Information & Advice
Anybody with a recent arrival in the family will know all about the trials and tribulations of feeding time. Often, a cry in the early hours will alert you to the fact baby is hungry. From then on, it's action stations until they're settled again ? although how well you sleep is another question.
Jim Shaikh and his wife Farah knew all about the feeding treadmill. To complicate matters, their little boy Danial was born six weeks premature by emergency Caesarean. "We were feeding him every four hours to help him gain weight," says Jim. "My job was to get up in the middle of the night and warm up the feed. I wasn't very good at it. I kept falling asleep or the milk would overheat and the whole time, Danial would be screaming for his milk."
"One day, Farah said: 'You're an engineer. Can't you produce some cleverly designed bottle that heats up milk to the right temperature?' It was a throwaway comment but I started thinking about it."
Jim's thoughts in fact would form the basis for a new business for him and Farah. He ran a small engineering design consultancy that had produced solar panels and wind turbines. He decided to put forward the idea of a self-warming bottle to his business as a project.
He decided to name it 'Yoomi' - a variation on "you and me" or you and the baby. He and his colleagues came up with a design and tested it extensively, to ensure it wouldn't overheat the milk.
Next came the lengthy process of patenting the idea. Jim went to the British Library for advice, before filing a patent in 2004. He set up a new business to develop Yoomi and sought investment.
"It's a bit like Dragon's Den," he says. When you're developing a new product, it's quite time-consuming and expensive. You have to make prototypes which take money and time. If you can show you've applied for a patent, investors grab hold of that."
Jim raised £100,000 from investors to fund the first prototype. This went through a design change before they were happy. "It looks beautiful now," he says. He sourced manufacturers and then starting pitching to retail outlets.
After proving successful in a small number of stores, they started to get more high street presence. Boots launched Yoomi last November and you can find two of their baby bottles right here on Boots.com.
Nowadays, Yoomi has won two national awards and is being sold in Europe, Australia and South Africa. "We sold 35,000 bottles last year," says Jim. "We're still a small company but we're growing all the time."
He loves the flexibility of the work but admits it can be gruelling. Besides Danial, now eight, Jim and Farah now have a second son, Niall, aged three. They have to work hard to make sure their family life doesn't suffer.
"We start work at 6.30am and finish at 8.30pm and I also tend to put in a day at weekends," he says. "It's quite a sacrifice but hopefully it will be worth it in the end. This has been life-changing for us."
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