The dooup

The Sunday Express - Eureka moment for pooper scoop inventors

News   •   Apr 01, 2012 12:34 BST

It's one thing to have a bright idea in the bath, but how do you turn it into a product that sells? Kim Jones spoke to three entrepreneurs who've done just that.

Stuart Kirby, 36 and his sister Helen, 32, invented the dooup, a complete pet waste removal system. Helen says:

"As children, Stuart and I loved our family dog, a Doberman called Candy. What we didn't love was the job of picking up her mess from the garden. I did everything I could get out of it. I can remember us joking: 'Wouldn't it be great if we could get Candy to use the toilet and flush her own mess away?' 
   Over the years, Stuart and I would often talk about inventing a product to pick up dog mess easily from the garden. No getting close, no fiddling with scoops or bags. Something to make the job quick, easy and hygienic. But it wasn't until our lovely mum Jacqueline died in 2009 that we actively began doing something to get our idea off the ground. 

Stuart decided to leave Japan, where he was teaching English and studying karate. I left Leeds where I worked in marketing and we temporarily moved in with our dad, Simon, to help him adapt to life without Mum.
   We spent many evenings in the pub, thrashing out ideas and scribbling sketches on paper napkins. We enlisted Dad's help, too. He's a retired mechanic and has always been a bit of an innovator - once he built a laundry chute from our landing to the utility room downstairs.
   Dad made the first dooup prototype from a kitchen bin, a bottle and water gun, which at the push of a handle picked up dog mess and sprayed the disinfect at the same time. The waste would then be stored in the chamber within a self-sealing bag, so no contact is necessary. There are millions of bacteria and parasites in dog waste and, with people spending more time in their gardens than ever, we knew the hygienic aspect of our product was 'a must'.
   Once we had applied for a patent for the design through a patent attorney, the next step was to hire a professional designer, who was recommended to us by a friend and transferred our ideas into an attractive, ergonomic product. Stuart then travelled to China and found a company that could produce the dooup, and our first 1,000 units were delivered last December.
   It has cost us about 80,000 to get the product off the ground. We funded it by borrowing against the family house, which Stuart and I bought from our parents 18 months before Mum died. I've had a few sleepless nights about the money, but I totally believe in the product.
   Stuart and I have continued to work full-time on the dooup. We plan to attend trade and country shows to drum up interest, and have met with distributors from the UK, Europe and US, who are interested in taking the product on. In the States, some households pay a 'poop butler' 200 dollars a month to clear their garden of dog waste, so our idea may well be snapped up over there!"
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