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S02 EP06: Colin O'Brien of PeggyRain

Fionnuala Malone chats to the inventor of PeggyRain, Colin O'Brien about being featured on the Late Late Show, launching an Amazon Store and expanding into the US market. 

Listen to the Episode

Quotes from the Episode

I asked my mom if there was something I could do to make her life easier and she said if I could come up with something that meant she wouldn't have to run in and out every time that rains to bring into washing in that would be great

Colin O'Brien on the idea that sparked PeggyRain

We were able to do the Late Late Show, pack up, drove home, I was back home about 10 minutes before it went live. So I had my website open and it just absolutely blew up.

Colin O'Brien on being featured on the Late Late Show

If you have a good product and you know there's a problem out there and you can solve and you can brand it and you can build it and you can sell it, then I would just go for it

Colin O'Brien on his advice for would-be inventors

Where to find PeggyRain

Links mentioned in this episode

PeggyRain on The Late Late Show

Transcript of Episode

Fionnuala Malone  00:07

Hello and welcome to SCANtalk by GS1 Ireland; the stories, the people and the standards transforming our daily lives. My name is Fionnuala Malone, Digital Marketing Manager at GS1 Ireland, and today on the show, I'm joined by Colin O'Brien from PeggyRain. So welcome to the show, Colin.


Colin O'Brien  00:26

Good morning Fionnuala. Delighted to be here. Delighted to talk to you and all your listeners this morning. So we're really excited to tell you about PeggyRain and everything that that entails.


Fionnuala Malone  00:35

That's great to hear. Colin, you're a brand new member to GS1 Ireland. So you're very welcome.


Colin O'Brien  00:40

Thank you.


Fionnuala Malone  00:42

You have a really innovative and different product. Would you like to tell us a little bit about it?


Colin O'Brien  00:47

Yeah, I'd love to tell you for Fionnuala. So what PeggyRain is so PeggyRain is a clothesline that rescues your washing from the rain so what I mean by that is you simply hang out your washing on a PeggyRain clothesline. And if a shower rain comes along, as it often does in this country and many other countries so you've hung the washing out, your your your mind the kids, you're in town shopping, you're on a zoom call and you go, 'no this shower rain after coming'. Well, we're PeggyRain, you need to worry no more. PeggyRain will sense when it's starting to rain. And it'll pull it over across your clothes automatically so that PeggyRain will have you covered. And really what it means, it just takes the hassle out of outdoor clothes drying, you don't need to be there. And that's the main point with PeggyRain. But we've also some other great benefits. So with PeggyRain, and the way everything is going with the price of electricity and tumble dryers, we're finding we're getting a lot of sales and we're expanding big time overseas this summer. So as electricity goes up, the price of running your tumble dryer is also going up. And that means that that people are now looking outside, 'can I drive a clothes outside? It doesn't cost me anything'. The only problem is the Irish, the English or the American weather that's sometimes can can hinder us. But that's where PeggyRain comes in. And it really does help you to to, to naturally dry your clothes. You don't have to worry about the price, the price of running the tumble dryer or the environmental side of it. So lots of


Fionnuala Malone  01:24

Amazing, it brings me back to my childhood of my mother going to me, 'oh my god, oh my god, I see I see a splash of rain, right everyone out, everyone out, running out to the clothesline, to grab all the washing in and bring it in. So you've solved a problem for many, many people, I'm sure. Tell us a little bit about where the where the idea came from.


Colin O'Brien  02:24

Well the original idea for PeggyRain, it came about a number of years ago. So I was actually just back, I'm a design engineer. And I was just back from traveling, I was back from Australia. And I actually just patented another product, ot no sorry, I was looking to patent another product. And I was really, I was kind of dismayed because I couldn't patent it because somebody else had it. It was a totally different product, different area. So I was back at home. And I actually asked my mam was something I could do to make your life easier. And mam said that if I could come up with something that she wouldn't have to run in and out every time it rained to bring into washing in that that'd be a great idea. And that was actually a number of years ago and mam has since passed away. But mam's name was Margaret. And granny was Peggy. So when we come up with Peggy, PeggyRain during the last, last year or so we decided to call it PeggyRain in honour of mam. So it's actually, I can't claim ownership of the idea, it was mam's idea. But I'm the engineer that facilitated it. So that's, that's the, that's the background to PeggyRain.


