Healthy starts early
Podcast, Episode 4
The story behind ergonomic baby cutlery doddl - Sarah talks to founder Catherine Dodd
Podcast with Catherine Dodd, founder of doddl cutlery, to find about the journey, research and development behind her successful baby and toddler cutlery doddl
We had the great opportunity to speak to Catherine Dodd, founder of doddl cutlery, to find out all about the journey, research and development behind her successful baby and toddler cutlery. You will find out why a small version of an adult cutlery is an ill fit for a child’s hand and how Cat developed a knife that is safe for small hands yet cuts through food unlike most children's knives.
doddl cutlery: https://doddl.com
This is Healthy Starts Early a podcast about eating healthy as a family. I am your host Sarah Roesink, founder of the Phoebe app and passionate advocate of healthy eating at home. A quick disclaimer, our content is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as a healthcare advice if you have any concerns over the health and well-being of your child please contact your GP or health visitor now let's enjoy the next episode. welcome to another episode of Phoebe podcast today we're talking to Cat Dodd from doddl Cutlery Cat do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself how um did you come to make um Cutlery and what is your background before Cutlery where you're in design before anything related to what you're doing now um yes well nothing related to what I'm doing now apart from um having children so before I did bottle I was I actually worked in Waste Management um so Recycling and getting everyone's uh rubbish and bins collected so completely different um but yeah how doddl uh came about was because I had three children very close together so my daughter was only 15 months old when my twins were born um and that's really was the the start of my journey in terms of their meal times becoming very challenging with the three kids and and that's what ultimately led to the Donald uh being formed and um what is so special about doddl and how does it help the baby getting used to eating with Cutlery um so the real special thing about uh the doddl Cutlery is that it's specifically designed for babies and children so for decades we've just been giving children small versions of adult Cutlery which is just long thin handles um and basically that's counterproductive for children they don't have the strength the coordination the dexterity to use Cutlery like we do so giving them just small versions of adult Cutlery we've just been setting them up to fail and that was basically the concept and the um idea I was working with which was then Led Led to a long path of sort of research development and testing to create Cutlery that was specifically designed for children based on their coordination their capability their strength their control and how did the initial idea you know how how was that idea born because your category looks very different to any other children's Cutlery like you say you know others might have a chunkier grip or you know the handle is a bit thicker than the usual adult version let's say of a fork or a knife how did you come up with that really nice um I don't know I would almost call it like you know it's something that's molded towards the to the hand of a baby how did you come up with that idea well it's sort of it uh it was actually a light bulb moment so I was on holiday uh with my children they were um the Twins were two and my daughter was three excuse me and we had um it was another sort of messy meal I'd given them pasta and all they had in the place we were staying was plastic thoughts your sort of standard disposable ones and um I had given that those the kids with their pasta and we still had the same issues of sort of mass food flying everywhere and then my three-year-old accidentally broke the handle off her fork and then she just picked up the sort of stubby utensil end of the fork and then I was just this was without being I was just watching her I was just stood there watching her and then she then picked that up and she started to eat her pasta much more easily where she was sort of going to try and stab it she was successful she was able to like control it and get it into her mouth and so I was watching the other two still sort of flicking it around with these longer thoughts that they were struggling to control and then my other daughter who was actually really starting to now concentrate and having much more success and that gave me the idea that the long handle was counterproductive for children and so after that holiday I got back home and I actually started I bought a lot more plastic forks broke off the handles and I started molding handles that were much more compact um of all different shapes and uh designs and that was really the the start of my journey in terms of it wasn't a long relatively thin handle children needed it needed to be something much more Compact and molded and then from that we built um a lot more uh into the design in terms of how could we best help the development of the child to not only make it easier for them to use Cutlery easily for them to control and coordinate but also help them develop their sort of key motor skills so that was really the sort of working principles if you like I'm really interested in that research stage that you went through how long did it take to you know to come from that initial broken fork and your initial you know first ideas I guess you must have used something like plasticine or you know something soft to to kind of form the handle and then to finally arrive at the product that we have today how long did that take well that was a process of about 18 months