A COUPLE who invented an award-winning kitchen appliance have been so successful that they now work for themselves.
Damon Meredith, 43, and Louise Earl, 41, of Niagara Road, Henley, came up with the idea for Sinkstation two years ago.
It is a flat colander which sits in the kitchen sink and can be used to drain, wash and defrost food, or catch peelings.
The gadget is on sale in 39 countries and has been a regular at awards ceremonies, despite the couple having no previous experience of product design and retail.
Sinkstation is sold through the couple’s company, New Soda, which is based in Market Place Mews, Henley.
Mr Meredith said: “We wanted to do something where we could work for ourselves, so we decided to make it and we have been selling it ever since.
“I’ve cooked for years so a lot of the ideas we had came from annoyances and frustrations in food prep and waste management.
“We had a few ideas and the intention was to pick one that wasn’t too complicated for a beginner.
“All the ideas were houseware and kitchen-related but many were hard to make. We had an idea for a coffee maker which was far too complicated. Sinkstation was the one that looked like it would sell internationally and it was easy to make.
“There’s nothing on Sinkstation that can go wrong so it was good for us as beginners.
“We started off having practically nothing and spoke to established companies that might license the idea.
“We got a couple of offers but we decided that the product was simple enough to do ourselves.
“There was lots of asking around and we made some good contacts through our research and also saw some distributors. I ended up finding someone who had a sourcing company in China and it closed the loop.” Sinkstation, which retails at £12, is made from a single sheet of plastic and has so far sold more than 100,000 units in 39 countries.
Mr Meredith, who grew up in Goring, has spent most of his working life as a photographer and film location manager in London while Ms Earl was an assistant director in film.
The couple have two children, Maggie, five, and Jake, two.
Mr Meredith said: “We had a few difficulties at the start. I had a little look at licensing the product but it would mean losing ownership. We had investment from friends and family to set up and we are now looking for more local investment.
“Designing and selling your own product is a lot more complicated than it looks but a lot of the difficulties were due to it being our first time, so I’m expecting it to be better in the future.
“There was the general argy-bargy of getting stuff made and it was quite time-consuming but we have sold in excess of 100,000 units already and have only had some of our distributors for a month so we are expecting orders to increase.”
Sinkstation was nominated in the food prep innovation category of this year’s Housewares Conference and Innovation Awards and last year was a winner at the Excellence in Houseware Awards in London.
Mr Meredith said: “We were up against some established household names at last year’s awards so we were delighted to win.
“We also got on the Simon Mayo Show on Radio 2 and the final stages of Dragons’ Den through Sinkstation, so it has been very popular.”
The couple plan to introduce more products next year.
Mr Meredith said: “There’s a list of 20 items that we want to try to get into the shops as well as this one.
“One’s a cake server and one is a magnifying glass for instructions. They are not sink-related, they are kitchen gadgets and some are quite humorous.
“The plan is to try to grow the business from using the sales clients we have made with Sinkstation and take it from there.”