Stephen Nolan and Sarah Travers meet the country's most innovative entrepreneurs. Here, they look at an invention aimed at relieving period pain among other business ideas.
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In last year's series, I travelled the length and breadth
of the country meeting some of Northern Ireland's
most innovative entrepreneurs.
Who could forget Welly Wet Suit from Belfast,
See.Sense from Newtownards and the yoga bag from Cullyhanna?
Now that we've got a second series,
we've even more hungry entrepreneurs to show you.
This year, we're bringing in Sarah Travers. Hello, Sarah.
-What are we doing this year, then?
Well, this time I'm going to be giving you a little bit of a helping
hand as we travel across the country to meet some of the brilliant
entrepreneurs out there.
We'll be hearing all about manufacturing in Moira.
And beds in where?
I know exactly what's going to be going on at home now.
People will be watching this and they love one idea.
Yeah, and then some of you at home will be saying,
"That's never going to work,"
so that's why we've created the people's panel,
members of the public like you and I looking at the products and thinking
to themselves, "That is going to actually work."
Stephen's off to meet a dental technician who's invented a product
to protect his good looks,
if he ever takes up a sport like rugby or cage fighting.
Now, we all know the dangers of head injuries in MMA fighting and rugby.
And particularly cauliflower ear.
# Protect your ears. #
But Finaghy-based dental technician Brenda Phillips has come up with a
-Brenda, nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you, Stephen.
-And you've got a parrot on your shoulder.
-I have indeed.
She comes into work with me every day and goes home with me
But more importantly, you've got an invention in your hand.
Absolutely. This is Caulear.
I came up with this idea through watching television and there was
a rugby match on and the story with John Afoa,
charging up the pitch, he got tackled
and his ear burst open.
At that point I thought, "Ah, there must be a need for some protection
"to stop cauliflower ears,"
so I went into work and I made a shield
and tried it on to Connor there.
How does this work?
Well, this is a strong,
flexible rubber-type material that is custom-made to fit your ear.
-Now, if a double-decker bus hits you, Stephen...
-it's not going to do you any good.
-Would you stop touching my belly?
I've told you about this earlier before!
Amazingly, in a small dental technician's lab,
Brenda has invented the world's first tailor-made ear-guard
and already she's getting some international interest.
It's sold in America, Mexico, Italy and France.
Do you see people having to go in somewhere to get a mould every time
they want to buy one of these or will there be a little package that
-you buy that you do it at home?
-There's a couple of things
they can do. They can come down to the laboratory and get their moulds
made, but if anybody out there anywhere else,
what's happening, the ones that got it in America and France and so
forth, we send them out the kit, they take their own moulds,
send it to us, we manufacture their ear shield
and then post it out to them.
Now, my rugby days might be well behind me but I've decided to let
Brenda take a mould of my ears.
These two compounds together will harden.
What are these two compounds?
-These are just two pieces of putty.
-Just two pieces of putty...
..and we're just mixing them together here and then
we're going to take a wee mould of your ear.
-Have I got fat ears, too?
Well, does your mother lick your ears?
Can you have fat ears?
-You can have all different types of ears.
-So if I lost weight, would my ears get skinnier?
I don't know about that because I think your ears and your nose grow
-throughout your life.
-I'll tell you what,
nothing else grows.
Now, that's not hurting you, so stop you messing about.
-There you go. There you go.
-Banging me ear?!
Just checking. Just checking.
And once the putty's hardened, it's time to remove the mould.
You'll see the big lump of wax coming out with it.
No, that's not too bad.
-Oh, that's not too bad.
-That's not too bad.
I know what you're all thinking,
that you would all pay big money for a mould of my ear, wouldn't you?
A thousand quid a pop.
Well, I have moulded other body parts.
Breasts and torsos and things like that, but
I just didn't pursue it with you.
Why would you mould someone's breasts?
Breasts? Well, not completely breasts, sort of their torso.
-Why would you do that?
-Well, if you get a muscleman,
-they like to have it as a piece of art on their wall.
Brenda's an inventive woman, but what about the future?
-I was looking at the 3D printing side of things...
..so that you could maybe scan on your phone. Could you picture that?
Scan your ear on your phone and send it through to a 3D printer and 3D
print one. But I don't think they've got the right material yet to 3D
-..but it's something, if it's not going to happen now,
-it'll probably happen in the future.
-And how much would they cost?
But again... These are around £80. Depending.
You could get ones with different flags on it.
