Sisters find success with bottle-teat innovation
In the bustle of everyday life, even a small relief may be a huge bonus. Kristiina Kahila, herself busy with small children, had been thinking of how to simplify her daily routines and avoid the constant washing out of baby bottles; then she realised that the simple solution is the best.
Why couldn’t breast-milk substitute bottles be sold with a teat? Or indeed other packaged drinks such as juices? They all have screw-top caps, and having a teat to screw on would mean no more carrying and washing out separate baby bottles.
-My sister Barbara and I talked about this on a cycling trip, and the more we talked, the more excited we became, says Kristiina Kahila.
The idea seemed so obvious that doubt immediately set in: surely someone somewhere had already thought of it?
-We sat down and googled a lot, but we couldn’t find that kind of product anywhere. It did seem too good to be true, says Kahila.
Partners are key
When you have an idea that is potentially worth a lot of money, you have to be careful to whom you talk.
-There are a lot of poachers out there. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve found good, dependable partners, says Kahila.
Expert advice was provided by Jouni Hynynen at the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment in Jyväskylä. He specialises in commercialising innovations.
-Jouni saw the potential in our idea and encouraged us to take it forward. He advised us to apply for utility model protection immediately. The next step was to conduct a proper novelty search, and it was found that there is no comparable product. So now our idea was officially new!
The two sisters, Kristiina Kahila and Barbara Kukkonen, also attended the Karhunpesä [Bear Lair] innovation camp run by the youth group of the Rural Network. This proved hugely important for them.
-The Karhunpesä camp gave us an energy boost, and we met Kati Rauhaniemi from Vastavirta Oy, who agreed to partner us in commercialising our idea. Kati’s experience was a great asset, and with her help we’ve been able to steer the future and business idea of KriBar Oy in the right direction. We also received support from our local Leader group, but of course we have had to take out a loan ourselves too for our product development, explains Kahila.
The Karhunpesä camp also provided the startup entrepreneurs with access to the finals of the KasvuOpen Rural Growth Path, Finland’s largest sparring programme for growth enterprises.
The KriBar feeding teat, intended for infants and for elderly, mobility-impaired and disabled persons, is already undergoing materials testing with the company’s production and distribution partner.
-The Pohjonen Group in Karstula made us a set of brilliant 3D plans that enabled us to have our first prototype made.
The future is bright but fretful
-If you want support, you have to have an idea that is pretty much fully developed. You should never float a half-finished idea, because that’s where the poachers can jump in. Ask, explore, combine and add to your own experiences so that you can gain a comprehensive view of whatever it is you’re doing, and don’t ignore negative points, Kristiina Kahila summarises.
The fledgling business also relies on family and friends.
-Our mother, Helena Vertanen, immediately saw the value of our innovation for families. Our husbands, Toni Kahila and Marko Kukkonen, are also fully behind us.