Fionnuala Malone  02:50

Amazing and what a way to honor your mom and your granny with the with the name. It's great. Yeah, it's a great one and also refers to like clothes pegs as well. It fits in really well.


Colin O'Brien  03:28

Yeah, it does and actually we've we've just been finding with the brand as well, that it's traveled a lot in the last six months. So we're just now on the cusp. And I can chat to you a bit about it. But we're just on the cusp of doing a big expansion into the US. And we're going to go off to the Irish diaspora over there as well. And lots of other target markets. So it's it's really, it's a really, it's a great product, it really helps you in your day to day. And it's also very, very, we find it very shareable, very interactive with other people. So we love sharing the story and telling everybody about the benefits.


Fionnuala Malone  04:01

And how long have you been working on this project?


Colin O'Brien  04:05

So originally, the original idea actually for taking me came about a number of years ago, this was going back to 2006. It was actually I was designing, I designed and developed a much more complex product, which was a great idea, a great product, but it was quite, quite expensive. And I suppose the stubbornness and tenacity of me as an engineer that 10 years later, were able to come back at it. And it was it was actually during, just after lockdown. We decided to come back with a product and I found a way to revisit this product and to design a basically a system that you could wash your clothes, hang them outside, and if the shower rain came along, it would cover them automatically. But what I also had in mind was to keep the price point low. So to help the consumer, I wanted to keep it the price point low but for a very good high quality product. And also I had in mind to manufacture in Ireland because we're all we're all And like there's lots of issues with flying and traveling during lockdown. So what I decided to do was to set up a manufacturing here in Ireland, in Bray. And what we did was we manufactured in Bray and in Dublin and from here, we've been exporting, shipping all around Ireland. And we've been exporting a lot to the UK, to the US as well. So it's kind of a full circle. That's a long answer to your question. But we've, we've really, really enjoyed the journey so far. And we're quite excited where we're going in the next, the next number of weeks.


Fionnuala Malone  05:27

And it's quite unusual to have a product like this manufactured in Ireland. So it's great to hear that it's, you know, supporting Irish jobs. And it's a really it's a local product.


Colin O'Brien  05:37

Yeah, well, actually, we've got a company that's also on so you have the Best of Irish here. And also with GS1 Ireland and one of the company's Key Plastics, we're actually working with them, doing the manufacturing. So I was looking at the company we were in last week when, because just to let your listeners know, we've only signed up for the, for the barcodes in the last two weeks. So we've gone from sign up, which is very quick and streamlined with, with you guys and to having like we printed 1000 barcodes last Sunday, ready for the US. And we're also doing the manufacturing with Key Plastics in Bray, we've got other companies around packaging components, like lots of companies in the area that we're working with. AndI'll be honest like, there was two reasons. Yes, we wanted to make it here in Ireland. But also, from a point of view of getting the product off the ground. I couldn't have flown into parts of, of Asia or different countries because of lockdowns. And also, if there was any issue with it, it's always easier for me to drive around the M50 to go to the factory in Bray than it is to get on a long flight to somewhere else. So lots of different reasons for that. But it worked out well for us. It really did.


Fionnuala Malone  06:44

Yeah, brilliant to hear. And you mentioned there that you joined us in GS1 Ireland there about a week or two ago and it was to get barcodes. So tell us a little bit about, did you know anything about how to get a barcode? Had you heard of us before? Like what was that process like?


