Women In Innovation Success Stories: Katharine Paterson, Karekot, Newcastle
Katharine Paterson founded the ‘So To Company Ltd’ to create her innovative cot bed design, aimed at ensuring all babies can sleep safely and soundly. The Karekot not only reduces the opportunities for babies and toddlers to injure themselves but also protects parents from injury to their backs through an innovative drop-side mechanism
When Katharine won Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award in March 2021, the design of Karekot had already evolved over several years but the business was struggling to find the investment to finalise and test the design. Katharine said: “I was personally drained and quite down about the lack of progress in the business due to the lack of investment to get it over the edge. The Women in Innovation financial support was essential, timely and more than gratefully received.”
Commercial designer on board
Engaging with a commercially focused designer who made the cot cost-effective to produce, was a key milestone for the company, as was resolving issues with the fabric functionality, something that had been picked up at a Test House review. Katharine said: “My pivotal moment was taking the design to the Harrogate International Nursery Fair, where many retailers and buyers lavished lots of praise on the design and confirmed my belief in Karekot. Attending the fair enabled me to secure over 80 ‘in principle’ orders.”
Success in Harrogate
As a direct result of going to Harrogate, Katharine is looking to licence Karekot to an established business in the nursery sector, to take on responsibility for finalising the design, testing, manufacturing, securing orders, sales and distribution.
Katharine’s ambition for the next 12 months is to work closely with the potential licensee and once any deal is signed, ensure that the principles behind Karekot are fully addressed as it proceeds to market. “I am hopeful that a licensee will use me and my back story to promote the launch – hopefully by the end of this year”, said Katharine. “Nothing would bring a smile to my face more than seeing that first sale, knowing that this is the first step to babies sleeping more safely and soundly. I also want to undertake some field research to compare how babies sleep in Karekot compared to a traditional-barred cot,” she added.
Gaining in confidence
“Receiving the grant award was a real confidence booster, not only for recognising that Karekot is a fantastic and much-needed product, but the wrap-around support for individual female founders like me is invaluable.” Katharine said.
She continued: “I recognise that most innovations come from people seeing a problem and being sufficiently inspired, irritated and/or annoyed, to do something about it. I hope that when Karekot gets to market, it will give it a well-needed shake-up as babies should not be subject to injury whilst sleeping in a modern society.”
Being a single female founder, not being taken seriously, getting access to investors, suffering from imposter syndrome, not having a background in the product, and keeping family on side when she resigned from her career to pursue this goal, were all challenges Katharine faced. Katharine said: “I was at a crossroads and may well have folded the business if I had not been successful with this Women in Innovation Award. It could not have come at a better time enabling me to develop the design, protect the intellectual property and secure all that retailer and manufacturing interest at Harrogate.”
“Meeting some of my fellow award winners at Gateshead was brilliant. It is such a shame that COVID prevented the full cohort meeting in person. Having said that, the Zoom Women in Innovation bootcamps have been informative and created a shared sense of ‘sisterhood’” said Katharine.
She continued: “Access to Innovate UK EDGE’s Innovation and Growth Specialists has also been an invaluable benefit, especially because of the wider networks they have access to. Applying for the grant is a no-brainer so I would encourage all budding innovative female entrepreneurs out there to go for it!”