The ladies who transformed London into ‘Scooterlandia’

Most London Mums are familiar with the ubiquitous colourful Micro Scooters that are everywhere and are a favourite in the parks and on the school run. Anna Gibson and Philippa Gogarty, Co-Founders and Joint Directors of Micro Scooters Ltd tell us how they got started and what the inspiration was for setting up the business…

Philippa: “We met in 2002 as young mums at our first baby weigh-in for our newborn sons. At the time we were both living in Clapham, South London and were struggling to keep pace with an ever-growing band of extremely active kids. Anna had managed to get hold of the Mini Micro Scooter for her children and could not believe how it changed her life for the better.

The first order she took for the scooters was for three which at the time seemed a considerable investment and which were sold literally door-to-door, amongst neighbours and friends. She knew the eye-catching product would quickly become a talking point at the school gates and in the parks so had the brainwave of putting a sticker with her mobile telephone number on the base of all the scooters she subsequently sold and soon the orders were flooding in.

At the time they were only available in a handful of specialist shops so we joined forces and together set out to make it more widely available. This led to the establishment of Micro Scooters Ltd in 2004 which has sole distribution rights in the UK for both the Mini and Maxi Micro Scooter. From there we set up a dedicated website to sell the scooter: www.micro-scooters.co.uk and also established a loyal network of mums who became ambassadors for the brand and sold scooters on our behalf for a slice of the profit – mum-to-mum marketing at its finest!”

You set up in 2004 and are now distributing through many of the best know toy stores as well as your own website – What’s been the impetus and inspiration behind this growth?

Anna: “It didn’t take us long to realise what a truly amazing product we had discovered and the phenomenal growth opportunity it represented and with that realisation we began to develop bigger ambitions for the company. With no previous experience (I was a litigation lawyer by training and Philippa was a fundraiser), we, therefore, set about knocking on doors and persuading some of the UK’s toy retailers to stock the product; including the likes of the John Lewis Partnership for whom the Mini Micro Scooter is now its best selling toy. The products are now going into distribution in the USA, South Africa, Holland and Southern Ireland as well, so it is a very exciting time for us.”

The Scooters have become an incredible ‘trend’ particularly around certain parts of London, why do you think this is?

Philippa: “The products speak for themselves and their success is due to the fact that once someone has seen them in action, they can immediately see the value. The stability and ease of use benefit even the youngest of toddlers as soon as they start using them, giving them independence and confidence. They offer parents not only a good value toy, but one that benefits them and their children in numerous ways: an easy and fun way to get exercise, a way to speed up a slow walk, plus they are portable, stylish and light.”

Being a ‘Mumpreneur’ isn’t by any means easy but it obviously offers fantastic advantages for mums who want to be actively involved in their children’s lives whilst still being able to carve out successful careers for themselves. Tell us about some of the challenges you face and the benefits that running your own business has brought to you and your families….

Anna: “I worked as a litigation lawyer for 7 years but when I decided to have a family felt that a full-time full-on career in law would not necessarily work for me in terms of the experience of motherhood I was keen to make the most of. However, four years later, finding myself the full-time mother of three active boys who wanted to be on Clapham Common every minute of the day, I discovered the Mini Micro Scooter and it saved my life. I no longer had to struggle with two in a double buggy and one on foot. Having managed to get hold of one for myself I found that I was constantly stopped by other mothers asking about the scooter and where they could get one from. It was a case of ‘need’ inspiring an idea and our determination enabling us to turn that idea into a successful business. At the start, I could never have imagined that four years later our whole family would have come to depend on the business for its livelihood, as my husband Ben left his job to join our ever growing venture. I feel privileged to work with people I totally trust and to build a venture that we all believe in so passionately.”

Philippa says : “I wake up every day unable to believe that my dream is a reality. I work with my best friend and people I love and whatever anyone tells you good relationships are the difference between being happy and unhappy. I am able to take my children to school, pick them up and put them to bed. I sell a scooter that I love and work with a Swiss design company that is passionate and inspiring. Friends and my wonderful husband will testify that not all of it is plain sailing and the stresses and strains show as we grow from two mothers to eight full time staff. However I never take for granted how lucky I am to have a business that meets my emotional, intellectual and financial needs.”

Anna, how has your previous career as a lawyer helped you with this business?

Anna: “Although my professional background as a lawyer might perhaps, at first glance, not seem the natural breeding ground for budding entrepreneurs it in fact has stood me in really good stead. I’ve learnt that establishing a successful business requires a balance of big vision with the ability to absorb small detail. When you’re negotiating with the big retailers and sorting major distribution deals, there’s no doubt that you can potentially be overwhelmed by the scale of the opportunity presented to you. To realise the success of that sort of association and create a more level playing field, the devil really will be found in the contractual detail – something that is second nature to me as a lawyer. Equally, I never thought of myself as a sales person, but when you are genuinely passionate about what you do, you don’t need technique because you’ve got integrity and that, I believe, is what people ultimately buy into. We’ve had a fantastic four years and with our global expansion plans currently underway it feels in many ways like we’ve only just begun!”

And what does the future hold for the company in terms of product development?