Colin O'Brien  07:00

Yeah, it was actually quite streamlined. So I had, I had vaguely heard of you guys, like I've obviously done barcodes so I'm a design engineer. And I've done barcodes for other products in the UK and different things, this was my first time working with GS1 Ireland and I was given a recommendation to contact you guys. So I basically picked up the phone. Very, very good customer service. I I just went for the option. We picked 10 barcodes because we are going to have different derivatives of PeggyRain. And once we once we set it up, I had a couple of questions. I rang them again. And absolutely no problem. Actually, I actually overpaid by mistake. No, honestly, I overpaid. I think it was like by 40 euro and they actually called me to say you've selected an extra option that we didn't need and the lovely lady from GS1 Ireland just she just she said, look, I'm not going to invoice you that and you'll get your refund. So that was that was really good from that point.


Fionnuala Malone  07:49

Well that's good to hear and that's good to hear that they picked up on your mistake and you got your money back.


Colin O'Brien  07:54

Yeah, it's actually quite good. And then look, from then it honestly, I think we, I ended up doing it last Friday. And I actually had to get some more zebra labels about honestly by Sunday evening, we had a thousand of them printed. So I, what's actually happened for us in the last few weeks is, we've got it we've we've been expanding the team. And we're partnering up with other individuals for PeggyRain, both in Ireland and on the ground in the States. So what's happened is, we're hoping to scale up quite rapidly, rapidly. And with barcodes, we're basically we're onboarding with Amazon in the next number of weeks. And we're, we've been selected for, because we've got a very sustainable product, there's going to be a big push for PeggyRain in the States. And yeah, so I basically had to, you know, to, to increase production here and in Bray, to get the barcodes sorted, printed, to get everything ramped up, which is which is good and exciting.


Fionnuala Malone  07:58

All hands on deck.


Colin O'Brien  08:05

All hands on deck, but it was the barcode side, it was very seamless from my point of view. So I'm very happy with that. I'd highly recommend you guys in the future for anybody looking to do that. So look they're internationally recognized, so I could test them then on Monday, and you know, they can be used in our fulfillment centre in New Jersey, the States. So look, it's going to work out well for us in that way.


Fionnuala Malone  09:11

That's great to hear. You talked there about setting up your Amazon store. What made you decide to go for an Amazon store? Because it's not something that I see a huge amount of Irish businesses going down that route? Yeah. So what was the reasoning behind that to go on a marketplace.


Colin O'Brien  09:31

A couple of reasons behind it. So the first reason was, we actually went on The Late Late Show last November, which absolutely exploded our business and went up, you know, exponentially up, which is fantastic. And we were in a big rush to get everything out for Christmas, which we did. But on the back of that, a lady who's actually, we're partnering up now based in New York and New Jersey. She contacted us directly and we were in discussions probably from the first of January, about basically capitalizing on the US market, through through Amazon. And what's actually happened. But another point for a lot of people with their own company at the moment is to know, there's been a tipping point during the last six months. So somebody on the ground, an individual customer in America, if they're looking to buy a product, their first port of call was always Google, it used to be Google. But that's shifted. So I've actually got some stats here. 44% of people now go directly to Amazon. So if you're looking to buy something in the US, you take your phone out and you go directly to Amazon. Next, at 33% is Google. And then as you go down the list, then there's obviously Walmart's app, there's Target, there's different companies, then you're looking at, say, a brand's website, then you're down to eBay, Etsy, or Facebook, or this other side of things. So like, it's actually it's changed the game. So if you want to be, if you want to be selling your product in America, Amazon is now, it is the first port of call. So like all the other, all the other routes to market are much further down the list so we were engaging with this lady. And she'd been really helpful. And she's helped us to grow the team, both here in Ireland and on the ground in the US. And what we've also done is we've trademarked PeggyRain for the US. So if you want to get an Amazon store, if you wanna get your brand, you have to register the trademark. So I done it myself in Kilkenny here in Ireland, it was like 75 euro, we've done this, you know, it's very quick to do with the Irish patents office. But to get a store, to get your Amazon store, you need to trademark the name. And that's important because you don't want to be getting traction, and then three months later, somebody else just takes your brand and copies it. So we actually worked with with our contact in America and a trademark attorney in New York. And what that enabled us to do was to have everything, all our ducks lined up so that we could then push the button. So for the last five weeks, we've been doing that. And we had to get the trademark in, the barcode, which was, what your guys doorstep for a few days and to get that sorted. And what really, I would advise anybody who's looking to get into the US to consider that at the moment because it is and look at the other side of the coin is in the US, there's 160 million Amazon Prime customers. In the UK, there is 15 million Amazon Prime customers. So we're targeting that. And then the other thing as well as with this individual that we're partnering up in the States, there is an Irish diaspora connection there and the Irish diaspora in the US, there's 34 million Irish Americans basically. So if you want to look, if you want to target your product in America, you can get on Amazon, but you could also target that market. So there's lots of different demographics within the American market. We're talking obviously, obviously, Irish Americans, then there's the demographics for PeggyRain. And yeah, I would highly recommend getting on board with that. But we have engaged with a partner in the States to help us manage that, because there's a lot of work involved in it. And we, we're a growing team. But it's nice to have somebody on the ground there to work with.


