Spotlight on Sara Keel, Founder of ‘Babycup’

We have many working mothers in our MiC community, whether as employees in companies or self-employed and running their own business.

All have one thing in common: trying to achieve a harmonious work/life balance under sometimes very stressful circumstances.

Being your own boss however, has the added pressure of financial responsibility – when there’s no monthly income guarantee the daily challenges seem greater. On the other hand it is endlessly rewarding to be fulfilling your dreams and ambitions, and these women entrepreneurs often are an inspiration to others.

Our interview blog puts the spotlight on these entrepreneurial women: who they are, what they do and how they do it.

Today it is our pleasure to introduce Sara, Founder of ‘Babycup’; an oral healthcare brand manufacturing Babycup First Cups – multi-award winning mini open cups recommended by health experts including dentists, orthodontists and health visitors for babies and young children aged 0-36.

Hi Sara. How and when did you come up with the idea for ‘Babycup First Cups’ and what inspired you to become self-employed?

When my children were at the weaning stage and needed a cup, I found myself amassing a cupboard full of unnecessary/useless/or sometimes downright strange gadgets and gizmos. The sippy cups I bought were nothing but bottles in disguise, anything ‘free flow’ required an almost lie-flat angle to make them truly ‘free-flow’ and pretty much every cup was close in size to those an adult would use. Nothing seemed right, it all seemed a waste of money and materials, and worse than that was this nagging feeling that none of these cups were actually helping my child. I looked into it further and I also spoke to dentists and orthodontists about the best type of cup to use. The answer that came back from all the health experts was, ‘a proper open cup!’. So I searched high and low and tried all sorts of cups and containers.

Nothing was up to the job or in line with the experts’ recommendations. So, after more searching I created ‘Babycup First Cups’. First and foremost, they’re designed to be the right size for the user. That may sound a no-brainer, but it’s amazingly hard to find a decent quality cup for babies or young children that has actually been designed with them in mind. Many are the equivalent of you or I drinking from a bucket, or have scratchy bits, or have been designed with the carpet in mind not the child, or require the suck of a vacuum cleaner to get the liquid! 

What business achievement are you most proud of?

There was a huge amount to learn – injection moulding, safety testing, retail-friendly packaging, creating a website – just some of the challenges! And then of course there is the not insignificant task of spreading the word and sharing the information about healthy sipping from an open cup. Not an easy task when we’ve been marketed to for decades on the grounds of convenience. The ‘cup’ had been turned into a take-anywhere pacifier and its real purpose – for drinking from – had been lost by the wayside. I’m so happy to report though that health experts, health authorities, pre-schools, retailers and parents and their little ones, make the hard work worthwhile with their wonderful reviews and heartwarming feedback about Babycup First Cups.  Also, parents are less likely to give a child juice in an open cup due to the potential spill factor, so healthy water is given more often and this helps with reducing tooth decay.

A lot of new start-up businesses run out of steam when the going gets tough. Was there ever a time when you doubted the success of your business?

On long and sleepness nights of being up all hours, and the subsequent exhaustion and getting through the days feeling shattered, I’ve doubted myself! But that’s nothing that many mums aren’t also going through, it’s just that this baby happens to be a cup!! A catch up on sleep and stopping to focus on the achievements and aims, and all feels right again though!

Being your own boss means there are no mentors to learn from. Who do you go to for business advice?

Being your own boss is hard work and is lonely, but we now have a brilliant team, such as Sinead Tynan, our Specialist Liaison, who as a trained midwife is committed to the welfare of little ones from the start and totally ‘gets’ the ethos of Babycup.  I am also a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood, which means I get to contribute to policy proposals for our co-chair, Floella Benjamin/Baroness Benjamin OBE, to take to Ministers and campaign for for changes in behaviour and attitude for the good of childhood health.  We also work closely with the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry and will be their Gold Sponsor in their upcoming exhibition later this year.  So our business advice is really very closely aligned with the oral healthcare world.

Do you feel you have achieved a good work/life balance?

Work/life balance is hard as there is always something that needs doing! I think one of the most important disciplines is switching off mobile devices when the children are around. Being visible rather than being behind a screen. That’s hugely important in this day and age.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring ‘Mumpreneur’ starting out today, what would it be?

Find support groups you can talk to for advice and encouragement, connect with others in the same industry or similar arena, use social media to meet other mums/dads who are juglging parenthood with starting a business. Some of the best advice I’ve had is from other parents running nursery industry brands. Get to a trade fair – not just to meet potential clients or customers – but to meet like-minded peers and create a support network. Knowing others are facing similar issues and discussing ways to overcome them is invaluable not just on a practical level but also emotionally.

Thank you very much for your time Sara. Best wishes for continued success and happiness, both in your professional and personal life.

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You can find out more about Babycup at:

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Category:Spotlight Interviews

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