Grainne Kelly – Founder and Inventor of BubbleBum

We focus on resolving the problem rather than finding a product. All our ideas are generated from genuine problems expressed by parents.

Grainne Kelly is a former travel agent who revolutionized the child travel industry by inventing BubbleBum: the world’s FIRST inflatable booster seat. Safety is a prime element of a child’s health, and the BubbleBum ensures that kids stay safe and comfortable throughout all car trips. Kids also go gaga over the booster seat’s vibrant and trendy colors! The BubbleBum inflatable booster seat is a fantastic alternative to the standard plastic booster seat and is perfect for everyday carpooling, school drop-offs and pick-ups, road trips, fly-ins with car rentals, and taxicabs. Grainne and BubbleBum also just launched two new car travel essentials: the Sneck backseat pillow and Junkie backseat organizer.

Where did the idea for the BubbleBum inflatable car booster seat come from?

As a mother of two, my primary goal was to offer travelers a safe way to transport their kids. I was frequently traveling between my native Ireland and England to visit a sick relative, and I always had to transport cumbersome fixed booster seats back and forth on the plane due to the lack of car booster seats available from car rental desks. I came up with the simple idea for an inflatable car booster seat and invented BubbleBum as an affordable, lightweight car booster seat that could travel easier than a child does. It weighs less than one pound and can deflate in minutes, making it easy to throw in a backpack when not in use. BubbleBum also includes belt positioning clips in place of arm rests, so it’s possible to fit three boosters across the back seat of a car! Parents can take BubbleBum along for carpools, cab rides, and fly-ins with car rentals.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Every typical workday is busy! First, at 5:30 a.m., my husband and I roll out of bed and into our running gear, and I spend 15 minutes checking emails and responding to Asia. Then my husband and I run with the dog from 5:45 a.m.-6:45 a.m., followed by two pints of hot water. From 6:45 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., I check emails. I then waken son number one at 7:00 a.m. and waken son number two at 7:30 a.m. We all eat breakfast at 7:45 a.m. (but not together) and the kids are allowed to go online before school.

We send the first son off to school at 8:00 a.m. and the second son off to school at 8:30 a.m. At 9:00 a.m., I head to the office (if I am in the country) and my husband works at the office at home. I also have my first cups of decaffeinated coffee for the day. At 1 p.m., I start East coast U.S. calls. At 3:00 p.m., my husband does school pick-up and gets the kid started on homework. At 4:15 p.m., our second son returns home and either I or my husband will take him to gymnastics by 4:30 p.m. From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., I continue working and respond to U.S. west coast inquiries. From 7:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., my husband makes dinner. Then I’ll pick our son up from gymnastics at 8:15 p.m. At 8:45 p.m., we all have dinner together, where there are no phones permitted. At 9:30 p.m., we do the bedtime routine with the kiddos, and they are then asleep by 10 p.m. From 10 to 10:45 p.m., I finish emails and any calls. Work phones must be left downstairs. We only have one personal phone for family emergencies permitted upstairs. At 10:45 p.m., my husband and I watch one episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and we’re both fast asleep by 11:45 p.m.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We focus on resolving the problem rather than finding a product. All our ideas are generated from genuine problems expressed by parents.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The chevron design trend is one that both parents and kids are loving this year, as well as neon colors. We’ve incorporated these designs into our products.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Focus and we all work off of 5 monthly priorities. We have a top priority and that is our focus every day until it is complete.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I had to spend a lot of time in a Chinese factory trying to explain a technical point of the BubbleBum seat’s manufacture. It was painstaking, as the factory kept agreeing with me and doing it wrong. I learned that I cannot ask a yes/ any question because culturally they want to please and always say ‘yes.’ I now ask, “How many can you have complete by Friday?” as opposed to “Can you have 5000 complete by Friday?”. It is important to stay simple yet fundamental in our communication. It could have saved me a trip to China.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Get signed NDA agreements before speaking to ANYONE. I had a Chinese factory apply for a patent on my product, which cost us a great deal in legal fees.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Fail fast. Speed is of the essence in everything that we do. If something isn’t working, cut it off fast. If something is working, don’t wait until it is perfect to try it.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

It is so important for us to be honest, value our time, and value those around us. This has helped us build strong, lasting relationships with those that we work with and our customers.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One failure I had was employing people like me. I am not a detail person and in an interview situation, candidates (particularly sales) mirror the interviewer. Instead of dynamic ‘do-ers,’ I employed some big picture people who did not see the detail.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Teleporting. I believe that we will be able to teleport things (probably not people from an ethical standpoint) within the next few years.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I am the slowest reader in the world. I should actually get an award for it. In particular, I find it really hard to concentrate on reading novels.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Skype. We only use Skype and it is great because it means I don’t have to get on a plane every time there is a problem.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Mastering the Rockerfeller Habits. It taught me lessons in management that are apparently glaringly obvious, yet, 90% of us don’t do them.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

There isn’t one individual person who influences my thinking other than those who question me about my rationale. I like to read a little about everyone, from Richard Branson to Michelle Mone. But people like David Speakman (MD Travel Counsellors PLC) gave me some solid advice when I was just starting my business that I will be eternally grateful for: Honor your integrity, because people can take away everything else, but not that.


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