We talk this week to Lou Rice and her partner Ben Stainlay, the couple behind the brand Strapsicle, an Australian-first innovative Kindle accessory designed so users can hold their Kindles and other devices securely with one hand. Originally designed as a solution for busy mums who want to be able to do more with their devices as they do something else, it has evolved to become a tool for accessibility among people with disabilities. In the process, the brand has achieved immense success not only at home but also overseas, particularly in the United States.
ISB: What is the inspiration behind Strapsicle?
LR: Before Archie was born, I’d spend hours reading with it. So, during those late nights of nursing with a newborn, I’d pass the time with my Kindle. But late one night, in a haze of sleeplessness, I dropped my Kindle. And it landed on poor Archie’s head. It was upsetting for all concerned, although he was fine. The next day Ben fashioned a makeshift Kindle holder, made of silicone. With that attached, there was no way I could drop it. It wasn’t perfect, but it certainly did the job, and so the very first Strapsicle prototype was born.
BS: I literally cut it out of a silicone mat I had for baking and held it together with staples. Lou has pics of it. It certainly wasn’t pretty, but it did the job! I love solving problems and making things, so I was more than happy to have a go. After we did a little online research and Lou spoke with some friends, we realised that other people would buy this too, so we decided to go to test it out.
ISB: How were you able to strike a balance between growing your business and having a day job as well?
LR: When we first launched, we’d just come out of lockdowns and I was on maternity leave, so I was able to dedicate a good amount of time to growing the business in the first couple of months. I returned to work three days a week at an advertising agency, and with Archie in daycare full time I am able to spend two days a week working on Strapsicle. There are so many things you can be doing at any one time – new product development, operations, customer service, marketing…So, at the start of the week, I really try and plan and prioritise the big things I need to focus on to move us forward. And also batching tasks to create efficiencies.
ISB: How do you feel seeing your product not only being used by mums but also by people with disabilities?
BS: Honestly, it makes our purpose behind this business much more powerful. We had no idea about this before we started. To know that we can actually make people’s lives better because they can read again.
LR: When people reach out and share their stories you realise the impact you can have. Recently someone with cerebral palsy sent us a message of thanks, and that was so touching. It really drives us to keep going.
ISB: What is the secret to Strapsicle’s successful entry into the US market via Amazon?
LR: I learned that the first four weeks on Amazon are critical, they will (unofficially) give you a bit of a boost but you really need to drive sales and reviews to demonstrate that your product is popular to them. So I threw everything at it! Deals, coupons, Prime exclusive offers, PPC. It really helped that we launched right before Black Friday, with the run into Christmas. There is a review program you can enrol in to drive reviews. And I had FB Ads, email marketing and social media all driving our listings.
How do you see Strapsicle evolving in the next couple of years?
LR: We are so excited with what’s around the corner. Breaking into the wholesale market globally would be huge for us – wherever Kindles are sold, that’s where we want to be! Opening up new Amazon marketplaces. Adding accessories. And, of course, making it suitable for whatever other devices people use for reading – ipads, phones…the sky is the limit!
ISB: What advice can you give to an aspiring entrepreneur who might have that unique business idea?
LR: It’s really hard in the first few months when you’re just trying to get that product right, and you’re starting to think about launching. It can feel so overwhelming and you can’t really see a way forward, because you’ve never done it! But the best thing you can do is just keep taking little steps forward and don’t put pressure on yourself. We had our first production run arrive in February, and we didn’t even launch until June because it took us that long to sort out everything we needed first. Just keep going and accept that it will feel messy and uncomfortable – the magic really does lie on the other side!