The entrepreneur solving parents' mealtime struggles

The entrepreneur solving parents' mealtime struggles
Sophia Procter
Sophia ProcterMunchy Play

Posted: Fri 11th Dec 2020

Getting young children to eat their food at the dinner table is something most parents can relate to. But rather than carrying on with struggling to encourage her son to eat his greens, Sophia Procter came up with a business idea to solve the problem.

That business is Munchy Play, a range of plates that feature a built-in track for toy cars and trains to make mealtimes fun.

Sophia is now selling the products on her own website and on Amazon's online store.

She shares her inspiring story and how the Amazon Small Business Accelerator has boosted the business.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos.

If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your learning dashboard to access the e-learning. If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

How did you come up with the idea for your business?

I previously worked in PR for 15 years in senior roles at brands including British Airways, Red Bull and Barclays Bank. After returning from maternity leave at BA, I was facing redundancy but at the same time I stumbled across the idea for a child's plate with a built-in track. I took redundancy and invested every penny into developing Munchy Play.

The product was inspired by my son who was two at the time. He was a fussy eater and I needed a way to get him to the dinner table and enjoy mealtimes.  One day I put a train track around his plate and it was a breakthrough in getting him to eat! Recognising there was nothing quite like it in the market, I decided to develop the idea.

I designed the products which are proudly made and manufactured in Great Britain. I wanted the products manufactured in the UK as, despite the extra costs, it's important that I can visit the factory and know that they have best practices in place. It also means I can support the UK economy, something close to my heart.

What start-up challenges did you face and how have you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges was learning how to sustain and grow, rather than move straight to the next product launch.

The timing was difficult launching in lockdown but being online was a big help. I had to learn how to do online and pay-per-click advertising. It has been expensive, but once you understand your products and your customers it definitely helps. I am still perfecting the balance of how much to put in to get the right amount back.

I have also had to find the balance of using sales messages to encourage people to buy the products but also not bombard customers with promotional content.

Instagram has been a key tool. I've used it to speak to other mums which has helped me interact with potential customers and learn what they want.

I want to be able to constantly evolve to what is happening in the world. My strategy is to be agile and respond to trends.

Why did decide to sell on Amazon's online store and what benefits has it brought your business?

When I first stumbled across an idea for a kids' plate with a built-in track, I went straight to Amazon to see if I could buy it. Realising there was nothing quite like it on the market, I decided I would be the one to do it.

This initial instinct of shopping Amazon has stuck with me through the process, knowing that it's the go-to destination for parents. This was reinforced when I did face-to-face research. I quite literally went up to parents on the street, thrusted my plate in their hands and asked them what they thought and where they would buy it. Amazon came up top every time.

It was always in our business plan to launch on Amazon. Not only does it go out of its way to support small businesses, but it has a robust brand registration policy to protect brand owners.

What I hadn't planned for was launching my business during a global pandemic. At a time when retailers weren't onboarding new brands and had surplus overstock, I was never more glad to be focusing our efforts on the digital landscape.

Being on Amazon has brought huge benefits to our business. Not only the kudos that goes with being an Amazon Prime seller, but also the visibility and search that comes with it. It has allowed us to grow and scale our business and reach new audiences at the same time. There's so much potential to reach global markets too.

I've also been hugely grateful for the training, support and guidance through the Amazon Small Business Accelerator programme, which has been a lifeline during these socially distanced times.

What tips have you picked up from the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme?

Being a start-up, particularly during lockdown, can be quite isolating. Being able to access and watch other small business stories, knowing you aren't alone in your journey is reassuring.

Videos like the Manta Makes story is very heart-warming, especially as it's a family-run business, something that I can certainly relate to. I also found the Lavolio story about scaling up with Amazon's support very inspiring. These are female founders, like myself, who stumbled across an idea that tapped into a passion of theirs.

There are also useful videos to watch that help level-up your skill set - stuff you might not have ever considered important. I get my barcodes from GS1, and much like Enterprise Nation, they have been extremely supportive in giving us a platform to share our story, so I particularly enjoyed their short snappy tutorial on how you turn browsers into buyers.

I was able to take a lot of practical steps from this and apply it to my own business such as delving into abandoned baskets, using images that connect with users on our Instagram page and most important of all - being a virtual 'sales assistant' like you might experience in a shop. Such useful pointers.

What are your plans for the future?

To grow the brand at a steady pace. We don't want to run before we can walk as that could lead to issues down the line. However, we do have some exciting new releases planned next year, that our fans and subscribers will find out first.

We have our factory in the UK, which means that we have control and oversight of everything, and it's also great to support our economy.

Which other entrepreneurs inspire you and why?

Theo Paphitis. He does a lot of good for small businesses with his Small Business Sunday #SBS campaign which we won a few weeks ago. He worked his way to the top from humble beginnings and reminds me of my entrepreneurial Cypriot father!

Holly Tucker is a female entrepreneur who has personally given me some support through social media, as has Joe Wicks.

James Watts, founder of BrewDog, is another favourite. He has built a very cool, fun and agile brand. They are trailblazers who have their finger on the pulse.

What tips for business success would you offer other entrepreneurs?

I understand that it's not always financially possible, but if you can make your products in Britain, it's a great thing to do.

Keep a strong ethos and make sure you are passionate about what you do. People care about that.

Make sure your intellectual property is protected. Munchy Play is trademarked and we have obtained all the necessary design rights too.

Build a following and be active in your community. It is a great way to develop and learn from your customers about what they want. Don't be afraid to be on social media before you launch as it helps you to build a buzz so you don't just appear out of nowhere when you launch.

Be brave. If you are confident in your products, others will be!

Make the most of the various free and paid tools, events and workshops such as the Amazon Small Business Accelerator.

For the things you can do, learn. For the things you can't do, outsource.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos.

If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your learning dashboard to access the e-learning. If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

Sophia Procter
Sophia ProcterMunchy Play
Sophia is the CEO and founder of Munchy Play, the first-ever kids' plate featuring a built-in track for toy cars and trains. Designed for toddlers and preschoolers, the innovative kids' tableware is available on Amazon and Munchy Play. As well as winning numerous industry awards in PR, she recently scooped an Honorary Recognition Award at the Global Women's Innovation Network Awards 2020. Prior to launching her small business, Sophia held senior roles at global brands in the consumer and travel sector.  

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