The Essential Parent Company

It happens quite a lot, some products that get tested for the Mother & Baby awards get nail-bitingly close to winning and then lose out  on the recognition they deserve. My gripe with the process is that each category is currently restricted to one Gold, one Silver and one Bronze winner. If the category is highly competitive, products can miss out on an award by the merest ‘nought point’ of a score.

In the Most Innovative Award, because historically it was picked by the editor, there is only one winner . Inevitably there are many products, that ‘mum’ testers have really raved about and say that they would definitely recommend it to win a GOLD but who lose out to another product that has been raved about just that little bit more. The reality is that anything that it gets onto the final shortlist could easily be a winner. What wins one time might lose in another occasion, just because one or two mums are a little more generous or critical, than some other mums in another year.

Here’s one product that came close to winning in three categories and judging by the rave reviews that tester gave it this year it would be a crying shame if it disappeared under the radar by not getting the recognition  it deserves.

This Essential Parent Company entered their ‘Baby Care Guide’s, 4 DVDs  focusing on Feeding, Sleeping, Everyday Care & Development and First Aid & Accident Prevention.

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This was what some of the Mother & Baby testers said:

Nathalie: “Every mum should have one. It answered all my questions. I wish I had it with my first baby 2 years ago .”  

Rhiannon: “I already have a basic knowledge of first aid but this dvd reminded me of things I had forgotten and things they have updated since I did my first aid training. I think it offers a good knowledge of what to do if, god forbid, something was to happen to your baby or child.”

Michele: “I have this DVD in my laptop and have referred to it over and over in the past few weeks. Clearly indexed I can quickly look at the clips that are relevant to my query. Baby books are great but being able to ‘see’ how to breast feed etc is a huge help, like having someone there to show you what on earth you are doing wrong. I would say this is a must for any new mum and should be available on the NHS.”

Rebecca Chicot is one of the founders of The Essential Parent Company.

She has a doctorate in child development and parenting from Cambridge University.  Rebecca worked for many years at BBC Television in London making science documentaries for BBC1.  She was part of the team that made Professor Robert Winston’s landmark series “Human Instinct” which was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2002.  She is a mother of three lovely children and from her struggles with breastfeeding and baby care is passionate about giving new mums and dads the confidence to be relaxed and happy parents, and to enjoy the wonderful first few years with their baby.

This is her story:

As an expectant mum in 2002 I vividly remember browsing magazines and nursery shops looking for the Mother & Baby Gold Awards as a guide of what other mums in the UK recommended to the new mums on the block. Little did I know what went on behind the scenes to find out which products would receive the coveted Gold, Silver or Bronze Awards…..well not until 2012.

In 2006 my dear friend and colleague in the BBC Science Television department, Diana Hill had a baby boy, as did I.  She had struggled with being a new mum and had no family in the UK.  She saw first hand the need for visual baby care guides and realised that we had exactly the right background to make them!  We are fantastically honoured to have Professor Robert Winston work with us on the content and he kindly offered to narrate the DVDs for us as he believes that The Essential Baby Care Guide DVDs fulfil an important role to help support new parents and their babies.

It took a few years to get off the ground – juggling work and babies, and trying to find the time to work out how to make the DVDs.  We knew that to make something beautiful and watchable we would need a BBC sized budget.  A big break came when we won the South Cambridgeshire District Council’s “Step Up” Award for aspiring small businesses. Beating tough competition, including biotech companies and the like, the win gave us access to local accountants, offices, and lawyers. Soon after the win, the company finally found four fantastic investors, and production of the DVDs followed soon after.

We wanted to get the best experts and organisations involved.  We were used to this at the BBC but it was a very different ball game approaching the likes of UNICEF and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as a mumpreneur.  Luckily for us they saw the value of what we were trying to do and slowly but surely we got on board.

We had the money to make the product and the people to make it with us but then we had to convince retailers to take the product.  Again, we were pleasantly surprised that John Lewis, Mamas & Papas and the NCT were impressed with our Essential Baby Care Guide DVDs and we were thrilled to be available in such fantastic stores.

However, at the back of my mind the Mother & Baby Awards were something that I was desperate to apply for.  We had no advertising budget, no PR budget but knew that a Mother & Baby Award would give new mums in the UK the confidence to try our unique product.

The process was intense, posting our DVDs all round the UK, full of trepidation as to what the tester mums would think.  When we found out we had been shortlisted we were thrilled, despite getting great reviews from mums, baby magazines and health care professionals we still knew that the vast majority of new and expectant parents still hadn’t heard about The Essential Parent Company or The Essential Baby Care Guide.  

The Mother & Baby Awards had the power to change all that.