Are you serious, red, white and blue ones?
Yes, I have got a set of red, white and blue there.
-I hope you've got white and gold, too.
I do have. Ah-ha, got you there now, big guy.
-Stop touching my belly!
As they say, actually, if they push the belly button ten times, your
eyes pop out. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
-This woman is crazy.
Chocolate. What you doing?
Crazy or not, this small dental studio in Finaghy could become
a worldwide centre for ear protection.
I think it's a really unique idea.
-I actually don't have any ears, I was born without them, so...
..the whole idea of protecting my ears sounds a bit strange,
but it's quite interesting.
It's basically if you rip your ligament in your ear,
it does bleed a lot and then it just swells up.
And it sort of stays there, does it?
It just stays there, if you don't get it treated there and then,
you get cauliflower ear.
Basically, the guard is protecting the trauma directly to the ear,
so I think it will work.
But where do you stop? Are you just going to mould the whole head, then?
-And then you've got this big plastic
rubbery clear thing that you pop over your face.
The 3D printing would be great for that sort of thing, especially if
you could scan and do it yourself.
Some of the best ideas come from life experience.
Our next inventor today was living with chronic pain and that's
led her to develop a product that's now being distributed
all across the world and all from her living room in East Belfast.
Originally from Kesh in County Fermanagh,
Fiona Bennington is a design engineer and the inventor of Hug,
a wearable wraparound heat pack
that helps with tummy, back and period pain.
Fiona, lovely to meet you.
We're here to see the Hug, basically, today.
Tell us first of all why you invented it.
OK, well, it's a little bit of a personal story, Hug.
Because I suffer from really bad period pain
and I would have liked to have used a hot water bottle in work
but there's a bit of a stigma about sitting in the office with a hot water bottle
and you don't want to answer the questions people have and things
so I was looking for something I could wear next to my skin,
that I could hide under clothes, basically,
and I went on the internet and I searched for ages
and I couldn't find anything that I was happy with.
Fiona set about developing the product herself,
after creating a proof-of-concept prototype using basic materials from
around her home. She was able to use her knowledge of the manufacturing
industry to source a factory in China
that would help move her designs
towards a more production-ready model.
-So this is the Hug?
-It is indeed, yes.
Well, go on, show us how it works, then.
So, Hug is filled with gel beads.
It is very soothing as a material.
You can put it in the microwave and warm it up.
It takes about two minutes to get it to a comfortable heat.
Or you can put it in the freezer for an hour or so
and then you can use it for cool relief, too.
Hug is designed to be worn under the clothes and around the waist.
Its adjustable straps mean that it can fit different sizes, while still
targeting those areas associated with period pain and a more extreme
condition called endometriosis.
It's through an online community of women suffering with this condition
that Fiona has discovered just how beneficial her product can be.
Hi, guys, I'm Jessica Duffin from thisendolife.com.
As most of you know who follow me...
..I have endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a gynaecological condition causing internal bleeding,
cramping and really extreme pain.
But, today, I want to talk about Hug.
I say that my period pain is crippling, but it's nothing
compared to the ladies that are suffering from endometriosis,
so I think the feedback from them is Hug has allowed them to just get on
with their lives a little bit more
and to get out and about and do things.
Many women get their relief from taking painkillers,
so Fiona sees Hug as a healthier, more effective alternative
and at £19.99, it seems like money well spent.
Having said that, what I love about this,
and I'm sure other people will feel the same, is that it is like a hug.
I just, I think it's a really good product for endometriosis.
Every Hug purchased online
is shipped directly from what was once Fiona's dining room.
And with her spare bedroom now being used as a workshop,
I wanted to see where someone so productive comes up with all of their best ideas.
Ooh, I'll have a wee lie down, as well.
From a device that automatically empties your kitty litter tray to
an inflatable sleeping bag, it seems that Fiona is constantly inventing.
I must start writing things down. What was my idea earlier?
But her passion lies in creating products to help people in need.
The feedback online has been great,
but I think the thing which touches me the most is when someone takes the time to write an e-mail and say,
"Look, this has changed my life. I'm able to leave the house now."
That has really moved me, because that is what I was aiming for
and you wouldn't understand how much it means to me.
It means so much when somebody says that and it only needs
to be one person to just make my day or my week.
Well, fair play to you to actually deal with something that a lot of
people find difficult to talk about and you are making a difference.
-Good for you.
-Thank you very much.
