I was running a marketing business in 1996 where we sought out innovative products to launch into the market and was introduced to a mother who had invented and patented a leakproof toddler trainer cup. She had approached 17 major baby companies in the UK and Europe but none of them had taken it up. She had nowhere else to go and asked if we might be interested in launching the cup as she already had a manufacturer in London who could supply limited quantities. We said yes, we’d have a go.
She sent us some samples and we started sending them out to nurseries, magazines, baby minders, friends and family. They worked – and the users were very enthusiastic. We started selling them in small quantities – a dozen here, 50 there and if we were lucky perhaps a 100.
After testing the water – or toddler drinks in this case – I sent a sample to Tesco. It was returned three days later with a polite note saying thank you for your offer but we wouldn’t be interested in taking on this product. At that time our office was above a newsagent so I went down and purchased a bottle of Ribena. I filled a cup with the drink and placed it upside down in a small box lined with a serviette and attached a note;
Dear Karen (for that was the buyer’s name who had turned it down)
If this arrives on your desk empty don’t bother calling me
Signed it and sent it off to her.
Two days later a fax came in from Karen – ‘Your marketing ploy has not failed please come and see me’
I saw her two weeks later in Tesco head office and she placed an order for 50,000 cups to be delivered as soon as possible.
The AnyWayUp Cup was born and Tesco became our biggest customer, ordering 200,000 cups each month for several years to come.
The inventor had not given up on her dream even though she had been turned down by all the major players and we had used some attention grabbing marketing, which cost pennies, to get it launched.