Kate Castle is the founder of Boginabag, a lightweight portable toilet that can also be used as a seat. I spoke to Kate about how she started the business, the early days, getting funding and traction to the business.
Hi Kate, Thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
Hi Joseph, I’m fine thanks for asking.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I took a degree in Retail and Marketing Management at Oxford Brookes University. Following this I went onto the Sainsburys Graduate Trainee scheme. During my time at Sainsburys I worked in store management, regional training and then head office. I later moved to B&Q’s head office and was involved in importing products. This enabled me to gain experience in sourcing and manufacturing within the Far East.
Tell me about how you got into business?
I was made redundant from B&Q which gave me the push to turn an idea into a business.
How did the idea for Boginabag come about?
I was camping in Dorset Back in 2008 and lying awake desperate for the toilet I decided there had to be better options than trekking across a dark wet campsite to a toilet block.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
Everything is new and challenging when you start your own business. It is hard work and you often feel like you are getting nowhere. One of the toughest parts is finding the self-motivation each day to push forward.
What is Boginabag and what are you trying to solve?
Boginabag is a lightweight portable toilet that can also be used as a seat. It comes in a carry bag and weighs less than 1kg you use it with its own specially designed degradable bags which are sold separately in packs of 5. It is more convenient than the bulky chemical based toilets and is ideal for camping, outdoor pursuits and many other markets.
How have you been able to fund it?
Initially I was lucky enough to find funding from my parents when I sold a small percentage of the business to them. In 2011 I also went on Dragons Den and obtained £50,000 investment from Theo Pathitis.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
It took nearly two years to go from concept to getting the product onto the market. During this time there were many ups and downs. Receiving the first sample was hugely exciting and sticks out as a real highlight. Dealing with production in China remotely though meant that communication was sometime confused. There were a number of errors in the early days that cost us time and money.
How have you gone about getting traction to the business?
I always knew there was a demand for a light weight toilet that didn’t use chemicals from looking at the blogging sites and talking to friends. The difficulty is getting people to hear about a new product and understand how it works. I was lucky enough in year one to get a lot of free radio and press coverage which really helped kick start sales.
What’s your business model?
Over the next few years we intend to take Boginabag to more International markets. There are also plans underway to introduce more products into the business.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
You have to keep growing and adapting to suit the market.
What should be expecting from yourself and Boginabag for 2012?
A larger range and increased market presence.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Do your research and understand your market.
Be prepared for some very challenging days it can be lonely especially at the start!
Do something you enjoy.