Anna: “We feel that Micro Scooters Ltd is vey much a reflection of our values as individuals and mothers. Within that, our philosophy is that we will only sell products that either make our lives easier because of the benefits they bring to family life or because they have some intrinsic educational value. As a result of the success of the Micro Scooter range we have been inspired to search for other toys that meet that criteria and have recently discovered and added to the range a couple of great new concepts including ‘Mic o Mic’, an ingenious self build set of toys that are fun to create and make great and long-lasting play-things, and the award winning Weykick, a fastpaced table-top soccer game for two players. Ultimately, our ambition is to continue to grow and develop the company without compromising on our initial vision which was to be able to do something for ourselves whilst ensuring that our children remain our top priority. The reality of our business is that it wouldn’t exist had we not been mothers ourselves and we want to maintain the values and integrity of the company as being about using our expertise and business ethnics to help enhance other families lives.”

The Mini Micro Scooter is now the best-selling scooter in the UK. The company has grown from a two-woman operation with us literally selling the Scooters door-to-door to friends and families to employing eight full time staff in the UK. Anna and Philippa demonstrate brilliantly how motherhood, rather than necessarily limiting your career options, can open up a whole new world of opportunity where your previous professional skills can be combined with your current life skills and circumstance to create an unstoppable force! It is living and vibrant proof that the best ideas come from identifying and meeting real need and that, if you have a clear vision of how things can and will work, it is possible to be both highly successful career women and fully-involved mums. They also understand and place great value on mother-to-mother recommendation. From the start, they were able to inspire and motivate other women with young children to become involved as agents and ambassadors for Micro Scooters Ltd which helped to spread the word and established an income stream for these women that fitted seamlessly with their lifestyles as mothers. This remains a core element to the success of the business and is being used as the model to expand the business internationally, creating opportunities in Micro Scooters Ltd new markets for mothers living there to get involved at the start and help build success both for the company and for themselves as part of the Micro Scooter network.

Photo taken at the London Mumpreneurs conference on 4 March 2010 taken by www.memorygate.co.uk.
From the left Maria Johnson, founder of Eddie Catz, Kumud Ghandi, catering guru, BBC show ‘Something for the weekend’ and mumpreneur Amanda Hamilton, Monica Costa, founder of London Mums, Co-Founders and Joint Directors of Micro Scooters Ltd Anna Gibson and Philippa Gogarty.

Health and the School Run – The Facts!

Begging your little angel to put their coat and shoes on, sorting out the squabbles over who sits where in the car, and then there’s the traffic – oh the traffic! Just another day for most parents with school age children, however there is a secret weapon for parents – find out what it is in this article! Here are some very interesting facts about health and the school run!

• 20% of all rush hour traffic is made up of people doing the school run.

• In 1975/76 over 65% of school journeys were made by bicycle or on foot while car travel was under 12% Thirty years later walking and cycling use have declined by approximately 25% to 47% of school journeys while car use has nearly trebled to 32%. Department for Transport (2006) National Travel Survey 2005, and National Travel Survey 1992/94 (1995). London: TSO

• One large UK study has reported that an increase in physical activity of 15 minutes a day can reduce the likelihood of obesity in young people by nearly 50%. Ness, A., Leary, S., Mattockd, C., Blair, S., Reilly, J., Wells, J., Ingle, S., Tilling, K., Davey Smith, G., Riddoch, C., (2007) Objectively measured physical activity and fat mass in a large cohort of children. PloS Med 4(3):e97 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040097

• One study has reported that walking to and from school consumed many more calories than two hours of PE or games for children aged 12-13. It also found that children who walk to activities tend to be more active when they arrive than those who traveled by car. Mackett, R., Lucus, L., Paskins, J., Turbin, J., (2005) The therapeutic value of children’s everyday travel, Transportation Research Part A 39: 205-219.

• The sharp increase in car ownership and use have occurred over approximately the same time period as the rise in child (and adult) obesity – from the 1970s. Increased car-use has also led to people believing that it is more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, deterring people from walking and cycling. Orsini, A., O’Brien, C., (2006) Fun, fast and fit: Influences and motivators for teenagers who cycle to school, Children, Youth and Environments, 16(1): 121-132.

• It is recommended that all young people should have one hour of physical activity each day in order to reduce the risk of diseases in adulthood.
Health Education Authority (1998) Young and active? Policy framework for young people and health-enhancing physical activity. London: HEA.

• Reducing obesity levels is an important target for schools because children’s health is essential for maximum educational benefit.
Pyle, S., et al., (2006) Fighting an epidemic: The role of schools in reducing childhood obesity, Psychology in the School, 43(3): 361-376.

• Physical activity has been associated with higher motivation at school, reducing anxiety and depression, and therefore with a positive effect on school work.
Powney, J., Malcolm, H., Lowden, K., (2000) Health and attainment. A brief review of recent literature. University of Glasgow.

London Mums and kids love the Micro scooter – any range any colour – we love them all as the scooters make life easier and fun! London has been transformed into Scooterlandia by two charming London Mums who found the solution to making parents’ daily routines fun!

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