actually of um so my first um sort of Journey was looking at um trying to get the right people on board in terms of the specialist so finding a Child Development specialist that could really help consult and advise to make sure everything we were trying to achieve was in the best interest in the child and supporting their development um but really once we had that person on board um it was just a long process of um developing the designs um getting a lot of children and then testing and we had um probably near 50 odd designs um of all these different handles that would go through the same process of testing and it would be videoed and we would have all these matrices so we could really quantify the results in terms of what really was the best um some designs were just no good so they would then be dropped others could were reworked and remodified and this process is carried on basically until we got closer and closer to the final design which basically scored when we looked at every element of you know a child eating and um the specifics of that um what design was the best to help the child and help their skills and make it easier and how many children did You observe I mean you have three at your table which I'm sure is already very interesting because you must have observed them 24 7 basically but how many other families did you involve or did you have a research centre kind of set up for this yeah we had lots of different environments and that's what we wanted to do because we wanted to make sure it was as broad as it could be so we had went into Nursery so big nurseries where there were a lot of children and they were sort of processing through if you like um so they would be doing meals at sort of maybe 20 30 kids at a time and we went into play groups and we set up um sort of focus groups that were were hosted um often at my house for other premises as well we worked with child minders where they were given sort of the prototypes to test in their environment um so it was a really wide range of um we also went to schools it was a really wide range of children in different settings um different ages different experiences to try and capture every single situation and child if you like and I notice you have two different cutlery sets so there's this tiny spoon and Tiny fork for the very early stage and then fork knife and Spoon for the older children so how did you divide these two cutlery sets and where do you think is the best time to swap over from one to the other yeah well in terms of the the product development it was a little bit back to front because actually the children's Cutlery the toddler Cutlery which is the 12 plus month came first but we realized um that actually you know what we wanted to do was get from the very first moment that babies were weaning you know we wanted to get that familiarity with Cutlery um now obviously the expectation for babies sort of six to 12 months we're not expecting them to be you know Cutlery connoisseurs and you know really get to grits with effectively using Cutlery but it's all part of a journey and I think some parents sort of um maybe hope or expect they give Cutlery to their children and they would just automatically just get it and that's not always the case there can be that period of time where it's building coordination building um skills building strength uh the beauty of doddl is that it can be it's designed to be very intuitive so we do expect that you can just put it on the table and the child will learn how to use that Cutlery Without You Know Much guidance Etc but yeah the point of the baby cut through really is that it's the babies giving the cutlery to babies alongside their weaning Journey so they can start to familiarise themselves with Cutlery explore Cutlery whilst they're exploring the food um and by the time they get to nearer the 12 months when they should be more able and successful using Cutlery than the toddler Cutlery which is um obviously the metal ends which is important as well because you want to get them familiar with metal because metal can feel and taste quite different so if you keep them on plastic Cutlery you know after they've gone through that baby stage then it can be quite a difficult transition then for them trying to get uh get used to adult Cutlery thereafter so yeah it was really just making sure the baby Cutlery can still be held in a um Palmer grip so they can sort of wrap their hands around it but it's the same principle in trying to get that finger strength and building that pincer grip as well I actually because I I have three children like yourself as well and they're six four and two now so obviously I didn't know about Donald Cutlery for the first two children but we had your Cutlery for the last one for the the last one from when he was around seven eight months old and I I have to say you know I can really support it but it was so easy for him to use the cutlery whereas with my other children they were usually more interested in chewing um on the spoons that we had in the beginning because they were soft tipped which is great as well but it was a completely different experience I would say for the youngest to use the cutlery and then also to very much you know mimic what the older children were doing so um yeah that's the beauty of it it was really um you know I used to find meal times really quite stressful and it wasn't about sitting down ever really and enjoying family meal times it felt more like a sort of job that needs to be done the children needed to be fed um and it was trying to be the like easiest way to to get through that but you know it's really not what meal time should be about meal time should be about enjoying your food enjoying the company