When the pandemic hit the UK and we all went into lockdown, we knew we had to do something to help. Innovate launched an initiative to give priority to new Covid-related ideas which were already flooding in. We had a great response from this, and within that group of inventors was Jo Pole with her idea for the Facelet.
“We were often finding ourselves in positions where we forgot our mask, and this soon became a talking point among family, friends and even passers by. That got the idea started – there must be a better solution.”
Jo then thought of the idea of adding a button to a mask, to be able to store it around your wrist. “We tried out a few options and then found the perfect solution.”
Sound simple? It is. But simple is sometimes the best solution. The Facelet has sold 16,000 units already and is supplying to a popular TV dancing show and big companies like Eddie Stobart. It has also been reviewed by Luxurious Magazine as the best face mask they’ve tried this year. “Receiving that review and feedback from customers tells us that we’ve done a good job on getting the product right.”
How did they get from being novice-inventors to business owners so quickly? Here’s how they did it:
Getting the Facelet started
First, they needed to know if it was worth going ahead with.
“Innovate were amazing and really helped with checking the worthiness of the original idea. It was great to quickly speak to someone and get the ball rolling on searching whether the idea really was unique and patentable.”
After talking over some options, we decided the first step was to carry out an essential World Wide Patent Search. Our Research team exceeded all expectations in this busy period to ensure priority to the potentially life saving product ideas.
“Innovate were great in this situation working really quickly to complete the searches and the initial patent application in a matter of days where often these things can take weeks or months.”
After reviewing this and finding no significant prior art, Jo took advantage of our offer of a fast track patent application.
“Their genuine positivity and interest in the idea was a factor in us really pushing forward at pace with patent applications – we are now patent-pending in the UK and USA, have a trademark pending and also have an EU registered design on the overall design of the Facelet. Without Innovate’s help we wouldn’t have got to where we are today with the product.”
Facelet: On to manufacture
Armed with a patent pending and belief in the product, it was time to manufacture the idea. Jo had designed the product herself, so they didn’t require help from Innovate’s design team.
It’s worth remembering here that Jo is new to the process of manufacture, perhaps like you. Jo is proof that you needn’t shy away from things you don’t know.
“We haven’t ever done anything like this before so it’s been an exciting learning curve for us, we have learned something new everyday and that’s been brilliant.”
Jo found it difficult to find a manufacture in the UK to make exactly what she wanted, and quickly. She decided to look further afield, with success. “We have found a fantastic manufacturer in South Africa that produces the Facelet for us. We’re really pleased that they not only produce a premium quality product but also share the same environmental and socially conscious ethics that we do.”
What about marketing?
The answer to that, is personal hard work mixed with some professional help.
“We’ve been up all hours researching, developing ideas and looking at ways to market the covering.”
Jo explained that it was mostly word of mouth and utilizing friends and contacts to secure accounts with companies such as Eddie Stobart and Fraser Hospitality, as well as many more. They are able to brand the Facelets to suit each company.
“Companies are loving the fact that their staff can have a face mask at the ready for any eventuality. Not to mention the savings they are making not having to buy disposables & helping reduce the of plastic waste that end up in landfill or our oceans.”
Jo also decided to employ a PR company, who was able to secure a mass order from a very popular ITV dancing competition!
“We will also be appearing on the BBC news soon because of the eco-benefits that our facemask offers, including the packaging and how it conforms with the World Health Organisation of three layers with a sewn in antibacterial inner.”
Tips for you
We asked Jo for some tips to inventors wanting to do what she has done:
“If you have an idea you should just go for it, especially if your project is something that you feel passionately about.”
“Things are moving at such a rapid pace, so the only other piece of advice we have is to go with your gut instinct. If you have an idea for right now, go for it.”
You can buy a Facelet from £5.95 from www.the facelet.co.uk