Fiona has sold Hugs to customers as far afield
as New Zealand and America
and, with a bit of luck, her product will soon be helping millions more
women all over the world.
# You need a hug... #
That's very clever
and if it means you're not taking as many painkillers...
Your heating runs out, and everybody's huddled around it.
-For a lot of people, it's heat.
Heat really helps all types of pain, and so does cold.
So two of those would allow someone to have a few hours of...
of real genuine relief.
-And in fact, that price point, it's accessible.
You don't feel you're being taken advantage of
-because of something you can't help but go through.
Pain relief is our next best friend but a lot of patients
might not even be able to control the pain with the pain relief.
-Yeah, this definitely, without the side effects.
Well, apps are really the sort of window to technology infrastructure
or a service that's been delivered.
Don't want to go and spend a bunch of money
writing code and then design some graphics
or create a user interface
and then find out that, actually,
if you had made some changes earlier on in the process,
that customers would have liked that more.
What we tend to do is kind of prototype again and again and again.
So, rinse and repeat.
The code isn't really the expensive part.
It's really sort of things like back-end infrastructure,
it's how you're storing customer data.
You know, is it protected?
Are there other kind of
third-party frameworks that are connected to the app?
How much research have you done?
And really, what's the cost of running the application
once it's up and running?
You know, it might look easy, but presenting can be very tough.
It can be an exhausting job.
So we've decided to give Sarah a bit of a rest.
ALARM CLOCK BEEPS
I just had a nightmare that I was...
lying in bed in the middle of Ballymena.
# ..I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day... #
OK, it wasn't a nightmare.
But with the traffic whizzing by,
I have to say the last thing I want to be doing in Ballymena town centre
is changing a duvet cover in my pyjamas.
So with the sound of the church choir ringing in my ears,
I think I need some help.
So, we're going to see if
the good people of Ballymena can actually fit a duvet.
It is a complete nightmare.
How long will it take them to do it?
Right, the clock's ticking.
Off you go. No pressure.
-You just put it inside out.
-Get the corners.
-Job's a good 'un.
Let's see the inside-out technique.
Er, that was pretty quick.
So, some people find it easier than others,
but most of us could definitely use
a helping hand with changing the duvet.
Look at that. Isn't that beautiful?
I have a gadget at home like that at home, too. It's called a wife.
Surely someone has come up with a way to make scenes like this
a thing of the past?
It might not be too comfortable.
-There's nothing down here.
Cue our next inventor, Wilbert Garvin, and his ingenious creation,
the Duvet Doo.
# Golden years... #
And at 79 years of age,
he's proof that you're never too old to come up with a great idea.
# Golden years... #
So, this is all perfectly normal, isn't it, Wilbert?
Me sitting with you on a bed in the middle of Ballymena.
-By the bandstand, busy lunchtime, and me in my pyjamas.
The age-old problem of changing duvets - it is a nightmare.
I never get it right.
-But you have sought to change
how we change duvets for ever.
Well, it was such a big problem
and I think, when you get older, you think of older people,
you think of people with arthritis and so on and I thought, "Oh, I'll try to come up with something."
And then I always like to have a wee bit of humour in things,
so that's how I came up with the idea of calling it the Duvet Doo.
See, that just reminds me of that song Zou Bisou Bisou.
Is that what you were thinking?
Scooby-Doo, you know.
-Scooby-Doo came to mind, and then Duvet Doo.
So, this is it?
It's kind of a little bit...
..a huge mousetrap meets a kind of snow ski.
-It's basically a clamp.
A particular type of clamp.
I want to see how it works.
-Will you show me?
-I will indeed.
So, as the rest of the town go about their daily business,
I'm finally getting around to making my bed.
This goes down between the mattress and the headboard.
These clamps hold one end of the duvet in place,
allowing you to pull the cover on with more ease.
And then you take the corner of the duvet and push it into the clamp
and then clamp it nice and tightly.
Gradually, pull it down.
And that just keeps it nice and secure at the top?
Right, that was easy.
That's the way it goes.
And there is...our duvet.
Just like that.
I wonder how long that took.
So, the Duvet Doo not only helps people with dexterity problems,
but it makes things a lot quicker for everyone else as well.
And then I began to think about places where
there are a lot of beds needing changing.
I found out in America
that they were going to do away in the hotel trade
with duvets and then when they got the blankets, the clientele...
-Didn't like them.
-Didn't like them.
-They wanted the comfort again.
-So they're back to the duvets.
