Name: Belinda Goldsmith and Christine Manson
Top Tips for Success
- Don’t assume that everything will be easy or that it will go as planned. Be flexible and open-minded.
- Allow far more time and money for prototyping than you think you’ll need.
- Your idea will change and evolve through time, so accept this and go with the flow.
- Think things through from the perspective of your customer or end user – this is the best place to start.
- Ask for help – people are often happy to be asked for their advice.
If you are considering growing your business Scottish Enterprise can offer you advice and support on everything from business strategy and finance to finding new markets and developing products and services. To find out more visit www.scottish-enterprise.com/infinite
From nourishing people with their own brand of organic soups and sauces, to hydrating the world’s runners, it’s been quite a journey for Belinda Goldsmith and Christine Manson. However, following a rigorous development process for their product FitSip, they are now setting the pace in the sector with a completely new product, a hydration armband for runners who don’t like to carry water when they run.
Long-time business partners, Belinda and Christine, were formerly owners of a successful organic sauce and soup range. But while she was running in the hills one day, Christine spotted a potential niche in the fitness gadget market for a wearable water bottle.
“I had my water with me as well as a small wristband and I thought: ‘wouldn’t that be great if I could have some water in the band?’ I took the idea to Belinda who quickly saw the potential for a new product so we started developing FitSip together. Every product we’ve come up with has grown from addressing a problem we’ve faced in our own lives or hobbies or in our sport, and that’s often where the best ideas come from.
” Belinda adds that the experience of running a successful company with Christine over the last 10 years, even though it was in the food industry, stood them in good stead. “With our Simply Organic brand, we were the first company to make and market organic soup. It sounds very obvious now, but in the late 1990s, if you wanted organic soup, you had to make it yourself. We ended up supplying all the major supermarkets.”
Despite their previous experience and impressive business acumen, the two entrepreneurs found that nothing could prepare them for the process of prototyping, which they quickly realised was more of a marathon than a sprint, explained Belinda.“
Prototyping was a lot harder than making recipes for soup because we were creating FitSip from scratch. Nothing like FitSip existed and we didn’t even know what materials the different components should be made from, so it was difficult to know where even to start. While we made the fabric armband ourselves – with a lot of trial and error – coming up with a functioning prototype bladder, refill cap and bite valve was more of a challenge. It was all a bit ‘Heath Robinson’, with the components of early prototypes stuck on with super-glue or sealed with a hot iron!”
For the innovative bite valve, they found assistance from Clark and Gregory Campbell from CA Models in Stirling, who make prototypes for formula one racing cars and the aerospace industry. They also received invaluable support from Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow University and also from engineers in industry who they had worked with in their previous business.
“Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly who to approach for help. Being able to work with engineers was extremely useful for us as they were able to rule out a few of our ideas which is just as important as verifying them.”
Once Christine and Belinda created their prototype Scottish Enterprise were also able to advise them on intellectual property (IP) through an Intellectual Assets audit, to ensure FitSip wasn’t infringing on anyone else’s patents or designs, and provide a grant and advice on setting up a website.
This led to a partnership with Annan company, Creatomatic, which has enhanced the e-commerce side of the business including promoting international sales. As a result FitSip is now on sale in thirty-four different countries with distributors in France, Norway, Denmark and Brazil; and the international market accounts for over fifty per cent of sales. The expansion of the overseas market is something Christine and Belinda are keen to build on and they are currently in talks with several potential partners.
Throughout this journey, Belinda says that working together with Christine has been crucial to their success. “It’s easier to have two people rather than one. When you’re on your own you might cry but if there are two of you, you might just laugh when something goes wrong!”