and I think we do really believe especially at total that that's important from an early age to to get into that sort of um feeling and experience um so you is that yeah you can give it to your children and they can be successful with it from a young age and you know if mum or dad can then sit there or siblings and and eat their food and the the toddler is happily you know tucking into their food or their Cutlery then that's brilliant let me take a quick break and tell you about our great up Phoebe that gives you all the inspiration for cooking healthy food for your family Phoebe is currently free to use so make sure you get it today the link is in the show notes and if you find this episode helpful please give us a five star review on Apple podcast to help more parents Discover it now let's get back to our episode I think the most popular um piece of your Cuttery is actually the knife and our household that all children want to use and fight over at every meal time could you talk to us a little bit about the knife and what's so special and so very different about your knife because your knife doesn't really look like a knife if you think about a knife it just doesn't look anything like it so if you could just describe it for what it looks like um for the listeners who haven't seen it before we get that a lot in terms of people like oh what is that um so the knife is a very obviously a standard knife is sort of long and thin from top to bottom really including working through the blade to the handle one relatively long straight line um our knife is has a much um uh longer uh a shorter blade um and a much more compact handle um so actually the blade area is much bigger um and the reason it's designed um like that is because funny enough when I started off with Cutlery I was really focusing on the spoon and fork because I was still finding my children just moving from a spoon um to a fork quite challenging um I hadn't really considered the knife because like most parents I thought they're never going to be able to use a knife um it was absolutely hopeless whenever I tried giving them a toddler knife they couldn't cut anything um so I had almost parked the knife and then we thought right how are we going to it is important that kids can use a knife and fork how can we make a knife that kids can actually use and the key is why they can't use a standard knife is because they don't have the strength in their hand and wrist so when you think about yourself as an adult cutting through food you actually have quite a lot of strength to keep your wrist stable and to cut and push through the food so the design of the doddl knife is really about getting a lot more support under the hand so it puts the hand in the the correct position as to how they would hold an adult knife but it gives them a lot more support under that hand because they haven't got the strength to keep their wrists very stable so it means that they can start learning to cut through food from a young age and all that time they're building those skills they're building that strength so they can then just go on and use a normal knife um so yeah the knife has been um is really probably our most revolutionary product because it actually works and it's so different to um what most people would look at a knife but for a child it's a perfect design can you describe that you know because the handle sits on top of the knife um which I think is so brilliant um it's really quite hard to describe um I'm trying to think of the shape that the the knife blade creates because I think some parents look at that and think oh you know that's quite um intimidating um it's sort of a um like a little wedge shape almost or if you think about um maybe a um nail brush how you might hold a nail brush that's how the handle is sort of getting your hand position and I say the blade is almost like a a sort of wedge shape in order to help keep that hand hand up in the correct position that the blade as well you see is really um specifically designed so that it will cut food but it won't cut skin and it is a really unique design how the teeth are specifically aligned and the sizing and all of that to make sure because people look at it and think oh I wouldn't give my child that but as we often do trade shows which I'm not necessarily recommending but we're often sort of running the knife over our hands to be like literally you cannot cut your skin but then you can easily then just start cutting through food it is a very clever design yeah and um that knife how did you come up with the design of the blade because it is so different to I mean any other baby knife it's basically it's just it's a very blunt piece of metal and that's it so how did you come up with the teeth of the knife yeah well the the whole design because when we were looking at children using a knife what you would always see is when they try cutting through food their hand would just drop down to the plate so they weren't able to keep their hand up to cut through food so that would uh that would happen or they would um sort of grip the knife around the other side and almost try clawing through the food with the knife um so the first point in terms of coming up with the design of the knife was to having looked and observed children was helping them to keep their hands up in the correct position because they didn't have the strength to do that so that's what led to the shape of the knife um utensil or the the blade if you like in that quite unique shape and then the handle was really um how could we make sure that the child is putting their hand in the correct position that they would hold an adult knives so encouraging that finger to come along the top um having the knife