An 11 year old invents a product for her homework. 18 months later it is on the shelves in two national retailers and she and her sister, Kia, are up against the adults, pitching to the Dragons in Dragons’ Den!
Sky tells their story:
Last year my favourite school homework by far was to invent something. It was for a whole school competition, and I was in year 6. I was wondering what to invent when I noticed a Dad in the park teaching his son how to ride his bike. The Dad was getting a bad back from bending over and holding the saddle and the handle bars, and the little boy was stressed because he could to tell that his Dad was going to let go any second - he wanted to get off!! I suddenly knew I could do something about this…
Being involved in the design process with Flying Colours Graphic Design
I drew and made lots of different designs out of old fabric, rope and fasteners from my old clothes. Eventually I came up with a harness that seemed to solve the problem!
I tried it out on a little girl who couldn’t ride her bike and within no time she had her balance. I made some better ones with my Mum’s sewing machine and tested them on lots of other children and I was excited to find out that it did work, and the children and parents really liked it!
A happy child with her harness on!
The Crikey Bikey harness is a child’s chest harness with a handle. The adult can hold the handle and stand upright whilst running or walking alongside the bike, and it stops them from getting a bad back!
The child feels safe from major wobbles as they pedal and so learning to ride their bike is less scary and more fun!
I was amazed when I won my school competition, and was really pleased that Renishaw sponsored it, because my prize was a mobile phone – My Mum and Dad weren’t going to let me have one till I was in Year 7, but luckily they let me keep it!!
One morning after the prize-giving I was eating my breakfast and looking through the Hay Festival Show Guide when I saw an advert for the Landmarc Innovation Hub. It invited people to bring their inventions to the festival to get some advice. I decided to take my bike harness and my project. It was quite scary because in the hub it was smart, and it had a proper coffee machine (which made hot chocolate too). I sat at a table and told different business people about my idea and showed them my project.
They liked it and I answered all their questions while my sister annoyingly sampled home-made luxury chocolates with a chocolate inventor!
The cut out of Crikey Bikey
While I was in the hub, the business people gave me lots of advice; they told me to get it patented, to register my Crikey Bikey name, to incorporate my business and to buy the domain names.
I bought the domain names straight away with my pocket money and I asked my sister Kia (who was 13), if she wanted to set up a company with me – she was really keen, and I am really glad I asked her because there has been lots to do, and we help each other when we have a lot of homework to do. We asked Mum to be one director and we also asked Jeremy, a really good family friend, to be our other director.
We followed all the advice that I was given in the hub because our school entered us in to a big competition called the National Science and Engineering Competition. We won ‘Best in Show’ at the semi-finals in the Ricoh Arena, Coventry and the feedback from the judges inspired us to get our product manufactured. Some of them said we should go on Dragons’ Den with it, and we even went on line and applied – but we never thought we’d get a reply…
It took several months to get our harness manufactured and packaged just right. We managed to stay in touch with everyone really well using email and phoning after school. Eventually in February, our first delivery arrived at our house! It was amazing to see so many of them! – All of a sudden our business seemed like a proper business!
We created proposals and information packs and sent free products to some national retailers and were excited to get an invitation to meet the buyers at Evans Cycles in Crawley. We practiced what we would say at our meeting and we tried to think of all the questions they might ask us, so we would know the answers. We imagined they would be fierce and strict but they weren’t at all, they were really cool and friendly, and they loved our harness!
We visited lots of local independent shops and we still do! We really like talking to the shop owners about how they are selling and they often put them in the window for us! Lots of them have reordered several times, and we often take their deliveries to them on our bikes!
Suddenly one day we heard from Dragons’ Den! Dad took the call while we were at school - when he told us we had a screen test for Dragons’ Den, we thought he was joking! We were so excited especially when we found out that they would let us do the pitch and answer the questions ourselves!
We spent the next few weeks taking our harness to more local independent bike, toy and outdoor stores, sending proposals to national retailers and preparing our pitch for Dragons’ Den. We knew they had never had children on the main Dragons’ Den show and we were worried that they might change their minds…It had to be perfect! It went really well and a few weeks later we were told we had passed the screen test and would be filmed in Manchester.
We had to stay in a hotel in Manchester for the filming because we had to arrive at the BBC studios at 5.30am! This was OK because we had breakfast twice when we got there! Once while we were setting up our display and another one while we were having our hair and makeup done!!
After a long wait we were asked to go into the interview room – it was just like on TV! I loved doing the interview because everyone was really friendly and I love talking about Crikey Bikey! When the red light turned green I could feel my heart thumping and I felt really excited…
We stepped into the lift and as the door into the den opened, Kia gave me a “we can do this” look. The lift opened and I saw the five dragons waiting for our pitch
I could feel my nerves as Kia started our pitch. It went smoothly, and once I started my bit, my nerves went away and I really started to enjoy it. As I finished I was eager to see what the Dragons were going to say and I was relieved when they all burst into smiles as I finished my last sentence. I knew we had done a good job but I couldn’t relax yet because I knew the questions were coming.
I was relieved when the lift opened and Mum and Jeremy stepped out, and even more relieved when the Dragons told us how much they liked our pitch. I felt really happy when Sarah Willingham said that if her children grew up to be like us then she would be really proud. They said our pitch was one of the best and when we were able to answer all of their questions I realised that all of our hard work had paid off. We were in the Den for almost an hour and a half and although the questioning was tense, we both really enjoyed it. Most of the questions were easy to answer because they were about my product which I love talking about!
All the Dragons gave us useful feedback and made us want to make our business bigger and better, and when Touker Suleyman (one of the Dragons) offered us Touker Time we were ecstatic!
Although we didn't get an investment, the help Touker has given us since the show through Bikesoup has been unbelievable; he has already done what he promised on the show, and is now helping us even more.
Following the show lots of people have bought our harness from www.crikeybikey.com, Evans Cycles and Mountain Warehouse and we have had some exciting emails too!
The most difficult thing about going on Dragons’ Den was keeping it a secret from my friends and family and also my buyers!! I am really glad we did it though, it was an amazing experience and getting ready to do it made us think very hard about our business – we prepared well for it and I am happy that we did.
Sending out orders!
Since going on Dragons’ Den we have been busy sorting out our delivery system and barcode and recently we were really excited to get a big order from Mountain Warehouse! We put barcode stickers on each harness for them and it’s exciting to see them in the shops.
Recently I met the inventor of Frog Bikes. He has a family business too and he told us how he started his business and about the progress that he has made in becoming a well-known product. He gave us lots of good advice, and some good ideas for what we should do next!
Kia and Sky proudly displaying our Crikey Bikey harness!
Crikey Bikey is giving us amazing experiences and we are learning so much about business and different jobs. I am just so glad I did that homework!
Written by Sky Ballantyne
Editor: Crikey Bikey harnesses are now for sale in branches of Halfords.