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The Bib Co: Mucky babies give Helene a bright idea

'I thought about it when my first son James began to eat solids, then when Blake came along I just had to find a better way to catch the food. I didn’t mean to design a new bib, I just fell upon it'.
- Helene Murphy, The Bib Co.

Top tips

  •  research the market thoroughly
  •  identify the potential 
  •  study the competition

The Business

The first unit of The Bib Co’s single product range is yet to roll off the production line but the target market identified is massive.

Any parent who has despaired at the mess left behind after feeding solids to a baby will surely appreciate the remarkable Mucky Bubba catch-all bib, made from a breathable, non-stick, easy-to-wash material and the brainchild of Chelsea mum Helene Murphy.

“I thought about it when my first son James began to eat solids, then when Blake came along I just had to find a better way to catch the food. I didn’t mean to design a new bib, I just fell upon it.”

Fellow mums admired and envied the unique bib and soon Helene was making Mucky Bubbas for others from her kitchen table. So popular were they she realised that here was an opportunity.

The Challenge

Helene’s original plan was to patent and licence Mucky Bubba bibs and then leave the business side to others. She worked in customer service for a major bank while husband John was an electrician; they weren’t product developers.

But advice received at Small Business Victoria’s Commercialising Your New Idea workshop, part of the Small Business Workshop and Seminar program, encouraged Helene to strike out on her own.  The initiative includes five and a half hours of workshop time, run over two sessions, along with two mentoring sessions.

“I haven’t an artistic bone in my body but now I’m looking for a manufacturing partner and working with a graphic designer to develop a logo and marketing materials.”

The key to Helene’s bib is its design and the material it’s made of, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), a hybrid material somewhere between hard plastic and soft silicone. It’s popular as a protector for mobile phones.

The Assistance

Inspired by what she had learned at the Commercialising Your New Idea workshop, Helene registered The Bib Co. She has estimated the set up will cost about $50,000.

Course facilitator Brian Oldland was very encouraging, helping her lodge the patent and giving tips about how to prevent the product being copied, such as making the different components in different places. Helene has also had one session with an experienced small business mentor and will have another when her production line is ready to roll.

Helene was advised to research the market thoroughly, identifying the potential for her bib and studying the competition. She knew parents wanted a bib that was simple, safe and easy to clean.

“The workshop taught us a simple price point calculation that included costs, profits and factors such as currency fluctuations and volume discounts. Using this formula I settled on $15 per bib which will provide enough margin to invest in marketing and further product development.”

Business Today / The Future

Helene could manufacture her bibs in China but would prefer a supplier closer to home and is investigating options in New Zealand. All going to plan, the first Mucky Bubba bibs will be on sale within six months.

And she’s soon to accept the final version of her website from Melbourne-based designer Linda Bradley at Lollipop Creative Studio.

Helene knows that one product doesn’t make a business, so she’s already thinking about other products that can be adapted from her design.

“There’s plenty of potential in all forms of assisted eating, from children through to aged care feeding needs. In two years time I’d like to be working at it full-time, possibly with one other employee involved – it might even be my husband, John.”

The result

Helene Murphy had a bright idea for a better babies bib but didn’t know where to take it. After attending a Commercialising Your New Idea workshop, Helene started her own business and registered a product name, Mucky Bubby. Now she’s negotiating with suppliers to set up production and marketing.

“I haven’t an artistic bone in my body but now I’m looking for a manufacturing partner and working with a graphic designer to develop a logo and marketing materials.”

- Helene Murphy