Fionnuala Malone  12:57

For sure. And it's interesting about Amazon, because I think, I think maybe Irish businesses are missing a little bit of a trick here, because things tend to start in the States, you know, get really big in the States. And then it tends to get big in the UK and Ireland is always our tiny little bit behind, not too far behind, a little a little bit behind, a beat behind maybe. And so definitely one to consider, I think for any Irish brands thinking that


Colin O'Brien  13:23

Definitely, definitely because we had the choice about four weeks ago, like we're obviously selling so we have our own website, and we're selling directly into the UK into the US, Canada and different countries. But we had to decide from our expansion, do we just go for the easier option and go to the UK? And we can grow it there? Or do we say you know what, let's go for America first. So what we're doing is, we're targeting, we're targeting the American Amazon market for PeggyRain. And then we're going to go on tag on the UK side of it with a lag of about four to six weeks after that, but it's absolutely a massive market right now in the US. And there's, there's the growth and the opportunity. And it really is down to to the actual the clicks. If you if you look at the metrics, it's people on their phone, and they're looking to get something, Amazon is the first port of call and that was, that game changer happened during COVID. Now obviously COVID has pushed things that you know, there's more online shopping, etc. But they've they've surpassed Google, which I was very very surprised for.


Fionnuala Malone  13:24

I've heard people talk about Amazon as a search engine rather than a store now, it's it's


Colin O'Brien  13:33

That's, that's exactly it. And if you're not on it then, then you're going to be further down the list and I just mentioned so it's a huge opportunity for us. We're delighted to be onboarding with them. And there's a there's a there's actually a change in America. So as I said you had the idea years ago for the product but there's a real sustainable push at the moment and people are looking to to buy a product that has a story behind it but also, they now understand that from the point of view of your carbon footprint that using your tumble dryer it's very, very inefficient. So like, using a tumble dryer is around half a tonne of CO2 per year, that's quite a lot, that's the equivalent of Dublin to Greece, on a plane or to Dublin to Paris and back. And from a carbon footprint point of view. Whereas if you dry your clothes outside, you negate all of that. And it'll actually mean that you're doing your bit for the environment. So there's that kind of awareness now in Ireland, UK and in the US. And then also, as I mentioned earlier, the price of electricity is flying up here and in the UK, and it's starting to creep up in America. But people are now becoming more aware that, you know, we can we can dry our clothes outside, the only problem has been the weather. Well, that's that's where we're PeggyRain comes in, we can actually help you, that if you are worried that there's going to be a shower of rain that it will cover and keep your clothes dry.


Fionnuala Malone  15:47

Yeah, for sure. It's an absolutely brilliant idea. And definitely people are thinking more and more about sustainability and making those small changes to kind of reduce their, their emissions, and with the rising cost of, of living and electricity as well. Very important. Tell us a little bit about how you got on the Late Late Show or how that came about. Big, kind of a life changing.