tucked into the Palm but very comfortable so that it felt nice to hold comfortable to hold um because that's the other issue that a lot of Cutlery um and long thin handles are not actually very comfy to hold and quite off-putting then for children to use um say the teeth really was a lot of um testing um to uh until we found the um the correct design of those teeth um so if you had them too small um it may get too sharp and the orientation of the how the teeth actually align all of that was a lot of sort of testing and modification to make sure that it would cut through food easily that wouldn't cut skin um so that did take quite a lot of trial and error in order to to get those uh the actual blade of the knife um but what parents always told us with our research and our testing is that their frustration was a lot most of the toddler Cutlery of baby Cutlery was always very blunt um and so they couldn't they struggled even to sort of cut up food or stab food with the fork Etc um let alone the child being able to to do that so that's what typically would lead to the toddlers becoming frustrated um then they would like Chuck down the cutlery and resort to fingers and then parents would get frustrated and a bit pulling their hair out as to why my child not using Cutlery why they just keep eating with their fingers and that was really why because we were just giving them implements that we thought right would just make the small versions of adult Cutlery will make them quite blunt so that they can't hurt themselves um and there we go we'll expect them to to use it and you know obviously they couldn't use it and that's why children would often Resort fingers
um how old is daughter now daughter Cutlery um well it's been it feels almost like a lifetime because I came up with the idea um towards the end of 2013. um and then it was quite a long journey of as I say with the research the testing we tried to set manufacturing up in the UK um unfortunately that wasn't successful um so that almost took another year out of our our progress so we started really selling um beginning of 2017 um so we're sort of nearly five years in four or five years in of um consistent selling and I mean obviously you've talked us through the the research stage and now that you see so many people using it because you're a product out on the open market I I think you're you know you're quite strong in the baby Cutlery Market what is the feedback that you get from parents and has your product actually changed over the last five years or have you had requests from people that said you know they gave you feedback that things do not work or do work um what has it been for you well that is the challenge because the product was always designed to be the perfect product for the child it's not the perfect product to manufacture um it is really difficult to manufacture and that's always been a challenge that constantly sort of being pushed by the production team Etc to amend the design to make it more favorable for production but it was so specific that design in terms of being the perfect one for the child that um for me that's non-negotiable so it does create its challenges but the reason um it's non-negotiable is because our feedback is amazing we get five star reviews from parents um and not only that consistently we get emails um from parents that literally it's been life-changing for them and that just keeps me going all the time there'll be you know mums that are written to say no I have been so stressed about my child not eating you know meal times for a nightmare um I was really unhappy the child seemed really unhappy and they've just been like this is just completely been a game changer for us um and I love those emails and that makes it you know that's why I set out to do this was to make meal times easier and more enjoyable because that was not my experience of my children yeah and so I knew there had to be a better way and so when we get those emails from um parents that are just love the cutlery just made it uh the whole experience for their child easier for themselves for the pair and easier as well um it makes it worthwhile so the design as I say is not really um negotiable because that was so specific and that's why it works and that's why you know that we get such great reviews and were there any bumps on your journey that's you know been when you say you're five years on the market but the journey is much longer it's nearly a 10-year Journey now what what were your biggest hurdles um or it's a total rollercoaster um and it and it always is we have issues with um you know ultimately we were the first country company then to redesign um children's Cutlery and unfortunately you know a lot of people have followed now down the same route um and I guess it's understandable because our Cutlery Works Long uh small versions of adult Cutlery didn't so on the market today you'll see a lot less sort of small versions of adult Cutlery and a lot more sort of um uh aligning our principle that we sort of created which was this much more Compact and much more molded um uh Cutlery so I guess that gets frustrating because of sort of seal you know that was a a lot of um you know a lot of years of hard work to create that and then you do get companies that jump on the bandwagon in terms of oh yeah good idea um so uh yeah that's one of our challenges um funding as well like we're a true startup so um it was started from nothing essentially at what the sort of family could afford to invest Etc so we've not had the Deep Pockets they're big corporates and Internationals have and so a lot of our growth has been through word of mouth and organic which is great but we want Donald to be available or every parent