CEO of child safety product company Bubblebum Grainne Kelly is a force of nature, a woman who doesn't take no for an answer and is in a hurry to disrupt the traditional child car seat industry. In a few short years her small Derry based company has sold over 300,000 car seats worldwide and featured on a recent episode of Dragon's Den, Ireland and the UK's version of the popular show Shark Tank.
Grainne Kelly candidly says "who would have thought a wee girl from Derry would launch her product in Walmart?"
She came up with the idea for the world's first inflatable car booster seat when she was traveling with her own kids and was totally frustrated by the car rental firms lack lustre approach to her child's safety. "They never seemed to have the booster seats even when I had prebooked them" she said. In a moment of madness, she decided to create a solution to the vile rigid booster seats that the car rental firms charged anywhere between $7-$11 per day to rent and more often than not didn't supply when it came to the crunch.
She knew it had to be lightweight and compact so she chose inflatable. She called all the testing laboratories across the world and asked them to treat her like a 3 year old so she could understand the regulatory requirements for car booster seats. They told her that inflatable was not an option as the seat had to be crash tested in the 'worst case scenario' which is of course deflated. This was a great challenge for Grainne who worked out that the seat could easily pass the crash testing if she used memory and air technology along with a harness apparatus, so she set sail for China to make a prototype which is a story all in itself. Within 9 months she had taken the product from concept to shelf through crash testing, patent protection, marketing and website with sales starting locally on the first day the site went live. She continually called on her board of 12 kids under the age of 11 who told her where she was going wrong with the colors and the designs and identified new opportunities in the market place.
In Feb 2010, Grainne discovered that she was getting no response or in her own words "not quick enough for an Irish girl" response from the testing laboratories in the USA. In order to sell the product in the USA it had to be tested for that market too. The only solution for Grainne was to move her family to the US to speed things up.
While living in the USA, she trained with Safekids and became a Nationally Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and worked at car seat check points to better understand the market place. By engaging directly with the safety coalitions she better understood any objections that may be raised in relation to this new technology and built the trust and relationships that formed her grassroots promoters. She spent time with crash test laboratories and very importantly with her new American friends who helped her navigate her way around the new culture.
In January 2011 she returned to Ireland where she set about launching the product in the US market and launched online in June2011. In Oct 2011 she was a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, IIHS Best Bet Booster Award Winner and also the USA JPMA Innovation Award Winner.
BubbleBum is now selling in 24 countries globally and an Amazon best seller, the product has just launched in Walmart in over 2,100 stores nationwide. With a pipeline of new innovative travel solutions due to hit the shelves early in 2015, the company is growing from strength to strength. There are 6 in the company and Grainne would describe their days like drinking from a fire hydrant.
Grainne, CEO of the now global company, tells us, "They say the Irish are full of hot air, and there may some truth in that as some of the best inflatable technology came from Ireland, look at the pneumatic tyre, as well as the BubbleBum of course both invented in Ireland! We have led the way in inflatable technology and now world leaders such as Volvo and Ford are following with their inflatable infant carrier and inflatable seat belts."
When asked what motivates you, she quite simply says "teaching the children that anything is possible and making them proud is my motivation".
What is the best lesson learned "listen to your gut, it is there for a reason".
She lives her life by : "Do things for the right reasons and only the right thing can happen".
Her AVA profile reads : Sees no as a temporary obstacle.