that 'grown up' independent factor of not needing me to help her," Vanessa says.
"Life is easier because she can make her own bed simply by pulling the top sheet over and attaching the buttons on the sides. Having one side done up already makes be-making quicker when there's limited time in the morning for getting ready for school."
Now that her Finny & Co on-line store is up and running (finnyandco.co.nz), Suzie, who has an eye for creative bedroom design, is already planning to expand her product range.
"I have lots of other ideas, including flannelette sheets for winter and different coloured fabrics. I'd love to have a set where you can mix and match patterns. I'm always keen to hear feedback from people on my Facebook page about what other products or designs they'd love to see next."
Her sheet sets, which have a 250-thread count, come in New Zealand standard Single ($79) and King Single ($89). To watch a 60-second demo of how they work, see finnyandco.co.nz.