When James and Aileen McCauley’s first born started rolling with vigour at a few months old, they searched high and low for a product that would keep him safe and lower their stress levels at nappy changing time. Nothing fitted the bill. This prompted James to borrow a sewing machine and teach himself how to sew in order to make the type of mat the couple felt would help to de-stress the changing process.
Six years on and that idea has become the Wriggler – a compact, foldable, anti-roll changing mat designed to give parents peace of mind.
“Once babies learn to roll, flip over and crawl, nappy changing can become a battle and it’s recommended we start changing our babies on the floor due to the risk of them falling off a changing table or an elevated surface. But with their newfound freedom it often takes both hands to keep them still leaving no hands free to change the nappy,” James McCauley says.
“We could all survive that once or twice but given we change our babies six times a day or around 6,500 times until potty training, it’s not surprising that 40 per cent of parents report stress at changing time.”
The patent-pending Wriggler fits neatly into a regular changing bag and comes with an easy to clean surface. It is suitable for infants from six months to when they’re toilet trained.
When folded, the Wriggler looks like a conventional changing mat. When opened it becomes a cuddly bear character whose arms extend across the baby’s body to hold them secure in a “bear hug”. The arms also extend downwards to become what McCauley calls “the secret sauce” – or soft pads the parent kneels on to anchor the mat thereby freeing up both hands for a speedy nappy change.
An unexpected customer group for the product has been parents of older children with special needs and those who face particular hurdles at changing time as their babies have medical devices such as stoma bags and feeding tubes.
The Wriggler was launched online at the end of September 2018 following an investment of roughly €50,000 which was supported by Fingal LEO and Enterprise Ireland. Two of the biggest costs were international patenting and safety testing for the UK, Europe and US markets.
Made in China
The mats are made in China and are sold directly via the company's website and on Amazon. Retail will follow in due course.
“There are wedge changing mats with slightly raised sides and changing tables with straps already on the market but while they are a deterrent to rolling, they cannot effectively contain an active baby or toddler. The Wriggler is the only anti-roll changing mat specifically designed for wriggly nappy changes,” McCauley says.
Both McCauley (a secondary school teacher) and his wife (an educational psychologist) have continued to work while developing their business and raising their young family, but keen to raise awareness of the product and potentially secure an investor, they decided to appear on the TV programme Dragon’s Den.
Two dragons showed an interest in the Wriggler and the McCauleys, who were looking for an investment of £50,000 sterling, opted to accept an offer from one of them for a 35 per cent stake. As of now, this deal is not signed off and McCauley says they are still open to offers from other investors.
Even if the Dragon Den’s deal doesn’t happen, James McCauley has no regrets about going through the process. “It gave us huge international coverage as we were featured on the BBC’s YouTube channel which gets millions of hits,” he says. “As a result of being on the programme, we have been getting orders from all over the world and also offers from potential global distributors.”