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Founder Spotlight Zoe Chapman | Foundervine
Zoe Chapman

Founder Spotlight: Meet Zoe

Zoe invented an innovative, award-winning, sustainable and compact solution that’s become the latest parenting hack and a game changer for potty training and children with disabilities.

We recently spoke with Zoe about her journey setting up Kiddiwhizz, the important milestones and recognition of the journey so far, and the challenges she had to overcome on her entrepreneurial journey!

Can you introduce Kiddiwhizz?

Kiddiwhizz is a solo Mum founded a start-up and is home to the world’s first handheld eco-toilet for kids. The Whizzer is an innovative, award-winning compact solution that’s become the latest parenting hack and a game changer for potty training and children with disabilities.

Zoe and her son

What motivated you to start Kiddiwhizz?

Back in 2015 I was potty training my son and caring for my disabled Dad. I was desperate to find a product that was compact enough to fit in a packed bag and that would offer both privacy and a quick on-the-go toilet solution for them both. I failed to find anything suitable so I used my background in product design and my own specification brief to invent the Whizzer.

It took 6 years to finally be ready to bring my idea on paper to life due to my own ill health plus all the funding and logistical elements that are underestimated and overlooked when starting a business, let alone manufacturing a brand new invention. I was desperate to give it a go, as I knew there was a gap in the market for the Whizzer but just didn’t know where to start.

At the end of the first lockdown, September 2020, with a boost of help from the network I’d been growing in the background, I saw the council was funding a new programme for start-ups so I applied. I was one of the first Foundervine applicants and the rest, as they say, is history!

Female Start-up of the Year 2021 event

What are some of the important milestones and recognitions in your journey so far?

Throughout the real starting-up phase of my business, I was enrolled in the Foundervine LIFT: Survive & Pivot incubator programme which ended the same month that I launched my website for pre-orders.

I’ll never forget the day I filmed an interview for ITV news and then delivered my final business presentation to my Foundervine cohort, programme leaders and council funders while juggling homeschooling in the midst of another lockdown. I got voted for the best presentation and I still have a video I took with my son who sat by my side throughout as I burst into tears.

I just couldn’t believe I’d got that far and my hard work was finally being recognised.

Since then the milestones have come in thick and fast. Started out by fulfilling orders with the first batch of mass produced Whizzers then winning awards and having meetings with mentors I could only dream of learning from.

Reaching the finals of Female Start-up of the Year 2021 and pitching at the first live in-person event was definitely another unforgettable milestone not to mention receiving an email from a retailer that fellow brands have waited years to approach. So to not only have my product requested but to negotiate the contracts and logistics when I was still not into a year of selling yet was definitely a milestone.

Skip forward to where I am now, about to host a pop-up in Boots which is the store I referred to in every pitch I made (come and meet me in Watford during the half term!) and have been chosen by both Google and Amazon for new exciting business opportunities.

However, I’m still not able to take a salary so that’s my next milestone!

Zoe with Whizzers

What’ve been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your entrepreneurial journey?

There are so many I wouldn’t know where to start. Funding has definitely been a constant threat. Thinking back to less than a year ago when I could barely afford the postage to send a Whizzer to an influencer or celebrity then sitting there praying they’d post something, anything on social media so that I could get myself out of the crippling debt I’d put myself into.

It’s been the most disheartening part of the process for sure. Knowing that there are people who love and use the Whizzers I’ve sent them along with my story and could make my business successful with a single story or post but don’t most likely because I’m not able to pay their fees.

Juggling the business while being a single mum is definitely the hardest challenge. When you’re working all day and night, you’re exhausted, stressed out and anxious then have to keep on top of ‘normal’ life too, the Mum-guilt is a killer. I just hope he forgives me one day when it hopefully all pays off.

Whizzers

Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting up?

I think if I’d known what I’ve been through with no assurance that it would work in the end then I’d never have taken the risk in the first place! I’m used to working long hours, having no social life, living on the breadline and risking my mental health- (and that’s just motherhood!)

So I was willing to still pursue but nothing prepares you for the resilience you’ll need when trying to get the balance. I also hoped that the sales would come in quicker and greater, yet with all the milestones I’ve achieved I still can’t afford to get someone on board to help me. I’ve not even run an ad campaign yet.

Any top tips for entrepreneurs struggling with structure?

The chances are that if you’re starting out you’ll be taking on every role in the business. I was and still am. I was also designing all my packaging, promo and website which are the parts I loved alongside the bits I’ve hated like finances, IP law and the biggest time drain on social media. I’d spend an insane amount of time on Instagram, engaging and creating content because that was the only way to reach my target audience. The fact is that it’s hard to get structure when everything needs to be done by you and there are only 24hrs in a day.

Breaking your day into tasks e.g social media at a set time with set goals, checking emails only at certain times and always prioritising what needs to be done with the biggest long term effect instead of quick tasks with minimal impact. However, if you struggle with focus or managing your day then setting yourself smaller realistic goals can help and that’s where the mini tasks can come in. A tick list that is achievable and can be replicated into a routine could be a gentle way to start.

How has your experience with Foundervine supported you on your journey?

The community of Foundervine and the networks it is connected with have been critical in my journey to the realisation that I am now a Founder, an entrepreneur and a business owner. It still feels odd to say it but surrounding myself with a community of like minded individuals, connecting with the incredible mentors and learning from them, have all been part of the Kiddiwhizz journey.

I don’t know where I’d be now without the support I received, which is why I always recommend people to check out what new and exciting programmes they have coming up. There are so many free courses and accelerator programmes now, that it’s a no-brainer if you’re serious about starting or growing your business.

Entrepreneurial communities can be such powerful support networks — do you have any asks or gives to the vine community?

I guess if you’re a parent check out the Whizzer on the Kiddiwhizz website- it’ll be the best long lasting travel product you’ll ever buy!

If you’re not a parent, tell a parent or even a stockist, whether it’s a big retailer or a small independent store. My goal is to have the Whizzer selling worldwide so I need everyone to know about it!

If you buy directly from my website I’ve set up the code FOUNDERVINE15 for 15% off and free delivery.

Any final words of wisdom for our Vine Community?

I’m not sure about wisdom, but I can say that for some crazy reason I thought it was possible to invent a product and turn it into a business without investment. I believed I could compete against established brands despite everyone saying it was impossible.

However much I’ve cried out ‘I can’t do this anymore!!’ over the last 18 months, something inside me just wouldn’t quit. I think that’s the entrepreneurial spirit that lives within us. If you want to think big and you have the plan to make it happen, don’t wait for someone’s approval, just surround yourself with the right people and smash it until people have no choice but to respect you and your journey.

Lastly, whatever your political opinion, this week Rishi Sunak sat down with me and another great small business called Drums and Flats (amazing chicken- check them out!). He thanked us for being brave enough to start our businesses and become entrepreneurs. He said that’s what this country’s success is built on! If I can do it, so can you! Good luck!

It’s surreal to think that when I finished the Foundervine course I was hopeful but was at the start of a scary time when I was constantly on the verge of financial bankruptcy. I just couldn’t secure the funds I needed from investment or grants however much I pitched. It was a desperate year and with each pitch I did I felt like it could be a pivotal moment, yet it was still a milestone in the process of learning and resilience.

The Vine Community brings together a network of Changemakers ready to lead and transform our society by making innovation open to anyone, anywhere.

Want to learn more about the Vine Community and how to get involved? Get in touch!

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