Women in Innovation: Rachel Hawes, Pupoon.

Women in Innovation blog series.

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to Rachel Hawes, Founder of Pupoon.

Tell us about what you are working on.

I’m working on a project called the Pupoon that aims to solve one of the world’s most disgusting problems – picking up dog poop!

Motivated by two four-legged friends, the daily dog walk quickly became a favourite way to exercise, to breathe fresh air, explore the neighbourhood and experience chance social encounters. But there was one thing I dreaded each time we set out – where they would choose to poop. Most times I tried to do the right thing, which unfortunately meant toting around a smelly plastic bag for the rest of the walk. Unfortunately, other dog owners choose to ignore the poop or litter the bag. I saw a problem that could be solved!

So, being a practical person, who’s up for a challenge (and desperate for a solution), I decided to give it a go myself and invented the Pupoon.
Lightweight, airtight, self-contained, streamlined and unique, the Pupoon is a storage capsule with built-in bag dispenser that attaches seamlessly to most dog leads just like a cocoon. It provides an all-in-one solution to get the job done quickly, with no need to carry anything, and importantly, it looks totally cool when walking your dog!

Why is innovation important to you?

Imagine how boring – and hard – life would be, without innovation. As a child, I remember hearing the story about the Swiss engineer who invented Velcro and was fascinated by how something as simple as burrs in his clothing could be turned into such a revolutionary product, with such far-reaching application. That story had a big impact on me and over the years, I’ve been intrigued by people who look for better ways of doing things, and who have the get-up-and-go to act and make it happen. With all the cool gadgets that are available for use in our daily lives, someone somewhere had a good idea and brought it to life. That I find really inspiring.

 What drives you to make a difference?

I am a really practical person, with a creative streak. I also like a challenge and would much prefer to spend my time solving a problem and making something cool, rather than washing dishes or cleaning the house! As a mother of three kids, I’m not sure I should admit that, but it’s the truth. In time, who’s going to remember how many times I’ve vacuumed the carpet or scrubbed the bathroom, but if I’ve solved the world’s dog poop problem so people everywhere can enjoy the outdoors without having to dodge so much poop, then my time will have been well spent.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into innovation and entrepreneurship?

I’m still in the early days of this journey, so not sure how qualified I am to provide advice. But from my experience so far, I would say, if you’ve got a good idea, just go for it. Believe in what you are doing, have confidence, and don’t let anything discourage you. It can be tough at times, especially getting started and making the right connections, but be determined, and eventually things will start to fall in place and people will understand what you are trying to achieve…even if your product (or service) is a little quirky! Talk to people, be open to suggestions and feedback and make use of all the connections available to you. On a cautionary note, do your research before taking the leap. Understand the steps involved and the costs, so you don’t get out of your depth. And be prepared to adapt your idea or even to fail, as you learn so much along the way that can be put to good use in future projects. And importantly, make it fun. There’s a lot of hard work involved bringing your idea to life, so you need to be able to stick at it and ride the waves.

Shameless Plug / What are you proud of right now? / Share a win.

I’m really proud of seeing how far the Pupoon has come and the endorsement from the Canberra Innovation Network. It’s an enormous challenge getting new products to market, but the Innovation Connect grant is already making a big difference in helping me to navigate the final stages of production. The Pupoon’s design is awesome and it will be so rewarding to make it available to other dog owners and to help take the stress – and the stench – out of their dog walking experiences too!