Protective bibs with a stylish twist
Gillian Elliffe spotted the need for bibs that would suit babies, older people and those with special needs
“I’d had the idea for a one-stop shop for all types of protective clothing for babies, toddlers and young children since my eldest was born but the timing never seemed right,” says Gillian Elliffe. “Then I was made redundant.” Photograph: Orla Murray
Personal experience can often be the catalyst for a new business idea and when Gillian Elliffe’s first child arrived she wasn’t one bit impressed by the quality of the baby bibs on the market. Fabric bibs quickly got soaked through and the only other options were hard plastic or plastic-backed bibs that were uncomfortable to wear and a potential skin irritant for a small baby.
In 2014, Elliffe began her quest to find the perfect bib and this was the start of what became Rúna Baby, which began life producing protective clothing for babies and toddlers. Two years on and Rúna Baby has become Rúna Care Wear to reflect its diversification into bibs for those with special needs and for older adults who struggle to manage with paper napkins at mealtimes.
“When I was selling at different [streetElliffe says. “Because they couldn’t get suitable bibs here they were buying from the UK and paying shipping costs on top, so I decided to offer effective, affordable alternatives as you need a few to get through the week.”
The company has now launched its adult bibs in two sizes, a smaller bandana style for everyday wear and a larger bib for mealtimes. The bibs are made from the same absorbent materials as the baby bibs but they are darker in colour and the neck size is adjustable. “I kept in contact with the carers and nurses who had spoken to me and benefited from their practical experience when it came to choosing colours and determining sizes,” Elliffe says.
‘Start my own’
Elliffe worked in banking before moving to a job in a small family business. “It was so different to where I had worked before and I loved everything about it. I got an insight into what it takes to run a business and decided then that if I ever got the chance I’d love to start my own,” she says. “I’d had the idea for a one-stop shop for all types of protective clothing for babies, toddlers and young children since my eldest was born but the timing never seemed right. Then I was made redundant and that changed everything. I launched Rúna in July 2017 with a wide range of different fabric choices in baby bib, bandana and long-sleeved options. We also have an organic cotton range as well as wash cloths and teething jewellery.”
Elliffe says the hallmark of Rúna bibs for all wearers is that they are soft and light but highly absorbent. The company ships worldwide and sells exclusively online as this enables Elliffe to juggle the business with caring for her three young children. Most of company’s marketing is through social media channels. Kids bibs cost between €4 and €12 while adult bibs sell at €6 and €8. The company is also supplying bibs in bulk to residential care homes. Investment in the business to date has been in the order of €10,000 which was self-funded.
Despite her best efforts, Elliffe was unable to find an Irish manufacturer not least because she couldn’t find anyone here with the capability to print fabric. She looked at outsourcing to China and several other locations before settling on a manufacturer in India as the quality was vastly superior. “I have developed a very good working relationship with my supplier and, as there was a lot of back and forth with prototypes before the first order was shipped, I have total confidence in what they produce,” she says.