Tuesday, December 10, 2013

News: Inspirational Claire celebrates success

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Hip-Rocker, a business born out of a mother's personal desire to help others, has gone international.

Brampton-born Claire Bradwell, 29, was devastated when, aged 17, she was told she couldn't have children. Five years later and against the odds, Claire gave birth to twin boys, but was also diagnosed with cancer. The following year, Claire had her third child, a daughter called Daisy, who was born with hip dysplasia, a condition where the baby's ball and socket hip joint fails to develop fully and doesn't fit snugly together. The condition affects 1 to 3% of newborns and requires an operation to correct it and a hip spica cast to immobilise the hip as it heals.

Worn down by the emotional stress, Claire hit a real low point, which worsened when she went into hospital for a hysterectomy and ended up in intensive care for over two weeks with internal bleeding.

It was during her recuperation, that Claire was inspired to design a chair to give comfort and security to children while in a hip spica cast. Helped by her father, a skilled joiner, she created a prototype.

Inspired by the shape of a jelly bean, the Hip-Rocker is a specially designed rocking chair with table that allows children to sit upright to be fed and entertained, whilst in a restrictive hip spica cast.

To help bring the unique product to market, Claire attended the Explore Enterprise Course in January 2012, which was organised by the Prince's Trust and attended by 16 young business people and a special guest – HRH The Prince of Wales.
Claire produced a business plan with support from the Trust and gradually brought the product to market, launching the business in March 2012 with a workshop in RiDO's Century Business Centre at Manvers. Support came from Rotherham Youth Enterprise and The Prince's Trust also supported her with her start up costs.

Claire's goal for her first year was to not enter into her bank overdraft and she wanted to be able to move to a new home by her third year of trading – she achieved both of these in her first year.

Her business has continued to grow through her first year of trading, having started with just two designs of the chairs, the business now has six, with 19 different finishes compared to the eight when the business started. The business is now finding success overseas – having sold to Australia, Sweden, USA and Ireland, from a marketing spend of just £72.

Claire was recently named the winner of the Enterprise Award at the Yorkshire and Humber "Celebrate Success" awards hosted by the Trust, recognising how she overcame serious difficulties in order to achieve success in creating a sustainable business.

On winning the award, Claire (picture above, right), said: "I loved every minute of the evening, even when I broke down and cried.

"It's difficult to put into words, in a space of six months I went from not knowing if I was going to live or die and leave three young children - to running my own business and helping other parents with my products.

"If someone had said to me two years ago, "you will beat the cancer and all the other health problems and be running your own business helping children like Daisy," I would have said "the men in white coats need to come and get you.""

This year has seen Claire speak on behalf of The Prince's Trust in front of 1,200 guests at the National Business Awards and volunteer to be a Young Ambassador for the charity.

On the business side, Claire continues to improve and modify the Hip-Rocker design to suit customers' needs. It has been made available to buy or hire and is also suitable for children with other conditions, such as cerebral palsy.

Future products include rocking chairs and innovative ways of modifying prams and car seats to enable children with lower-limb complaints to use them.

Hip-Rocker website

Images: The Prince's Trust / Hip-Rocker

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