We felt very excited to be at the Park Lane Hilton on the Awards night and we tried not to be too optimistic but had so much riding on the awards.  The rest is history, we didn’t win an award in the Best Breastfeeding Product or Best Innovation and I had to depart into the night and dash for the last train to Cambridge feeling honoured to have been shortlisted but gutted for the company and our future that we didn’t manage to win.

On the way home we discussed whether we could ever afford to try to enter again…the postage, the entrants fee, the awards ceremony…it really adds up, especially for a little company.  However, my mind was made up to try again once I received the glowing comments from the mums who tested our product. It’s a great endorsement to have managed to make a product that can have such a positive impact of many mums and their little ones.”


The Mother & Baby Award Winners 2010 announced.

The Mother & Baby Award Winners 2010

The winners were announced at a gala ceremony on Thursday 18th November at the Hilton Park Lane. Hosted by Jason Manford and Deputy Editor, Kathryn Blundell.

Again this year we asked over 1000 mums to put every entry in the reader-tested categories through their paces.

As Kathryn said,

“Over 3000 products were carefully parcelled and then sent nationwide to be sicked on, bashed, chucked and chewed. It really means that shortlisted products impressed the women that matter –mums. Mums, who gave the nation an extra 790,000 babies last year all of whom need to be cleaned, transported, fed, entertained, and put to bed…

Mother & Baby continues to set the standard for parenting press and is undoubtably the most influential and trusted brand, with a heritage that spans over 60 years. These fantastic awards are a vital part of Mother & Baby’s heritage – we’re so pleased to be able to reward excellence within the industry, supporting mums to support you through these accolades. Everyone shortlisted should feel so proud – these mums are a tough crowd. And don’t get me started on the toddlers…” Continue reading

M&B Blog: Strolling along and nearly done with all the testing.

It would be impossible to know for sure what stroller is going to win Gold in this year’s awards since all the scores have yet to be collected, collated and verified as they say in these types of competitions….however, there are lots of good things being said about one stroller in particular. Continue reading

M&B Awards blog: And so it is done (well almost!)

I’ve likened this process to childbirth in the past.

If you have been there before, knowing what giving birth entails, you’ll sort of know what I mean.  The thought of labouring again for a second or third baby has to be regarded with stoicism and a jutting jaw. After 40 weeks or thereabouts of anticipation the time will ultimately come. It’s unavoidably uncomfortable, gruelling and painful – even if taking all the pain relief that you can get your hands on – and there’s only one way to get through it by focusing on the end point:  the reward of a tiny, perfect human being and a triumph of achievement like not other.

However, it’s nearly ten years since I had my last baby and I’m now too far removed from really remembering anything real about what birth feels like anymore. It’s therefore a cliché to say that I’m currently cock-a-hoop and full to the brim with postpartum adrenalin. I’ve finally finished finding, sorting and matching up testers for products and the painful, long, contracted process of coordinating the product testing for the Mother and Baby Awards feels like a Pregnancy and Birth behind me.

That’s 185 brands, 527 products, 509 mum testers and 3176 product samples sent out. The numbers get bigger every year and each year in the middle of all my ‘tester’ labouring I do start huffing and puffing and swearing and asking myself why am I going through this all over again…? Continue reading

M&B Awards blog:When is a ‘pushchair’ not just a ‘pushchair’?

Answer: When it’s a Travel System. Or, could it be when it’s just a ‘pram’…?

And is a ‘baby-buggy’ or ‘lightweight stroller’ something separate?

Oh, the variety of choice! How to make the distinction has always bemused me.

‘Three-wheelers’ or  the ‘all-terrain-4×4 types? ‘Twins’? ‘Tandems’? Or, when in doubt, throw it all in and buy  the ubiquitous  ‘travel system’? Can’t they all fall into the “Best Pushchair” category or should the distinction be  just ‘chairs only with wheels to push’?

Through the Mother & Baby Awards, I often get e-mails with appeals and confessionals.

‘Addicted mum’ says:

“I have a bit of a ‘buggy’ fettish. I love all different pushchairs – please help me. Pick me to test for you – it might get my husband off my case for a little while!!”

‘Shoes and handbag mum’:

“I’ve owned 15 and still haven’t found one I like”.

Or ‘pushchair-geek mum’:

“I have a real passion for pushchairs I like to know all the functions of how they work and how well they push – like men and cars. I’ll eye-ball one I like the look of in the street and ask the poor person on the end of it for a run down on all of its features!”

Should I be offering a counselling service for the self-confessed ‘buggy addict?’ There’s no doubt that these mums make brilliant product testers only I’m not sure if I can help ease the symptoms of a serious habit or only drive a self-confessed ‘buggyaholic’ further down the road to pushchair hell. Continue reading