Posted on Wednesday 17 October 2012 by Ulster Business


Grainne Kelly, CEO of BubbleBum, displays her revolutionary inflatable car seat alongside Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive, Invest NI.

An entrepreneurial Northern Ireland-based company is on target to conquer the US market by rolling out its product in one of America's largest retail chains.

BubbleBum UK Ltd, manufacturer of the world's first inflatable car booster seat for children, has succeeded in securing over $1m (£700,000) in funding to support the rollout through US superstore retail chain Target.

The funding will also allow the company to employ more resources to help them to grow.

The financial support came from a combination of an Ulster Bank loan, private equity from investors including Philip Cassidy, and investment from Co-Fund NI equity fund which was created by Invest Northern Ireland as part of its Access to Finance strategy.

BubbleBum has gone from strength to strength since its creation by mother of two Grainne Kelly in December 2009. Having proven the concept and the market, and with the product already selling in 24 countries, Grainne now aims to position the brand as a global business.

Target is the second-largest retailer in the United States, behind Walmart, and has a chain of 1800 stores.

"We're launching in Target stores in the US, which would be a huge announcement for any UK company, let alone a small Northern Ireland company. It is a massive step forward for us," she told Ulster Business.

The CEO said the investment would give BulbbleBum's team the support to scale and deliver on market opportunities. She also said that in a climate where raising capital is virtually impossible for a relatively new company, the deal also proves BubbleBum's worth.

"It is challenging for any small business to grow quickly and in an ever changing market place we need to remain nimble so we can move fast. We have already employed one new staff member and are looking for another. This may only be a 'little' help with the economic issues faced in Northern Ireland, but a whole lot of "little" things add together to make a 'big' thing," she said.

The Derry-based company is working on two new products at present after taking on a product developer, and Grainne said it would also be stepping up marketing of its inflatable car seat around the world.

"We have a new vending opportunity in Belfast International Airport which is very exciting and some new products that will be released early in 2013. We are very happy with the funding deal and our fund partners have been very supportive throughout," she added.

Alastair Hamilton, Invest NI's Chief Executive said Invest NI's Access to Finance strategy was developed to specifically address the difficulties many innovative young companies having securing funding.

"BubbleBum is an excellent example of a thriving local business with high growth prospects outside Northern Ireland. The ability to access this funding has enabled the company to target new markets and employ new staff. I wish Grainne and her team continued success in export markets," he said.

Lead investor Philip Cassidy added: "BubbleBum is a thriving company that has proved it has the potential to position itself as a global brand. I'm pleased to be able to provide Grainne with the support she needs to increase resources and grow the business globally".

Craig Holmes, Corporate Finance Advisor at Horwood & Holmes Corporate Finance, which advised BubbleBum, also commented: "BubbleBum proves that young Northern Irish companies can compete globally and can attract funding on the back of a strong offering and business plan."

Fact File

BubbleBum's portable, lightweight, brightly coloured inflatable booster seat for kids aged between 4-11 years easily deflates and folds flat so that kids or parents can carry it in rucksacks or handbags, making it perfect for holidays, rental cars, taxis, coach journeys, school trips or car pooling, it is safety approved for both the US and EU. From concept to shelf in nine months, the product is on sale in 24 countries with projected sales of circa $2m this year.



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