When she emerges from lockdown, mum-of-five Ruth Fuller will have a new addition to her family.
Between homeschooling and caring for her children, she's been preparing to launch a new business selling washable incontinence underwear.
With the backing of Transmit Startups, Ruth is preparing to launch Maybo Underwear – providing children and adults with a stylish, discrete and environmentally-friendly alternative to bulky pads and nappies.
An idea sparked by experience
The idea for Maybo came to Ruth after her son Ben’s disappointment at missing out on a charity sleepover with school because he was worried about having an accident in the night.
Aged six at the time, Ben was embarrassed about the prospect of wearing a disposable pull up nappy designed for older children so instead reluctantly turned down the opportunity to hang out with his friends.
“It was such a shame that Ben had to miss out but we couldn’t expect a teacher to wake him up in the night to take him to the toilet the way we did at home,” said Ruth.
Maybo's boys' range of washable incontinence underwear
“The experience got me thinking about how many children must be in the same boat – missing out on Scout trips, sleepovers and the exciting adventures that come with growing up. I looked everywhere for a solution but there was nothing on the market that was effective and discrete but also designed to look like their ordinary trendy pants.
“Kids are so self-conscious anyway as they are growing up and want to fit in. The last thing they want is something bulky, medical-looking that rustles and is going to attract attention from their peers.”
1 in 10 people are affected by incontinence
And after further research revealed that up to 10 per cent of the population in the UK suffer from urinary incontinence, Ruth realised there was an opportunity to address the problem with adults too.
Drawing on her experience as a mum using washable and disposable nappies, Ruth began experimenting with different types of fabrics and layering techniques before enlisting the help of a company in Nottingham to develop a prototype.
Maybo's womens' range of washable incontinence underwear
Hundreds of experiments later, Maybo’s patent-pending technology holds up to 100ml of liquid and features three layers of fabric designed to wick away moisture, absorb it and keep the wearer dry. It has been incorporated into a range of stylish and slimline pants for men, women and children as well as a nursing bra.
Ruth, who lives in Derbyshire, approached Transmit Startups in preparation for the launch of the business. After working on her application with business adviser Shirley Wilson, she secured a £19,850 Start Up Loan to pay for stock.
Transmit Startups is the UK’s leading provider of Government-backed Start Up Loans, having supported 6,503 entrepreneurs with over £70.2million. The programme provides fixed-interest loans and high impact mentoring to aspiring business owners across the UK who might be struggling to access other forms of finance.
Ruth said: “I chose Transmit because they seemed more approachable and less intimidating than the high street banks and I knew I wouldn’t meet the lending criteria of the big banks anyway.
Part of the girls' collection from Maybo Underwear
"I read about all of the other successful small businesses Transmit had supported and the offer of a mentor to help me take the business forward and it filled me with confidence. The service from Shirley was seamless and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the money landed in my account.”
Production on Maybo’s launch range will begin once coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted in Portugal, the base of the family-run business which has partnered with Ruth to oversee manufacturing.
Despite causing a delay in the launch of her business, Ruth hopes changing attitudes brought about by the pandemic towards protecting the environment and supporting small companies will mean Maybo is perfectly placed to meet consumers’ needs.
Breaking down the stigma
She said: “I’ve spent about 18 months thinking about doing this and done an awful lot of soul searching! With so many big companies out there – I’ve asked myself how I can compete.
“But then I realised I had created something I really cared about – something that could make a real difference to daily life for so many people and make an impact on the environment. I’m a small company with a big passion. My mission is to break down the taboo around incontinence and I think now is the perfect time to shine.”
Ruth aims to expand the initial Maybo collection to include more styles and colours and hopes to eventually adapt the range to meet the needs of buyers with disabilities.
Transmit Startups is part of the Transmit group of companies which offer funding, consulting, coaching and mentoring services to entrepreneurs throughout their business journey.
Business advisor Shirley Wilson, said: “Like most successful entrepreneurs, Ruth’s brilliant business was born from finding a solution to a problem she has experienced. I’m sure this first-hand knowledge, combined with her infectious enthusiasm, will mean she’ll be a roaring success. I’m proud to have played a part and the team at Transmit look forward to working with Ruth as she launches and grows her company.”
Richard Bearman, Managing Director at Start Up Loans, said: “Start Up Loans is here to help people like Ruth gain access to the funding and support they need to start a business. What she has achieved with Maybo Underwear is commendable and I’m proud Start Up Loans has played a part in helping her and so many others across the country to realise their ambition of business ownership.”