Interview with Catherine “Cat” Dodd, founder of doddl.com
Find out how a stressful family meal time (and a lucky accident) inspired Cathering Dodd to launch doddl, clever kids’ products that are especially designed to make mealtimes easier and more enjoyable.
What’s your career background?
I started my career working in waste management for my local council – so it couldn’t be more different than my work today.
How did your career change after having children?
I found out I was pregnant with twins while I was still on maternity leave with my eldest daughter! Juggling childcare for three under three meant that it didn’t make sense to return to my previous role at the council and I decided to turn my energy to turning my lightbulb moment into an actual product.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I was on holiday in Portugal with my family, attempting to feed all three kids at the dinner table. As is so often the case no one was feeling particularly co-operative and I was pretty much at the end of my tether. I had also recently been diagnosed with chronic fatigue and the last thing I wanted to do was battle through another meal. The literal and figurative breaking point came when the handle of the fork my eldest was using broke off.
As I sat there wondering what to do next, she just picked up the broken utensil end and started feeding herself – with much greater success. I realised then that the issue lies in cutlery that isn’t actually designed for little hands to use. That’s how the idea for doddl was conceived.
How did you move from idea to actual business?
I had an idea for a product. But zero idea how to get it made, let alone make a business from it! I had to learn fast. I actually started by buying a book about the “business of invention” to get a grounding in things like IP, prototypes and testing. I hunted down the authors and asked them if they’d be prepared to mentor me. To my surprise, they agreed and were really helpful in signposting how to get started.
From there it was a case of really hustling – for sources of funding from local business groups and accelerators, talent at local universities, advice from other successful business owners and recognition in the form of business awards, grants and accelerators.
What’s your USP?
Unlike most kids cutlery, which is a cut down version of adult utensils, doddl is ergonomically designed especially for little hands, it’s so easy to use it encourages independent eating. It also helps develop key motor skills like the pincer grip which is an added bonus. Ultimately we want meals to be a positive experience and an adventure where you make memories as a family rather than dealing with frustrated children and mess.
What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?
From day one we seem to have struck a chord with parents and carers everywhere and so our most successful marketing has been doddl fans sharing the love, particularly on social media. Until recently we’ve hardly spent anything on marketing, but have still attracted some celebrity fans including Joe Wicks, Deliciously Ella and Gemma Atkinson who have all used and loved doddl with their kids.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Starting the business from scratch, with very little financial base or experience, whilst bringing up 3 children under 3 (including twins) was hard. As much as I want to look back with rose tinted glasses now I’m through that stage, it’s tricky! I can be proud I survived, but it was exhausting both mentally and physically.
And your proudest moment?
Any moment where a doddl customer shares a story where doddl has helped their child try a new food, eat independently for the first time or enjoy spending time together.
Who inspires you?
There are people in business I admire and respect, but in terms of inspiration, I look back to when I was travelling (pre kids) and met children that walk 10 miles barefoot every day just to get water. I’m sure some people will think that sounds trite, but for me the willpower, strength and determination to keep going is unbelievable. If kids can do that everyday, who am I not to dig in and keep going when my challenges are nowhere near as difficult.
What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?
- Do your research – About the kind of support out there, about the market you’re entering, the products that are out there already, what works and what doesn’t, your ideal USP’s etc. I spent 18 months researching and testing doddl before I hit on the final doddl design and it was worth the investment because that’s why it works so well.
- Network – Every door you knock on can lead to another, whether it’s contacts, access to funds, access to knowledge and experience – a strong network is essential.
- Believe you can do it – As cheesy as it sounds, you have to absolutely believe in yourself and your idea. You have to have faith that you have the best product on the market, or the best service offering. You have to be convinced yourself or you’ll never convince anyone else.
Find out more about doddl.