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Mirror Works: Mandy is a cup winner.

WHAT and WHO? The Anywayup Cup, a non-drip cup for toddlers by Mandy Haberman, 47, from Radlett, Herts. Ten million cups are sold every year.

WHY? I had the idea in 1990. My daughter Emily was at a friend's house. Another toddler was drinking from a conventional trainer cup. An aunt was keeping a watchful eye. When the cup fell, she dived to catch it before it hit the floor. Seeing the gymnastics required to prevent Ribena stains on the carpet made me think I could design a cup that would seal between sips.

HOW? Although I could make "kitchen sink" models, I had no proper equipment for producing prototypes. So I contacted Jim Hennequin of Airmuscle Ltd. Several prototypes later, when there were still drips escaping from cups, I had a Eureka moment at 4.30am. While researching another project, I had come across a soft, flexible plastic that could be moulded directly on to rigid plastic. Now I could see how to create a rigid trainer cup spout with a flexible valve directly at its top surface, thus solving the problem.

WHAT NEXT? I applied for a patent in 1992 and over the years showed prototypes to about 20 companies. I was aware of how cut-throat big businesses are. So in addition to patent protection, I got them to sign confidentiality agreements. Then I organised a stand at two shows and came away with pounds 10,000 of advance orders. With this money I bought proper production tooling. I formed the Haberman Company and we rocketed into business. It was 1996.

HOW did sales get so big? We needed to get in supermarkets but they don't like doing business with one-product companies. We had a brainwave. Having already been turned down by Tesco, we filled a cup with Ribena and put it loose inside a white box and posted it to the buyer. Days later, we were in Tesco.

ANY adventures on the way? Prior to setting up my company I offered, but failed, to reach a licensing agreement with the market giant, Jackel International. In 1998, Jackel put a cup on the market using my technology. The launch of their Tommee Tippee cup was the start of a lengthy defence of my infringed patents. In 2000, Jackel abandoned its court appeal and settled out-of-court, paying costs and damages.

WHERE do I find out more? www.mandyhaberman.com and www.makesparksfly.com, a site for innovative ideas.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 18, 2004
Words:409
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