-Actually, I've noticed that
when you go in now. It's definitely back to duvets.
Can you imagine how these would change a chambermaid's life,
-And look at the amount of hotels
-being built in Northern Ireland at the minute.
So I think there's quite a market there for it.
And what do your family think of this?
Because I know you've got kids and you're a grandad as well.
I think they're just waiting to see what's going to happen with it.
Is this going to make them millionaires?
Oh, I don't think that's the way they would be thinking.
Honestly, what I wanted to do with this was to help people.
OK, if I make some money, fair enough,
but it was really to help people,
particularly older people that I was thinking about in the first place.
That's lovely, Wilbert.
# I've washed my robes in Jesus' blood... #
Whether you make beds in a hotel or you just want to make your daily
chores around the home that little bit easier, one day,
the Duvet Doo could be the solution to one of life's tedious tasks.
# ..make them white as snow. #
And for some people...
Slow and steady wins the race.
..that day can't come soon enough.
-We're nearly there.
What do you think, it's quite a nice cover, isn't it?
-It is, lovely.
-Nice and modern.
-You hold that wee bit.
That's so useful for so many people,
people who have problems gripping and,
you know, maybe only have the proper use of one side of their body.
It's a problem solver, isn't it?
Solving his own problem.
At first, I was like, before he even tried it, I was thinking, "What?
"How is this going to work?" And I had this idea in my head he was going to put them on his feet.
They looked like mini skis.
Yeah, so he can clamp the sheet onto his feet and then pull it up.
I had no idea where it was going to go.
I think it would definitely speed things up, you know,
if you have an extra pair of hands.
-And anything that lets somebody keep their independence
or their mobility that bit more, it definitely is a good thing.
On this programme, we love hearing the stories behind our start-up
businesses and entrepreneurs,
but we love celebrating, too, the big best-known businesses
that Northern Ireland produces, and here's just one of them.
Randox Health is a world leader in health care diagnostics.
-Would you like to follow me this way?
The company has a comprehensive full-body health screening package,
assessing hundreds of unique markers within your body
and that will give you a full MOT,
providing you with a better understanding
of your personal health.
Tests range from iron status to pancreatic health,
a service that they're currently offering to a staggering
370 million people worldwide.
But this global success is in huge contrast to its humble beginnings
near Crumlin in County Antrim.
My father and I built a small laboratory
at the back of my parents' house
in a place called Randox Road, hence the name of the company,
and we decided that we would
make some clinical chemistry diagnostics.
So I experimented in the evenings and at the weekends
and it was basically a hen house converted into a laboratory.
It wasn't easy raising finance for a business in the early 1980s
and Dr Peter Fitzgerald had some tough decisions to make.
We had to buy a machine called a freeze drier.
So it was either buy the freeze drier or get married.
So I decided to buy the freeze drier!
The company's success is based on its rigorous testing procedures
and Peter recognised the benefits of these tests
from his own personal perspective.
I suffer from iron deficiency and B12 deficiency.
You're disappointed to find it,
but then it explained why I was starting to feel very tired
and once I rectified that, very easily,
you can change and improve your life.
Northern Ireland Olympic 49er Matt McGovern
had a family history of bowel cancer
so he decided to take the Randox tests.
Even I felt a little bit apprehensive,
a little bit nervous, you know,
it's safe to say, whenever I was going for my Randox test,
you know, kind of wondering what are they going to find out
and I got the all-clear
and "there's a few little things you have to work on"
but then I can work on that every year for the rest of my life and
basically keep myself in check.
From those early days at a hen shed,
the company now employs over 1,400 people and their ambition
is as strong as ever.
The idea is that we would have centres throughout the world.
We're opening one in Liverpool very shortly and we'll have one in LA
in the autumn and Dubai
and we value sort of creativity and problem solving,
so creativity is vital to everything we do.
For me, a test of a really good idea is being able to imagine yourself
actually needing it and actually using it, and that's it.
This next guy is just 19 years of age and what he has done
is he's had that idea, he's cut out in his A-level school class
a prototype and he's making it happen for himself.
Let's have a look.
Our young inventor this week is Daniel Laverty
and taking inspiration from modern defibrillators,
he decided to create a first-aid kit
that guides the user through each step as they treat an injury.
And yet again, I'm left feeling extremely jealous
that I didn't come up with the idea first.
I just feel like such an old man now
and, in my day, I wasn't doing anything like this
and it's deeply irritating
that people like you are going to be so successful.
