How to clean after gastro: How a nightmare car trip with a vomitting child led to mum’s award winning invention.
On my youngest child’s last day of daycare for the year, his centre sent out an alert warning of a(nother) gastro outbreak.
And while I’m hopeful — given how recently our last brush with this was, we’ll be spared another round, I started to think about how there must be a better way to deal with two children too young to control where they vomit.
Turns out, there is. And naturally, it’s the invention of another mum looking to save our sanity, and washing machines.
READ MORE: ‘He has a rash on his chest. How quickly can you get here?’ Sydney mum’s warning after ‘scary’ ordeal
After enduring a hellish 10-hour car trip where her eldest daughter suffered motion sickness throughout, Jo Hardie, from New South Wales, was at her “wits end”. But after scrubbing her car seat clean, the mum-of-three came up with an ingenious solution: a leakproof blanket capable of absorbing up to two litres of liquid.
“Young kids don’t always know when they’re going to be sick. My daughter on that car trip, she started to say: ‘Mummy, I feel sick’ and before she’d finished saying that she’d spewed everywhere,” she said.
“With this you can just let them spew and it will absorb it. And you can have it under their head and still hold your child and it won’t leak through to you.”
Aptly named ‘Spewy’, Jo has now sold more than 10,000 blankets to exasperated parents across Australia. But as she told 9Honey, it took a lot of determination to get the product into their hands.
“I had three children and I needed this. I just wanted to make life easier. I had the idea after that car trip, but when we got home it went on the backburner. And then we all caught another gastro bug and I thought ‘I have to do something with this idea’,” she said.
Knowing she was onto something, Jo set about creating her first prototype, despite having had no experience in either business or manufacturing.
“I borrowed a friend’s sewing machine and went to Spotlight and looked for absorbent material and went to Clark Rubber to get some plastic backing and sewed it together. I’m not a sewer, but the kids loved the first few we tried,” she shared.
While her kids were fans, it proved difficult to find a manufacturer who would make her product, rather than sell her their own. After six months, and on to her last manufacturer on her list, Jo found someone willing to create these.
Trailing an initial run of 200, Jo said she thought it would at least make a good gift for family and friends if it didn’t succeed.
Admitting that, looking back, she was ‘very niave’ in thinking it was as easy as putting these online and have them ‘sell like hotcakes’, Jo found it hard to get Spewy noticed.
READ MORE: Jen Hawkins shares glimpse into life with Frankie and Hendrix: ‘Nothing better’
Undeterred, she signed up for an intensive business course… right before Covid hit. Despite juggling homeschooling her kids during lockdown, she worked hard to channel the business to the right customers, and stock started moving quickly.
The company has also created ‘bed mats’ to tackle another common issue: bed wetting.
Starting from a home office where she packed and send orders herself, Jo now has seven staff and her own warehouse and says it’s grown ‘very big, very quickly’. This year, they also took out an award at the 2022 Australian Women’s Small Business Champion Awards.
And her daughters Laura, 10, Taylah, eight and Charlotte, five, are among her biggest fans.
“They love them. They tell everyone about spewy. We moved to a new, rural town last year and everyone at school now knows what a spewy is! My youngest also carries one around as a comforter even when she’s not sick
For a daily dose of 9Honey, subscribe to our newsletter here.
Parents in a frenzy over mum’s ‘genius’ bedtime chart