When mum of three Kelly Lavery, from the Sunshine Coast, was thrown back into the world of baby mess, she knew something needed to change.
After having her third child many years after her first two, Lavery was thrown back to looking after a newborn.
“I’d forgotten just how messy babies were,” Lavery told The Latch.
For Lavery, doing the laundry was most arduous, especially when it came to soaking stained clothes in basins before they could go in the wash.
But the worst part was putting her hands in a dirty bucket of nappies that she likened to ‘putting her hand in the toilet’.
“Faced with buckets of soaking mess and limited time, I thought there had to be a better and more hygienic way of getting items out of buckets,” she said.
“It was a chore I had trouble completing and it was definitely something I avoided because it was so laborious, dirty and time consuming. Something I was dealing with everyday.”
That’s when Lavery came up with the idea of a ‘strucket’, a strainer cross bucket that allows you to drain out the dirty water and throw the clothes in the washing machine without touching them with your hands.
“Your hands never, ever touch dirty water,” Lavery told The Latch, noting that after you remove the strainer compartment from the bucket, you can empty the dirty water through a tap on the side.
Parents are huge fans of the product, with many praising it for making laundry — especially if you have little kids — far easier and more hygienic.
“It was designed all around my son, created by a mum for other mums,” Lavery said. “I knew exactly what I needed to make my family life easier so I set about creating everything I knew a mother would love.”
The washing contraption also allows parents to become more sustainable as it works with cloth nappies and reusable wipes, as well as women’s reusable menstrual products.
It is also great for those in the child care, aged care or disability care industries. All washing that is soiled and needs to be soaked can go into it.
At first, Lavery couldn’t believe it was something that didn’t already exist and the more she needed it at home, the more she felt encouraged to create it herself.
“We did a six-week marketing campaign that led to the result that others wanted it and how varied the uses were. It really cemented to me that it would fill a gap in the market,” she told The Latch.
“You can find strainers and vessels everywhere but no one had ever connected the two items together. It solves an everyday problem.”
Yet for Lavery, coming up with the idea was the easy part. It took her three years to get it to the manufacturing stage.
“That was a huge journey, far bigger than I imagined. The challenges came when it was time to hire lawyers, designers, engineers and manufacturers. I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” she said.
“The initial outlay was massive and I had to come up with money to finance every stage of the invention from drawing to patents to tooling.”
Lavery said the tooling cost was the most significant, and when a quote came back for $250,000, her jaw almost hit the floor.
She attempted to take out a loan but when she was knocked back by the banks, Lavery knew she either had to find another way or walk away.
“To make it a reality, we put the house at risk. I had to weigh up the risk against gain — putting family security at risk to go after my dream and purpose,” Lavery said.
“We have sacrificed family holidays and all the other things we would normally do as a family to bring the Strucket to life.”
Lavery persevered and was lucky enough to receive $100,000 from the Ignite Ideas grant. After her company launched in December 2018, Lavery was able to turn over a profit in just six months, by May 2019.
Lavery said the interest in her invention from the overseas market was immediate, but she had to hold off expanding because of how popular the Strucket became in Australia.
“In September 2019, we attended our first international trade show in Germany and the doors just opened and the right connections we made,” Lavery said, with her product now being available in Europe and expansion into the USA beginning in March 2020.
Lavery has sold over 14,000 Struckets since launch and anticipates they will be able to double or triple that number in the years to come. Her product was also on display at the iconic retail exhibition, Life Instyle at the ICC, Darling Harbour in 2020.
Lavery said it’s hard for her to applaud her own work, but when she looks back at what she’s been able to achieve, she feels proud.
“The hard work and sacrifice is deserving of success. A lot of people would have given up long ago. Some of the hurdles seemed impossible at first but I kept going,” she told The Latch.
Lavery said given she already had enough on her plate at the time with a newborn and two other children, deciding to start a business she knew nothing about from scratch was incredibly challenging.
“I have learnt you cannot take your eye off the ball, you have to be looking to the front, back and side at all times,” she said.
“Entrepreneurship is all about tackling something that has not been done before. You have to have a doggedness to keep driving it forward. It’s not for everyone.”