Innovative reward system gets top marks all round thanks to EEN and Innovate UK

Innovative children's reward system Tots Up thrives thanks to EEN support. 

Implementing a worthwhile and sustainable reward system for children aged two to six has long been an issue. Ensuring high levels of engagement, easy understanding, immediate results and inability to track rewards remotely often means the system fails.

Sally Marks has managed to address all of these issues with her innovative Tots Up Big Red Bus reward chart and accompanying app; the only one in the country to do so.

Her UK-made reward system utilises 10 magnetic characters at a bus stop, which are moved onto the bus following good behaviour. When the bus is full, the child is rewarded. The app ensures that rewards continue out-and-about by allowing the user to continue adding passengers and receive immediate rewards.

Innovation is fundamental to Tots Up, from its high-quality design, its development process, all the way through to its accompanying app. Sally used her experience from her own children; previous work with others with Autistic Spectrum Disorder; work with educational psychologists; focus groups; and intensive testing on 100 sample children.

Being a new business, only founded in 2016, Sally believed the difficult part of launching the new product would be the development stage. Having successfully secured funding for development and launch through a crowd funding campaign, she soon discovered that targeting the correct market was the real challenge.

Featured on Plymouth University’s GAIN 20, innovate2succeed’s (i2s) David Riddell spotted Tots Up and approached Sally to offer support; specifically Innovation in Sales and Marketing, Understanding Funding and Grants, and Strategic Business Development.

Enterprise Europe Network’s (EEN) i2s specialist was appointed to help support strategic direction; discovering who the customer was and working out exactly what Tots Up could do for them. The specialist guided Tots Up through ensuring the business was flexible and allowed for continuous improvement based on the customer.

For Access to Funding, the programme helped Sally understand appropriate funding, how to find suitable partners for joint bids, and showed her how to write winning bids.

In addition, i2s provided invaluable advice on Sally’s marketing strategy, utilising social media for customer feedback and implementing innovative techniques for attaching new customers. The customer feedback, especially, was a revelation, and allowed Sally to change the way she marketed her product.

Sally Marks, creator of Tots Up, said:

“The innovate2succeed advice was excellent. From where the company was before the help, to where it is now, it clearly showed what I was doing well and what I needed to improve. It has given me a much better understanding of my future strategy.

“I had never had any business coaching before and being able to take advantage of that free help was amazing. At the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t have been in the position to fund that level of expertise. The innovate2succeed funding has been invaluable.”

Following on from innovate2succeed advice, Sally has won several awards, many of which she believed were out of reach due to the early stage of the product. Thanks to i2s’ encouragement, Sally won two silver awards in the Mumii Family Awards 2017 - Best Educational App and Best Parenting App - and the Weston and District Chamber of Commerce Award for Innovation.

Following the programme’s advice, Tots Up is currently in the process of applying for funding for a new product. Internationalisation is also part of the future strategy due to being connected with the Department of International Trade and access to Amazon EU.

Innovation will continue to feature highly in Tots Up’s future, whether that be through new designs that capture the attention of children, approaches to schools or changes to the app for use abroad.

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