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Success Stories #3 – Caroline Wagstaff and BackBliss

BackBliss is an innovative product which enables you to apply sun lotion to hard to reach places without having to ask for help! Its inventor, Caroline Wagstaff, tells us how she started up her company, the impact her appearance on the Dragons’ Den had on business, and why you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.

1. When you decided to develop BackBliss, how did you establish what demand there would be for your products?

Lying on a beach I couldn’t reach my back and I was convinced that I wasn’t the only person to have this problem. I did research on the web and found there were other companies offering a similar product so I ordered these to see how they worked.

Once in my possession and in use I observed what worked well and what didn’t work so well and had my product designed accordingly.

BackBliss Red Lotion Applicator

2. You used several other names before settling on BackBliss. Has important has your brand name been to your success?

The product was originally called the Bodybaster as I invented it specifically to put suntan lotion on your back. So basting yourself to go brown seems an obvious name. However once the product was manufactured and I was selling it I realised that it had many other uses apart from suntan lotion. It was also great to apply medical creams, body moisturisers and ointments on too. It was also great for men who didn’t want to ask each other to put lotion on their backs. The project was briefly called BackBeauty but then I considered that men wouldn’t be interested in a product with beauty in the title. BackBliss is a much more fluid name and means I can also sell my backscratchers under this brand too.

Having a more generic brand name has been much easier to market but it has taken a few years to finalise the right name.

3. How did you market your product to retailers, or are most of your orders placed via your own website?

80% of my orders come direct from my own website. In the main I have approached wholesalers, but a few companies have come directly to me as well.

I am in the process of a sales campaign now where I am contacting companies directly about the product and am confident to sign up quite a few more online stores and wholesalers before the end of the year.

4. You patented BackBliss over a decade ago. Do you still have to keep on your guard against possible patent infringers?

Having a patent is all very well but you need to have the conviction to defend it if somebody does infringe it. I keep up my regular payments to the patent office to keep my patient valid and I do regular searches for competitive type products on the internet. Backbliss has a fairly distinctive look and the patented aspect of it is quite clever so I am sure I would notice if somebody else started selling a similar product.

5. What was your 2005 Dragons’ Den experience like? Was it daunting?

Daunting and exciting, but it was a case of nothing ventured nothing gained. If you get an opportunity to appear on a show like this you have to grab it with both hands.

The long term implications of appearing on the show have been amazing as I have always been able to say ‘as seen on Dragons Den’ and I have the video clip to show as well.

6. Although the Dragons liked the product, they didn’t provide funding. How did you go about securing your own funding?

It just took me longer to do what I wanted to achieve by funding it myself. I also didn’t have anybody to ask when I made mistakes but it has been a great learning experience in business and in life too.  The fact that the Dragons liked the product gave me a lot of confidence and I could understand absolutely why they didn’t feel they could make enough money from joining forces with me. But they were very encouraging by saying I had a good product and I just needed to get the message out there.

7. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?

Tell people what you are doing and ask for help. Don’t go round worrying that people are going to copy your idea. I really believe if I was so worried I wouldn’t have got my product off the ground . I told a few people who thought about my idea and came back to me with suggested suppliers and people who could help me.

The other thing that has been enlightening is that you do not have to invent the equivalent of a Dyson vacuum cleaner or an atomic reactor – some simple inventions can work too.

8. Do you have any new products, or other business ideas in the pipeline?

I am thinking of making a version with a slightly longer handle but there are lots of implications for creating a bigger product. Some of these are storage, packaging, postage rates and pricing. I think it’s important to sell a product that 90% of your customers are absolutely delighted with and 10% ask to be a bit longer than stretch yourself and your resources to make an alternative product that appeals to fewer customers.

You can find out more about Caroline and her products on the BackBliss website.

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