A YEAR and half after he won the Blackwood Design Awards, Grant Douglas reminisces about the competition that brought international attention to his product the S’up Spoon.
‘The big thing from the competition was the publicity. It gave the product credibility.’ Catching up over a cuppa, Grant tells me what’s been happening since then and what the future holds for his start-up company S’up Products.
The S’up Spoon, we remind readers, was inspired and instigated by Grant to enable people who have severe tremors and shakes to eat certain foods (e.g. soup, cereal, rice, etc) independently without spilling. Grant, who has shaky hands as a result of Cerebral Palsy, worked with Mark Penver from 4c Design to invent the product. It is a plastic spoon with a thin handle and a deep hollow to hold food and prevent any spillage when people's hand shakes. Doesn’t sound that exciting, but to many it’s the difference between eating with dignity and being forced to rely on someone else to feed them.
And it’s proven very popular among its customer base. Following his win in the 2015 Blackwood Design Awards the publicity that followed led to a surge in orders from all over the world. So where are they now? ‘We’re about to order our 3rd batch of 1,000 spoons from the manufacturer’ says Grant, indicating the reach of the S’up Spoon; a reach that may have received a small boost also thanks to a feature on the BBC’s Songs of Praise last September.
Looking ahead however, Grant hopes to develop further products to help people eat independently and is looking at design grants that would help him turn his ideas into reality. ‘The main thing in the pipeline is a bowl’ says Grant. ‘I would also like to develop the mini sup for children’, he adds.
The idea of the bowl, he explains, came about after the he started using the S’up Spoon. ‘I was using the S’up Spoon thinking I'd solved one problem but now this flags up another one. For people with tremors or poor motor abilities it’s very easy to accidentally hit the side of the bowl and tip it, sending food everywhere.’ Grant jokes that he even went to strange measures to try and find a suitable substitute. ‘I started using a dog bowl but found the flat bottom made it less than ideal. If you’re having soup or cereals with milk you end up with a layer of liquid at the bottom you can't easily scoop.’
He later found an existing bowl that had a suction pad under it to stick to the table. Again this didn’t quite work for him as any humidity in the pad loosed it. ‘A bit like the spoon I thought there must be a better solution than this’.
‘I combined the dog bowl idea and with the shape of the plastic bowl. The bowl has an inner rim so when you scoop stuff with the spoon you don't accidentally push it out of the bowl and onto the table.’ As with the S’up Spoon, he started out by getting his own prototype made. ‘I did a Blue Peter’ he says whimsically. Using the old empty-bottle-of-Fairy-liquid and PVA glue approach, Grant went to visit a potter in Edinburgh with a very rough looking example of what he was after.
Grant now uses the bowl as well as the S’up Spoon every morning for breakfast. ‘The only problem is it's a bit heavy because it’s ceramic, but it needs to be so that the bowl can't lift off the table and spill food. This is just one of the little challenges that need to be addressed.’ The Mini-S'up, essentially a child sized version of the S’up Spoon, is a tempting prospect for Grant too as he feels it potentially holds a much larger market that the bowl. ‘From a commercial perspective it makes sense to do the mini-sup, but looking at the origins of the company and its social enterprise roots the bowl is more logical.’ Ideally he tells me, he would love to do both.
His other great ambition is to crack into the market that the NHS represents but it’s a tough thing to achieve. ‘Just last weekend when I was at the meadows festival I met the MP and the MSP for Edinburgh South (PICTURED). They totally got what I was trying to get to. They asked for [a S’up Spoon] to send to the health minister. I'm hoping that will open up conversation about it at a higher level.’ Even if, as he says, people waiting to be discharged from hospital or care could have the option to try the S’up Spoon for a while to see if it’s for them, that would be a great step.
If you’ve ever used the S’up Spoon we’d love to know what you thought of it. Share your thoughts in the comments sections or email Grant Douglas at Info@sup-products.com.
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