We chatted to Murdoch student and entrepreneur, Bec Thompson, about how she came up with her big idea, the journey to see it through, and where to from here.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Bec Thompson, I’m 27 and I’m currently studying for my Bachelor of Education at Murdoch University. This is my first degree and I’m loving it so far. I’m also in the process of launching my very own company and invention called Sandbar, which will be my second business.
How did you hear about Think Big?
Funny story actually! I was in the process of working out a plan on how to launch Sandbar, when I received an email, which went something like, “Are you an entrepreneur? Do you have a small business you want to get off the ground? Do you need business planning and cash flow help? Apply here!” I jumped out of my skin and responded instantly. It was so surreal, as I was sitting there thinking “Yes, yes, please accept me!”.
Tell us about your idea, Sandbar
Sandbar is a lightweight, compact and fold-up beach table. Its purpose is to store all of your valuables on and in, while you’re at the beach. It has a storage compartment to store your keys, phone, sunnies and wallet away from the sand, sun and potential theft. On top of the compartment are two drink holders for your choice of a coffee cup or water bottle. It has a hemp mesh material top, so anything you place on it (like sunscreen, clothes, hat, or a book) the excess sand falls through.
There’s also a wooden board that clips on to the end of the Sandbar with two wine glass slits if you prefer a glass of wine over a coffee. The Sandbar folds up into a matching over-the-shoulder, waterproof canvas bag.A prototype of Bec's Sandbar.
What was your motivation behind creating Sandbar?
I love going to the beach, and for years I’ve brainstormed different ideas and businesses that I could start that had something to do with the beach, however there hasn’t been one that I’ve been 100 per cent set on – until Sandbar.
I was at the beach one day with a luxe macramé beach bag. When I put the bag down in the sand, all of the sand went straight up and into the bag. I thought to myself, “Why on Earth would someone invent a bag with holes in it, for the beach? This bag needs to be elevated! It also needs a spot for my coffee cup.”
I started googling beach tables and realised there were none. I couldn’t believe something so simple hadn’t been invented yet, so I thought I better do it myself. After speaking to friends and family about the idea, they all loved it and I thought perhaps this nascent idea does fill a huge gap in the market.
Tell us about your Think Big experience
I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into the Think Big competition. I was in my first semester at uni and probably should have been focussing on that, not inventing things but I knew this was too good of an opportunity to pass up on.
The Think Big program was very well set out; four full days split over two months going through a whole heap of business start-up hacks, from cashflow reports, how to pitch and how to create a business plan.
We had guest speakers who were great at getting us to stop and think about our idea and pitch. Sam Birmingham was our guest speaker for the first two sessions – and what a legend. He was so clear with everything he taught us, he was very encouraging and super supportive of everyone for having a go.
What support did you receive during Think Big?
The Launchpad team couldn’t have been more accommodating and helpful. They all made it very clear they were available to help with any questions and were so supportive and encouraging to all of us. The most valuable support I received during the Think Big was my mentor Michael Breckler.
Mike is the Director of Betts Shoes, and I never thought someone with so much experience and someone who is so high up in the retail world would give up his time to help me. But boy, I was wrong! Mike was incredible, he went back and forth that many times with emails helping me to get my pitch perfect. He shouted me coffee and listened to everything I could tell him about Sandbar whilst also offering so many great tips and suggestions. I couldn’t have been more appreciative!
What have you accomplished since Think Big?
Since Think Big finished in November I’ve done a fair bit! I’ve had three prototypes of the canvas bags for the Sandbars designed and made. I’ve had packaging and box prototypes made, networked hard on social media, and have met some incredible people who will be helping me with the photography and videography for Sandbar. I have also trademarked Sandbar and applied for a provisional patent.
The most difficult thing I have accomplished was finding a manufacturer. I went down the line of plastic moulding, I spoke to a timber company over east who drew up a quote and I’ve had two meetings here in Perth with timber manufacturers from which I finally found someone. It’s not locked in yet, but I have a very good feeling about him.
What are your goals for the future?
My first step is to pre-sell 200 Sandbars to family and friends. I already have my list going and I think there are almost 70 people on there. Once I have sold the first batch, I will respond to all the feedback I’ve received and make whatever changes are necessary before launching to the public.
I hope to launch publicly in October 2020, manufacturing approximately 500 units for my second batch. After that, maybe I will apply for a shot on Shark Tank or perhaps a big buyer will come along and buy me out, who knows!
Whatever happens, I’m very proud of Sandbar and how far I’ve come and I cannot wait for my final product to be finished within the next three weeks! I welcome anyone to get in touch with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Sandbar’s journey at @sandbarco