Hug is the first fully wraparound reusable hot/cold pack designed to fit to women's bodies so that it can be worn discreetly under clothes and provide effective relief from period pain. Hug also offers relief from back, shoulder, neck, muscular pain and headaches or migraines. It can be heated in the microwave or cooled in the freezer, over and over again.
We caught up with its creator - product design engineer and entrepreneur Fiona Bennington - when she was in China working on her products and she told us a bit more about how Hug came about and her tips for aspiring product designers.
Tell us about the project/s you are currently working on
I can't talk too much about most of the work I am doing because the ideas aren't protected yet, this is one thing I have to be very careful about! However I can give you a flavour of what I am up to in top secret: I'm working on some improvements to Hug based on the customer feedback so far as well as a number of complimentary products for other conditions. To create some of the new Hug line products I need some clinical input so it's not likely to be a quick turnaround. Aside from Hug I am developing a number of products for babies and parents to make taking care of a tiny person a little less intimidating, helping to improve bathtime, making sleep safer and helping parents out with 'poopy' situations.
Why did you choose to make the move from designer to design entrepreneur?
I think ever since I was young I wanted to have my own business,even if I did not quite realise it. I had stalls at craft fairs in early secondary school, sold things I created to friends, started a recycled clothing mini business in my first couple of years at uni. I needed to get some product design experience under my belt before I really understood how to develop a product, test it, and take it through to (mass) production. For me it started with a problem I personally experienced and wanted a solution to, the more research I did, the more it became apparent that many other people were in the same position as me. Time to design!
What made you decide to base production in China and how did you go about doing it?
I started working for a local engineering company before I graduated and as part of my role there I was sourcing factories in China and travelling there regularly to check on the progress of my projects. Working in China is refreshing, things get done, and it is not like people imagine, the technology is often ahead of what is available in the EU, customer service is second to none and quality is great if you choose a good partner. I try to make a point of visiting a factory before we give them any work, as soon as you step foot in the door you get a real idea of whether they are a good fit for your project or not. I'm writing this from China right now! I've been studying Mandarin for a few years so coming out here is not intimidating any more but there are plenty of ways to get help to work out here if you feel you need it.
What tips would you give aspiring product designers?
Try not to get stuck doing one type of thing for too long, I think breadth of experience can sometimes be better than in depth experience in one field. I never know everything I need to know to design a product, because the nature of design is that you are creating something new from nothing and it has not been done before. If you are willing to learn you can always find more information or get some input from someone when you need it. Northern Ireland is great for this, everyone knows someone who knows someone who can help, and will.
If an idea is gnawing at you just go for it and do something about it, planning is good but you can spend so long planning you don't take action. I have had many projects and endeavours that have failed, it's all good learning and will help you get it right next time.
Finally, I can't tell you how many times someone has told me something is not possible, sometimes you need to trust your gut and keep going until you prove them wrong!