um to know about doddl we sell doddl in over 30 countries worldwide um and so we don't feel there's any child that wouldn't benefit from using doddl so that's sort of our mission but that's a big a big mission and lots of bumps along the road it's a constant roller coaster and I mean you're a mom of three I'm a mom of three I know it is so difficult to be just trying to run a business you're running it um any piece of advice for a mother of one two three four children um however many children no children being pregnant um what's your what are your three main pieces of advice um you know because you've kind of you followed a dream you found something that came up because you're a mother and you are in this role so you found a new calling in your life so to say as as have as as we have found as well um what are your three pieces of advice for somebody to follow their dream it's very tricky because uh you'll always feel that you're not doing something as well as you can so if you're trying to start a business run a business and you're the main carer trying to look after children you'll always feel like you're compromising so you're never doing spending as much time with the kids and you'll never spend as much time as you feel you should be on the business um so I think my first piece of advice is it's almost you've just got to accept that that's the way it will be and um that the business will be okay if you give it as much time as you can and the children will be okay if you give them as much time as you can but there's no point beating yourself up about not being able to do both as well as you wish or hope or expect um you should be able to um I think the the next piece of advice is um you've got to be really um really determined um and really um resilient I'd say that's what's kept me going because there's been a felt like there's been a lot more um hurdles and bumps in the road than smooth sailing and um that can be very stressful and it can be very tiring and very wearing so if you're a personality or character that is very resilient is very determined then you probably will will get through it but if you don't like the uncertainty um of ups and downs and risks Etc then running a business um with children is probably uh probably not necessarily Well Suited um and what my third piece be um I think uh make sure that you've got a really good support network around you and whether that's friends and family but really for me um especially in the early days spending time researching all the organizations out there because for startups um especially as women um mums Etc there's a huge amount of support out there whether it's in kind whether it's grants there are a huge amount of organizations so um I feel very lucky um to have had the support I've had but that does require you know a bit of tenacity to really go looking for for that support because that's definitely what helped me get out the starting blocks but it's it's so good to hear you talk honestly about it because you know sometimes people can see an Instagram feed or they see a glossy website and they think oh this person has has it all sorted but it's really nice to see like you know how it looks behind the scenes and um yeah to get an honest view on on what it's like well people that know me know that I generally am pretty honest and speak my mind which is probably why I don't do much in the way of social media because um yeah I find it hard posting it's that reality if that um you know it's definitely not all smiles it's not all glamor and it's not all easy um and it is tough um so but you know it's a great experience I I wouldn't have changed it for the world um there it's been a absolute roller coaster um and I feel as I say that I really believe in the product um and the more we get out there and the more feedback we get uh the more I know it's worth well so it's a journey we're going to keep on plugging on great well cat thank you so much for talking to us today and for anyone who has not heard or has not seen the cutlery I will put a link to your website in our show notes um or otherwise just type doddl and you'll find your website obviously with with all the cutlery and options that you have and I also saw that you've got lots of nice videos on your website which is so great to see you know to see how the The Cutlery is being used by children of different ages um yeah this is brilliant most of it is user generated content um so it's just customers sharing with us you know their experience so we mostly share that to be honest rather than our any own videos created because we love seeing what customers are um how they're using it how they're getting on um and obviously we've got our newer products the plates um so it's sort of moving to that meal time experience as well um obviously we were started off on the cutlery but it's that that journey to sort of uh help with the whole meal time yeah range and experience brilliant great well thank you so much for talking to us today cut you're welcome nice to meet you great bye-bye thank you thank you so much for tuning in today make sure you download our app which provides free recipes and weaning tips for families with young children look for Phoebe on the app store that's p-h-o-e-b-e and if you found this episode helpful please give us a five-star review on Apple podcast to help more parents Discover it that's it for today.
*Disclaimer: Please be advised that any information is given as general guidance only. Should you have any concerns over the wellbeing of your child such as intolerances, allergies and weight, or your baby was born prematurely or you are unsure if your baby is ready for solids, it is always best to consult with your Health Visitor or GP.*