TechWatch editor Emily McDaid found out more about a new buggy blanket that protects against the elements.
Entrepreneur and mother of three Olivia Farnan has created Blinky, an innovative blanket for buggies that deals with any weather – sun, wind or rain.
Blinky is based in Newcastle, Co Down. Given the temperamental Northern Irish weather, it’s literally the perfect climate to test such a product.
“Every parent’s main aim is to protect their children, but we also want to get out of the house and show children the world. Parents can’t bring everything bar the kitchen sink with them,” said Farnan.
‘The Blinky Company is all about supporting adventure for families to get out and enjoy the world’
– OLIVIA FARNAN
She said a family holiday to Donegal, small children in tow, sparked the idea for Blinky.
“We left for a walk. We had a variety of covers for our buggy – blankets, waterproofs, sunshades and parasols – but, once the weather turned, we realised we’d remembered none of them.”
Farnan embarked on a product development process that was aided in part by her husband, who has spent 20 years in IT development.
The Blinky protects against all elements with its built-in covers. Bright yellow in colour, it has a reflective logo for safety in dark conditions, and the whole thing rolls up easily to be stored on the buggy or over your shoulder.
Farnan obtained an Invest NI innovation voucher, and she worked with Queen’s University Belfast’s engineering department to form a basic prototype. She used a product development company called Big Small Design, which works with several other local innovation companies and was instrumental in helping her find a manufacturer.
Blinky is water-resistant and wipe-clean, and it fits on a buggy like a footmuff. It is also fleece-lined and machine-washable, and has a breathable blackout sleep shade with UV50 protection, a phthalate-free PVC rain cover and a UV50 sunshade. The cover is well ventilated with a built-in air-flow system.
Blinky has secured an important manufacturing contract with Ulster Weavers. The initial run is being made now and the website will be open for pre-ordering soon, with a product cost of £79.99.
“We’re also in talks with large UK retailers about stocking the product, and we’ve had a lot of interest,” said Farnan.
“We want to grow with the family by launching products for kids after they leave the buggy. We’re developing a scoot-cycle product and a rucksack for pre-schoolers. The Blinky Company is all about supporting adventure for families to get out and enjoy the world.”
Blinky is now a finalist in the Life and Health category for the Invent 2017 awards, with the ceremony taking place next week. We wish Blinky good luck.
By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch
A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch
The annual Invent competition is run by Connect at Catalyst Inc, and aims to showcase the best and brightest innovators that Northern Ireland has to offer. Invent 2017 will take place on Thursday 5 October in Belfast, where 12 finalists will battle it out for a £33,000 prize fund and the chance to attend a Northern Ireland tech mission to California.