Colin O'Brien  16:08

Oh, pretty good. Yeah. It was really it was really good for us. So we were delighted. So actually, I when I started the company, I have an investor I did, I did actually mention to him. I said, Look, I will go on the Late Late. And at the time, I didn't have a shoo in. But I'm quite a I wouldn't say stubborn, but I'm definitely driven. And you know, if you've got a goal in mind, and you've got a great product and a great story, you know, you go out and you tell it so we did we obviously emailed in RTÉ. And all of that but what I actually did was I went and I found out and it's good, it's a good thing for any business to do is to find out look who, who is the researcher, who's in charge of certain programs, because they're always looking for new businesses, it's you make their life easier. So I actually found out one of the researchers, there was a coffee shop in Dublin that that the researcher and her partner own. So what I did was when I found out that I actually took one of the PeggyRains, I basically got in the car, went down the road, and I landed on the door, and I basically, I just said it's a bit cheeky. But I said, Listen, I know that you're your partner, I know that she works at RTÉ in The Late Late Show. I'm going to be blatantly honest here. I'm looking to get the product on. And he actually said he said appreciate your honesty. And we sat down and he gave me a free cup of coffee. We he was


Colin O'Brien  16:12

Oh my God you're like a private detective or something.


Colin O'Brien  16:36

Yeah, well, no, it was actually it was good. It was actually nice. I look it, I just left, I left it with him. And then I also obviously emailed RTÉ. And then a few weeks later, I actually, I actually missed the call. They had a call during that time, but I was so busy with shipping orders elsewhere. But I got a call and they said 'look it, we're doing the night where we've all the businesses, and I actually have your product here. So I said 'Oh, excellent'. So that's how we got on. It was really good. And I'll be honest Fionnuala, we actually, we were we were selling a lot of product at the time. And we done the show but it was the uptake was like my first worry was okay, will the website hold up and it did. We actually have a good Shopify website, but we went went to RTÉ and we set up myself and Zoe, so Zoe was our digital marketing intern. And she's staying on now. She's She's excellent. So myself and Zoe went to RTÉ we met Ryan. He was really nice, actually. And he loved the fact that we're, we're genuinely making in Ireland, and he loved the story as well. And the background, obviously, with a quick chat with Ryan, he done a zip around. And then he came back, and then we were off and we recorded it. So the show that we done, we actually recorded it a couple of hours beforehand. So it was really good. So we were able to do the show, do the Late Late Show, pack up. We drove home. I was back home in the house about, about ten minutes before it went live. So I had my website, the website open. I had the phone ready, and it just absolutely blew up.


Fionnuala Malone  18:58

It was hopping so your cheekiness paid off and made you made yourself memorable.


Colin O'Brien  19:04

It did, it definitely did. And I will, actually I'll be honest, we're actually doing a few things now in the States. So I can't say just yet but we have some TV lined up in the States for later on this summer. It's going to be good for us that way but just going back to the Late Late for a second yeah, by advice for anybody's going to do that. Just make sure that you have, you got some people on the phones and on the website ready to capitalise, because we were out the door and it's really really good. And that actually that opened up the door for us with this contact in America because she ended up getting in contact with us have a look at this product. It was on RTÉ on the Late Late Show. And that's actually opened up a huge door for us in the States. So we're very, very thankful for that


Fionnuala Malone  19:42

Bit of a chain reaction then. Yeah, leading you new places. Yeah. Your marketing is great, by the way, like your whole website, your Instagram. Was that something you had a background in or because I know you're a product designer and engineer and how did you kind of get to grips with the marketing side of things.


Colin O'Brien  20:02

So for the marketing side of it, I actually, I'll be honest, I know, I'm a product designer and I'm an engineer. So I needed help. And at the start of this, I actually put a call out on LinkedIn. And I got some really good good interns, so Effie came on board, she helped me with the, with the marketing, the branding, then Zoe's sister, Ava, she came on board for a while, and then Zoe herself. But most of the current work has been Zoe Zoe Littlejohns, She's based in Cork. And she's done all the branding for the last six, last year or so. And so what I might do is I might get a video or content, I will WhatsApp it to Zoey, she'll put it into, into a branded content, and then we're off. So basically, we're using, we're working with Canva and all the different programs you can use. But it's, it's she's quite good from an artistic point of view, she has the left and right brain working well and quite clever. So yeah, that's, that's, that's really it. And the colors I love the green, it's obviously ties in with PeggyRain, and mam liked green as well and so do I and it's, yeah, it's been a nice story to tell, we've really enjoyed it.


