In 2016, Rockit answered struggling parents’ prayers with a portable baby rocker that attaches to pushchairs to help soothe children to sleep. Since winning the Design Council Spark Award, Rockit has been able to design and manufacture the innovative product which improves the sleep quality of babies and young children. Matt Dyson, co-founder of Rockit talks to us about Design Council’s Spark programme, throwing himself in the deep end, and the future of Rockit.

Sleepless children result in sleepless parents. One particularly restless father was Nick Webb, Dyson’s brother-in-law and now co-founder, whose three-month old daughter refused to sleep in her pushchair unless she was being pushed along. After one frustratingly sleepless day, Webb took to disassembling an old printer to fashion a makeshift vibrating device that attached to a chair and rocked his daughter to sleep.

This moment of frustration led to the ideation process behind Rockit and put the product development into motion.

“Parents all over the world struggle with sleepless children,” says Dyson. “Where Nick has a background - as an engineer - in acoustics and vibrations, I have experience in product design. We joined forces and unified our skills to create a device that tackles this universal issue.”

After finding that there were no similar products available online, Dyson quit his day job as a product design teacher to focus on designing, developing and 3D printing Rockit along with a third co-founder, Matt Sparrow. The result? A small rocket-shaped device, which is easy to pack; that parents can clip onto a pushchair with vibration technology that gently rocks their child to sleep.

Once they had formed a successful, yet “rudimentary”, prototype, they faced the challenge of developing Rockit into a retail-friendly, marketable product.

Though Design Council Spark is open to anyone with a bright idea, Dyson was initially reluctant to apply, fearing that he would be competing against more established businesses. A week before the submission deadline, he revisited the application page and took the plunge. The application was successful, and led to Rockit taking part in a 16-week accelerator programme where experts and specialists helped them with the design, branding and cost forecasting for the product. “It’s called an accelerator for a reason,” laughs Dyson, reflecting on the extraordinary and fundamental developments made to Rockit during the programme.

Of this support, Dyson regards the one-to-one mentorship scheme as the most invaluable. “We were lucky enough to select Gary Pyper, a well-respected toy designer, as our mentor.” reflects Dyson. “His expert design advice was instrumental in developing Rockit into the product it is today.”

Since winning the Spark award, over 60,000 Rockit devices have been sold in more than 40 countries worldwide. The team has won over 20 awards, including the European Product Design prize and International Business of the Year award at the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards, with Dyson benefitting enormously from the networking prospects offered to him through Spark.

And Rockit’s design journey only continues to accelerate. For the past year, the team have been developing Zed, an astronaut-shaped sleep soother that is simply placed on any mattress and soothes sleepless children in their cots or beds. Launching in early 2020, the new device features new vibration technology, with an incorporated night light to improve children’s quality of sleep even further. “We were determined to become a successful, innovative brand, rather than a one-hit-wonder. Design Council Spark has been exceptionally supportive in championing our future endeavours and the advice we received has been invaluable as we have moved forward and designed this new product.”

One final piece of advice from Dyson? “If you’ve got a good idea, then don’t hesitate to apply to Design Council Spark. And if you’re lucky enough to be selected, really throw yourself in the deep end, engage with all aspects of Spark, and stay behind to ask questions. Immersing yourself in the programme is the key to success.”

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