This year, World Intellectual Property Day celebrates talented female inventors, creators, and entrepreneurs, and their contributions to improving our lives. Women in all regions are shaping the world through their imagination, ingenuity and hard work, but often face significant challenges in accessing the knowledge, skills, resources and support they need to thrive.
As part of our celebration of the day, we reached out to some of the women inventors and entrepreneurs we work with to find out more about their business, the importance of IP in the growth of the business and whether they have been able to find a community of women for support in their area.
As our final part of the series, we are delighted to share the interview that Carla MacLachlan, Trade Mark Attorney, conducted with Emma McCloskey, director of ProtectMe.ie, which produces seat belt covers which have been designed to create awareness for medical conditions, additional needs and allergies for First Aid Responders, Emergency Services or even passers-by who are first at the scene and offer to help.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I was actually asked to make one! I did this by embroidering the words ‘neck breather’ onto a felt belt cover. There was nothing like it on the market in Ireland. I took inspiration from the fact that a product I had created provided someone with the confidence and reassurance to drive again. This crucial information was now available to EMT’s (should there be an emergency) A neck breather should not be resuscitated by nose & mouth. As more and more requests came in, medical seat belt covers became a business small very quickly. The list of medical conditions grew. I then worked with a graphic designer to create a website, artwork and branding. Before launch, I contacted MacLachlan & Donaldson about protecting the brand I had now created. I asked Carla if this is something I should definitely do, and I will always remember her response. ‘If you don’t protect it, it’s open for anyone to copy.’ By this point a huge amount of work had gone into setting up the business so I immediately filed for trade mark registration and ProtectMe.ie was born.
What challenges did you overcome in driving your business forward?
There were many! In the early stages of the business, ProtectMe Belts were made by machine embroidery which was hugely time consuming. I was just too busy to cope with the volume of orders coming in, so had to learn very quickly how to upscale the business and manufacture the perfect branded product. None of my friends or family had ever created their own brand before so it was quite a lonely start as I waded through the mountain of paperwork to register a limited company. At the time it was mid-Covid. Working from home, being Mom to 4 young children, unable to have in-person meetings, each presented their own set of challenges. A few months after launch, I was contacted by a big box retailer in the United States who were keen to place an order. The challenges of upscaling the business and learning how to export internationally so soon, presented many challenges. There were no courses available at the time due to Covid so this was self taught. At the same time, I was trying to grow the business here in Ireland which required just as much time and effort.
How important has your Intellectual Property been in the growth of your business?
Immensely. Registering the brand not only protects it, but also brings about a certain element of credibility. In order to qualify for export and be accepted into retail in the United States, being a registered brand was a pre-requisite, so IP was hugely important to the growth of the business. Carla provided all the advice I needed to file for registration in the United States.
Have you been able to find a community of like-minded women , who are building businesses to improve lives, and do they provide support to you in your endeavours?
Post Covid, yes. I have been amazed by how many women are building their own businesses and brands. Registering with Enterprise Ireland has provided many opportunities to get to know other like-minded women. We exhibited at Show Case Ireland 2023 and the best part about it was the networking and support from other business owners. We are all on a similar path and by making the effort to join the support groups available and cheering each other on, makes being an entrepreneur much more enjoyable.
Many thanks to Emma for taking the time to let us know more about her business and IP journey. We look forward to continuing to support her and her business.