I think it's a brilliant idea, right.
So let's compare before your product...
-..to what you've got.
OK. So here we've got the normal first-aid kit
that you would see everywhere.
You would bring this maybe to a football match,
you see it in the office, in the boot of your car
and you've got all the essentials in here.
-But what do you do with it? You know, someone's injured.
-Do you know how to help them?
-No, I wouldn't have a notion.
-Not a notion.
-They're bleeding, you know, you're looking for stuff.
So let's say you dropped here, right, and you've split your head
and there's blood, so I'd be coming up here
and looking at this triangular bandage.
-No idea what even it is.
You don't know what you're doing.
You're in a panic. Even if you were first-aid trained, you still maybe
don't have the confidence,
-you're thinking, "Was it that or was it this?"
So you've come up with this locker.
Have you trademarked it yet?
-In the process.
-In the process?
-Which means, if a wee gangster like me gets up there and trademarks it, you'll have to buy it off me?
Aye, I'll be raging. I'll be raging.
-So here's my solution.
So here we've got an interface.
So if I go down to the ground, cut my head, let's say "bleed".
Bleed, yeah. So the light comes on
to tell you that's the one you've selected and on the screen there
you can see the different instructions and it will tell you
what to use and when to use it and how to use it.
So, all the pressure is taken off you.
I'm so jealous I didn't come up with this.
With only one in five people in the UK knowing even basic first aid,
Daniel's invention could prove to be the difference
between life and death if an accident were to occur.
Now, it may still be in the prototype stage,
but I managed to convince a member of the public to help test it out
and see if it works.
So if I fell down to the ground, God forbid, split my head open...
-What's your name?
Thomas, you'd be going, "Nolan, I need to save you."
-I would indeed.
-Would you know what to do with all the stuff in there?
I wouldn't have a clue.
Right, Daniel, tell him.
You open up the wee doors here
-and we've got the interface.
-This is a prototype.
Instantly, you can see there, "bleeds" -
he's down on the ground, he's bleeding.
This will then tell you what to do. Isn't that a cool idea?
-I think it's an excellent idea.
Right. It's my head. Direct pressure on the wound.
-I'm going to need to use...
-Direct pressure on the wound.
And then use a bandage to stop the bleed.
-There we go.
-Come on, Daniel, I'm bleeding.
So you've taken pressure off the wound.
What happens next?
We're raising the bleeding area to stop the blood.
So it's OK as it is because it's above his heart at the minute.
And then the next step is to treat for shock
so you just need to sit down and have the legs raised.
Hold on, keep pressure on the wound.
-Pressure on the wound.
-Get his legs raised.
-Raise the legs.
-Raise the legs.
And then get someone to call 999.
-He's getting into this.
-Somebody's going to ring it for real.
What would they do if someone actually answered that?
I doubt I'll be getting a job on Casualty any time soon,
but Daniel has shown that he's on the right track with
a great idea that can help people when they need it most.
I think we'd better leave before we get into real trouble here.
-This is just wrong.
-And then that's us.
Maybe if there was, like, a tablet inside it
that you could pull out and it would,
it would be your interface then
and you could bring it beside the patient, you wouldn't have to go back and forward so much.
The good thing is it gives you instructions.
It's like, don't throw away all your first-aid training kits just yet.
It's very essential.
We should have one in every house.
But even somebody who is first-aid trained, it does no harm to have
that little memory jog.
Even if you had some little cartoon character dancing about
-telling you what to do, kind of thing.
-Showing you what to do, yeah.
You know, the ability to give somebody the right treatment
they need for a start and save a lot of...
problems further down the line.
What a clever idea.
-A good idea.
-I think it's one of the best things I've seen
in terms of helping people.
I don't know about you,
but when I see some of the people in this series,
it changes my thinking around how you take an idea from in here
-and you make it happen.
-And that's what we've done in this programme -
we're seeing inside their heads and we're seeing the whole process
from the idea to the product.
It's about confidence, isn't it? And drive and a self-belief.
-Thanks for watching and we'll see you next time.
Stephen Nolan and Sarah Travers travel around Northern Ireland meeting some of our most innovative entrepreneurs. This week, they look at a potential solution for cauliflower ear, an invention targeted at relieving period pain, they meet a man in his 70s who hopes to transform the way you change your duvet and road-test a young man's invention designed to revolutionise the way first aid is administered. They also find out more about a local company that is a global leader in healthcare diagnostics.