Like most parents, Julie-Anne and Glen spent a lot of time pureeing and mashing homemade food for their two little children. When they ventured out of the house, they found it quite challenging to feed their children with minimal mess. When Glen mocked up a non-squeeze bottle that allowed their independent children to enjoy the loving homemade food (minus the mess), Julie-Anne and Glen knew they had stumbled upon a great idea. In this interview with Julie-Anne, she shares the ups and downs of building their business Subo Products and creating a non-squeeze, re-usable food bottle for kids.
Surviving motherhood one coffee at a time? Join the hood at Motherhood Melbourne for real stories, connections, mama-friendly events and oodles of goodies. It's FREE and it's for Melbourne Mamas.
Written by Julie-Anne Mayer - Owner of Subo Products
1. Why did you create Subo Products?
I’m the mummy (Julie-Anne) and my tribe is Daddy (Glen), Murphy (6), Hudson (5) and Marley (3 going on 33) and we cant forget Nanna! Four years ago, Glen and I would spend our Friday nights sorting, peeling, cutting, pureeing, mashing and portioning homemade food for our then 6 month old and 22 month old fussy eaters. I began to buy the single use squeezie pouches as a means to feed the kids on the go until I realised what was in them and questioned how they can sit on a shelf for 9 months with meat inside. Also, why couldn’t I feed them homemade food whilst out and about to save money? I then started researching re-usable pouches that were only starting to come onto the market in the U.S. We purchased some and still the kids could not use them. Both were very independent and would want to feed themselves, not understanding you could only squeeze the pouches when they were in their mouth. Needless to say, I wore a lot of puree food, smoothies and yoghurt when they were younger.
Glen then started to get things from around the house to make a non-squeeze bottle for food. If they couldn’t squeeze it, it would mean less mess. It would also save us money as we could use our homemade food,and also completely eliminating the need for single use food pouches or jars. We made our first prototype with items from around the house and a lot of duck tape. We tested it using Glen was the guinea pig and it worked. As our friends started seeing our new devise they wanted Glen to also make them one. It was then we decided that this needs to be bought to the market as an option to the single use packaging and for parents to be able to feed their kids mess free homemade food. Especially as our kids had allergies to what seemed everything at the time. This was the solution for us so it could possible for many other families.
2. How did it all start?
We then Googled 'how to get stuff made?' and 'how to make a bottle?' We had absolutely no idea on where to go next, who would make such a thing and what first step should be. Google led us to needing an industrial designed to design Subo for commercial use and ensure all safety standards were met. After meeting with a few designers we quickly realised this was going to be an expensive project. One of the designers had mentioned we could get government assistance as the product was so unique and innovative and gave us a name of a lady to contact. This was the single moment that we knew this could be a reality.
Our designer also suggested to speak to the Department of Business and Innovation as he has previously helped another client with an innovation voucher application and believed our product would quality, we did and it did (YAY)! So we had some backing from the government to help pay for our industrial designer. From there we spoke to more people who put us onto some more people and the ball kept rolling.
After the innovation grant we then applied for a commercialisation grant to assist in business planning, proof of concept and market research. The application was 60+ pages with 5 attachments, it was huge. We had never done anything like this before and why would they back a “kids food bottle?”. Needless to say they did and they gave us the most valuable contacts a start-up could ask for.
Once that grant had finished we were applying or the next stage of that grant program when there was a change in government, we literally put our application in (80+pages and 5 attachments) only to be told the next day that the grant was now closed until the new government decided what they were going to go ahead with (that was a complete waste of about 40 hours of work). This took 11 months for them to re-open the new grant programs, which meant another (different) application (joy!). Well we did and again were successful! We couldn’t believe the support we were given from the state and federal governments but if it wasn’t for their support Subo would of never been commercialised and we would still be making prototypes at our dining table. We really have had some amazing assistance through our journey to developing Subo which we are incredibly thankful for.
3. What are some key features of Subo Products?
There were two non-negotiables for us right from the start, Subo had to be of the highest quality material and it must be Australian Made. I am so proud that we have achieved both. Our manufacturer in Melbourne has been with us from the beginning to ensure what the designers were designing was able to be manufactured. This is something we would never get from manufacturing overseas. Every step of the way he has come up with ways to make the manufacturing more efficient and ensuring 100% functionality.
4. What do you love most about running Subo Products?
The most amazing part of starting your own business is getting the lovely emails from customers who just love your product and know it has helped them on so many different levels like it has us. As a small business Glen and I (and Nanna) read every email and every social media post, and its just so overwhelming the support we have received from our customers. It really warms our heart.
5. When you’re not in business mode, what do you love to do?
When we're not working on the biz, we are sleeping. We are fortunate to have a couple of beach houses in the family so you will often find us at the beach on the weekends in summer and at the ice-hockey rink in the winter. Both Glen and Hudson play ice-hockey which has been a huge part of our life for the past 12 years. Any other spare time you will find me sitting on the couch watching as much Real Housewives, Survivor, The Block, Bachelor, Vanderpump Rules, Summer House and reality as I can… I LOVE IT!
6. What's coming up for Subo Products?
2017 is looking to be a huge year for us. I still work full time so we are aiming for me to be working in Subo full time by the end of 2017. We also didn’t expect to have a international presence until at least 2018, however we are starting to have significant interest worldwide from both consumers and distributors. This is not something we had planned on setting up, but it will be a focus to meet the demand. We also have some more accessories for Subo coming out which is really exciting. We hope to continue helping mums and dads all over the world one mess free meal at a time!
ABOUT SUBO PRODUCTS
A unique and innovative non-squeeze, re-usable food bottle for kids.
Biz owners: Julie-Anne and Glen Mayer
Fav cafe: Who gets time to sit at a café?
Coffee order: : I don’t drink Coffee… I’d have a freshly squeezed OJ or Coke (depending on time of the day)
Join the hood to receive the HOOD MAMA SPECIAL.
Are you a Melbourne mover & shaker? Does your biz make mother's lives easier, better and brighter? We'd love to showcase your dreams and help Melbourne mums on their quest to shop small and support locals. Have a look at our Celebrate Melbourne page for more info.