Interview with Catherine Bedford, Founder of Dashel

Catherine Bedford is Founder of Dashel. Dashel offers a range of slim, ventilated, lightweight cycle helmets manufactured in the UK. With a distinctive urban feel Dashel Helmets are made fromrecyclable materials – ensuring that they are low impact at the point of manufacture and produce very little waste at the end of life.

What’s your career background?

I had worked for big brands for years and I was lecturing on brand development at Cass business school. I’d always wanted to launch my own brand and, in 2012, I decided to take the plunge.

How did your career change after having children?

Before children, my job involved foreign travel at least once a week. I started to dread going back to this whilst on maternity leave and as flexible working was not possible at the company I was working for, it encouraged me to set up my own business. 

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I was inspired by a lot of factors: Cycling was really taking off in Britain that year, particularly with the Olympic success. I wanted my child to wear a helmet when cycling but I didn’t wear one myself as I felt so silly in them.

I realised there was a gap in the market for something slim and understated that would work when cycling in regular clothes rather than if you were going to go racing or mountain biking.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

I went from design to finding a manufacturer to prototyping, then testing – in total a five-year process until launch.

What’s your USP?

Dashel Helmets are slim and stylish without compromising on safety. 

Who’s your target audience?

We are lucky that our products appeal to men and women of all ages – people style them to suit their own look. Our helmets are designed for urban cycling rather than racing or mountain biking.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

Traditional press has been great for launching and promoting our business and we have organically grown our social media. For us being in retail is an important way to advertise – we are happy to share our margin with them because their store staff are great at promoting what we do. People need to try on a helmet. We would never be an online-only business. 

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

Our focus has always been on production. Now that we have the right manufacturing partners set up in the UK, we will be able to dedicate more time to our marketing.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Finding funding and the right manufacturers to work with.

And your proudest moment so far?

Being selected to create helmets for Team GB – not for racing but for wearing around the Olympic village.

Why is work so important to you?

You have to work to live but it is wonderful to work in something you really believe in.

Who inspires you?

As a child I saw Anita Roddick growing an ethical, global business from scratch. Since then there have been many other entrepreneurs, in all sectors who have inspired me.

How do you balance your work with your family?

Like everyone, this has been extremely hard during the pandemic. I am passionate about flexible working. I have worked long hours but have never had to miss a school play and I still pick my children up from school 3 times a week.  

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

  1. It will take longer than you think to launch a new product.
  2. It is likely to cost twice as much as you think.
  3. Try to choose an uncrowded market sector.

Find out more about Dashel.