Local start-up bouncing back after promising Dragons Den

After appearing on the BBC’s intimidating investment show Dragons Den back in 2008, Caroline Brown wasn’t left disheartened when her product didn’t win the investment of the investors. The Dragons were very excited about the product, with Debra Meaden even telling Caroline to ensure that she gets the product into hospitals and care homes across the country. For various reasons, the product wasn’t taken to market back in 2008; but the idea would never leave Caroline and she was determined to bring the product to the masses as she’s always known that there is a need for the product in homes, hospitals and care homes across the UK.

In 2015 the walking stick holder that is versatile enough to attach to almost every surface aptly named StickStays was born again. The product has been carefully designed and developed with assistance from the HDTI (Health Design and Technology Institute) at Coventry University to provide just the right amount of flexibility to embrace the majority of walking stick types and styles. One of the original reasons the StickStays wasn’t successfully launched first time around was because of the poor quality of product designed and made in China.

This time, with the help of the Business Growth Service who covered 40% of the products manufacturing cost, it was able to be produced here in Newton Abbott, a small market town in South Devon. This meant that quality control was maintained and Caroline could keep a closer eye on what was being produced.

Caroline, who has worked in the nursing industry for a number of years; most notably as a children’s nurse in London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, spotted the problem when she was working as a community nurse around the villages of Dorset. Whilst working, Caroline found one thing that often frustrated her, the constant threat of tripping over fallen walking sticks. This was also a problem experienced by many other patients and co-workers. To her the situation caused potentially three serious problems.

The first was that the fallen stick would no longer be within arms reach of the user, which created a real challenge as the user would need help to retrieve the stick. The second was that bending down to retrieve the stick often led to patients falling over and elderly patients attaining life changing injuries. Lastly, the fallen stick can often become a dangerous trip hazard for anyone who could be walking across it whether that be in a home, hospital or care home. 

Although she has not yet begun the Start & Grow programme, Caroline is already reaping the benefits of being in contact with the Enterprise team at Business West. After deciding that she needs more funding, the team outlined the various options that would be open to her.

"After finding the suitable option the team guided me through the process and helped me to successfully secure a Virgin StartUp loan of £7,500, which will be spent on various areas of the business as it moves forward this year."

Caroline Brown, StickStays

Caroline said that she hopes to gain advice, support and education from the Start & Grow team in the coming months. Marketing is an area that she admits she will need training in, more specifically in using social networks and getting the product active on these platforms. The team will be on hand to provide knowledge and advice every step of the way. Caroline is an enthusiastic and quick learner, who is prepared to do anything to help move her business to the next level, which is a great match for both her and the Start & Grow team here at Business West.

The not so distant future is going to be incredibly important to the success of StickStays. The website store is now up and running and after initial problems with setting up an Ebay store Caroline decided to sell directly from her website using Shopify, which should be a positive in the long term. The overall aim is to consolidate her business by getting the product to the masses. Caroline plans on visiting nursing homes across the country to sell the product and she has also been in ongoing contact with the NHS regarding hospitals and local doctor’s surgeries.

Currently the product is available commercially as a two-pack which includes one strap, two sets of screws and a set of suction pads that allow you to stick it to surfaces like tile and fridges. New variations of this are in the pipe line, different colours will soon be available as well as the possibility of including Unibond tape in the pack which would provide another useful fitting option. In terms of bulk purchasing, the product is avaialbe in boxes of 50 or 100, selling bulk units is what Caroline believes will be the key to the products success.

Discover more about StickStays

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