Interview with Sophia Procter, founder of Munchy Play®
From spin doctor to plate spinner, find out how Sophia Procter left her job at the top of her game, to pursue a completely new direction.
What’s your career background?
After graduating from Bournemouth University with a degree in PR, I went to work for an agency, before landing senior roles at Red Bull and British Airways. I managed some well-known projects and won an award for my London 2012 Games campaign.
In 2017, a few months after returning to work from maternity leave, I was faced with redundancy. At the same time, I stumbled across an idea that was too good to pass up. My (then) toddler, a notorious fussy eater, was having another mealtime strop. So I brought his favourite train to the table, made a track around his plate and it changed everything.
I couldn’t help but feel that a huge opportunity was presenting itself. Realising there was nothing like this in the market, I decided I was going to create it myself!
Is it easy to change career path?
Nothing worthwhile comes easy. It took everything inside me to step outside my comfort zone and enter unknown territory. I’m still learning every day even in my early forties!
But it’s entirely possible if you have a passion or belief in what you’re doing. Many skills are transferable and those we don’t have can easily be learnt. I’m not surprised so many mums change paths after having children.
How did you go about bringing your idea to market?
It was a very long journey. It started with understanding the market, protecting my intellectual property and design, then moving into production.
The hardest challenge, when you’re making something no-one has attempted before, is creating a blueprint. After many knock-backs, I found the most amazing manufacturer in Wales. For me it’s very important that we’re a British brand, but that did restrict us with manufacturers in the UK.
Then I stumbled across Glen, the GM, who has been my greatest champion and a rare one-off. You need to find people who believe in you and see the potential in your product when you’re a start-up.
I invested in design and engineering, tooling and machinery to bring the product to life. We spent two years in research and development, much longer than I anticipated. Every stage has been fraught with problem solving – skills that my marketing background has helped me with.
After rigorous product testing with an independent company, the product was CE certified and ready to market! We launched in June, right in lockdown! You couldn’t write it…
Who is your target market?
Munchy Play kids’ plates are made for busy parents with young children. Our motto is to make life easier, or just more fun, with design-led products proudly made in the UK.
The feedback I’ve already start to get from parents has been very supportive, many saying it has transformed mealtimes. That makes the hard work all worth it!
What’s your product’s USP?
It’s the first ever children’s plate with a built-in track and play area. But it’s more than just a plate, it’s a parent hack, helping families to create positive associations with mealtimes.
It’s genuinely a game-changer for any parent that struggles at mealtimes, or has a little kid that needs a touch of encouragement. Or indeed, for any child that simply loves to play with cars, trains, teddies and dolls!
What has helped you on your journey?
Having great people who I can talk to and lean on, my husband being the most supportive of all. I am lucky to have a mentor (Liam) at Enterprise Europe, who has been a great source of counsel.
I’ve also been lucky enough to befriend Mark Sheahan, the Inventor in Residence at the British Library, who is always so helpful and generous with his time.
Sometimes, just knowing there’s someone else you can talk can help. Working for yourself can be isolating, we have to take care of our mental health, for me this is having an outlet to talk to likeminded others.
Did you read any books that inspired you on your journey?
Everything by Seth Godin, he’s a marketing guru! I especially recommend his book ‘Poke the Box’, it addresses the fears and anxieties we all have with change, and inspires you to do just that.
I also loved Philip Knight’s autobiography ‘Shoe Dog’ about how he created Nike. It’s a fascinating read and makes you appreciate that everyone has a struggle to overcome.
What marketing strategy has served you well?
Launching the product online with Amazon has given us the head start we needed. It’s where most of our customers shop, as the go-to destination for busy parents. Their fulfilment service is a great solution to overcoming logistics. Since we are a ‘brand registered’ partner, they have been really supportive and helpful, with lots of tools provided.
Your products are gender-neutral, why is this important?
There’s a few values we hold as a business. One is that children should be able to explore imaginations and play without limitations. We don’t market our products to girls or boys, just children.
What top three tips would you give to other female entrepreneurs?
First of all, surround yourself with good and likeminded people. I’ve started to speak to other friends in business more, as we can share experiences with each other.
Secondly, if you have an innovative idea seek professional advice on how to protect your intellectual property. Munchy Play is patent pending as well as design registered for instance.
Finally, believe in yourself. With age comes experience, with children comes the ability to multi-task – put them together and you’ve got a head start. Don’t ever think that you’re too old to start your own business, your calling can come at any time.
Munchy Play plates are currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £14.50. The range includes a train themed ‘Choo-Choo’ plate, racing inspired ‘Vroom-Vroom’ plate and picnic themed ‘Tea Party’ Plate. For more, visit www.munchyplay.com or @MunchyPlay on social media.