Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Rowena Mead - Leeds Inventors Group 18/7/07


Rowena invented her completely malleable children’s toothbrush after having problems getting her young daughter to clean her teeth. The little girl much preferred chewing the handle, so Rowena came up with the idea of a flexible brush completely covered in bristles.

Having done a search on Google and found nothing similar, she began to think that she may have a good idea worth pursuing. She attended Venturefest in York, a free event for businesses, inventors and entrepreneurs where she met Steve Ascough of Smart Innovation. Having been through the invention process himself and now running his own business, Steve was able to give Rowena useful guidance. He pointed out the advisability of a confidentiality / non-disclosure agreement when talking to companies; and also the importance of carrying out some patent searching.

Rowena carried out an initial search on Espacenet and then came to Business & Patent Information Services for a more detailed search. She then approached Gilholm Harrison, patent attorneys, and filed a patent application and a design registration.

In order to get a bit of publicity for her product, she wrote a press release and sent it round to various newspapers. This resulted in a big article in the York Evening Press. Through a series of questionnaires she was able to get some feedback from the public and it was very encouraging.

Prototyping was difficult – it can be expensive and the number of bristles on the brush meant that it would not be easy to make. Through contacts at the inventors group she was put in touch with PDM International who came up with a 3-D animation to demonstrate the features of the brush to potential partners.

Rowena was aware that she would have to deal with large companies as that is the nature of the toothbrush market. Her research told her that niche products didn’t survive and she was aware that as this was an oral hygiene product clinical trials would be necessary. This could cost £200,000 - therefore she would need the backing of a large company. There are five key players in the market and she had great difficulties getting through to them. The only one whom she felt was accessible was Wisdom, who hold a smaller share of the market. They have been very encouraging and helped her along.

Rowena is hoping that in the not too distant future, her flexible toothbrush will be a common sight in bathrooms round the country.