Fionnuala Malone  21:06

For sure, for sure. You've come such a long way in the last year, from the idea, to the product to getting it manufactured, to getting it on TV and get now you know, moving into Amazon, and the US market and all that, what advice would you have for anyone who maybe has an idea for a new product and wants to get started?


Colin O'Brien  21:29

Oh definitely just to like, like a, an idea could be the very, very small seed in your mind. Or somebody might give you the idea or talk to somebody, but my advice would be to grow it out. To get it to get an initial product working, to to a certain level, and you can guage reaction quite easily. But I I'd be also honest, I would be very stubborn. That's that's I don't want to be like very engineeringy about this. But I do find that if you have a good product, and you know, there's a problem out there and you can solve and you can, you can brand that up and you can build it and you can sell it, then I would I would just go for it. And you'll definitely get people that will try you know, people say yes or no, but I what I try and do my head is I like I had a goal, like I had a goal last year I was gonna get on the Late Late Show. And we did and we sold, we sold out beyond our wildest dreams, then the goal in January was to really get to to the US in big numbers, which we're doing at the moment. And I suppose just to go for it, really get out there go for it, talk to people about it. The worst thing I find is to say, somebody might have a good idea, but never went with it. And what will happen is like I've done lots of different products, and you'll often find that that was a good idea, but somebody else has done it and all it does is it validates that you had a great idea. And it's a bit of 'Oh no well now now I have to come up with something else'. So if you have a good idea, I'd say get out there and go for it, it's the best time to do it. And there's lots of ways to get to get there a lot quicker, you know, so you can, you know, like my very first product and I had a little 3D printer downstairs in the basement. So I had the idea in my head, I could draw it up in CAD on the computer, then I could actually print it downstairs, bring it out to the garden, we could test it, we could we could modify it and then we were happy I pitched it to my investor and he's been great and his wife as well. And we we basically said look, let's go over it. Let's let's get the injection mould done and let's build it in Ireland. So it's kind of all been lots of stages, but I always try to plant a flag several months ahead whether it's six months ahead or a year and you aim to get to that point now you might deviate along the way which is great and it's interesting but don't be afraid that's my my my bottom line don't be afraid to go for it and and enjoy the challenge.


Fionnuala Malone  23:44

Brilliant, well thanks for joining us and telling us about the new product and best of luck with the with the Amazon US market


Colin O'Brien  23:56

Thanks and actually one more thing, we actually have. So if for any of our listeners if they want to go on to the website is So it's P E G G Y R A I And if you go to checkout if you just type in 'bestofirish' we have a little discount there for all of your listeners today so they can just  type in 'bestofirish' onto our website and we're shipping all round Ireland, UK, US so and we will be on will be on Amazon in a few weeks time as well. So it's been fantastic Fionnuala.


Fionnuala Malone  24:26

Brilliant and if anyone wants to follow you on social media as well you're on Instagram and


Colin O'Brien  24:31

So if you go to Instagram as well are so basically so we're on Instagram and it is it's Peggy rain underscore official, so just Peggy so type in on your Instagram P E G G Y R A I N you'll find us on Instagram, and then LinkedIn as well. Same on Facebook for that. Yeah, our Instagram is @peggyrain_official and send me a DM and we can chat as well.


Fionnuala Malone  24:53

Brilliant, thanks so much, Colin.


Fionnuala Malone  24:55

Thanks Fionnuala, thanks a million. Bye bye, bye bye.


Fionnuala Malone  24:58

Thank you to our contributor today to Colin O'Brien of PeggyRain. Today's episode of SCANtalk was presented and produced by me Fionnuala Malone. You can subscribe to SCANtalk on Apple, Google, Acast, Spotify or on our website Talk to you next time.