Roll on summer: The no mess suncream applicator teaching sun safety to children

With warmer weather on the way, parents across the UK will be thinking about how to keep their children safe in the sun. Enter: Solar Buddies – the world’s first child-friendly suncream applicator.

The product, created by Welsh mums Kelli and Laura, recently gained a huge new audience when it was successfully pitched in the Dragons’ Den. Here, we learn more about the idea and how the pair found success and bumps along the road.  

The idea

Kelli and Laura first came up with the idea for their child-friendly suncream applicator in response to the ‘no touch’ policies in place at their children’s schools. They found that, without assistance, their children would often make a huge mess or end up burnt.

“The teachers were trying to encourage us to use once-a-day suncream,” said Kelli. “We’d be putting suncream on our kids at 7.30 in the morning, and by the time they got to lunch, it just wasn’t offering enough protection.”

“For a while, I tried sending my kids in with bottles of suncream so they could reapply themselves. I ended up being called into the school because my kids, who were five and eight at the time, had made such a huge mess trying to put it on. They’d managed to get it all over the school bathrooms, and their uniforms were ruined!”

After a conversation at the school gates, Kelli and Laura decided to take matters into their own hands. They came up with the idea for Solar Buddies, a no-mess applicator that would make suncream accidents a thing of the past.

Humble beginnings

While many start-ups require huge investment to get started, Solar Buddies began with a £5,000 loan from Laura’s dad. Laura and Kelli spent three years researching and developing their idea – collaborating with students at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Once they were happy with their design, they patented the reusable roll-on product, and in 2015, Solar Buddies was officially launched.

The TikTok turning point

For years, Laura and Kelli enjoyed success, building their brand and reputation steadily. Then, TikTok happened. Their product was snapped up by influencers like Julianna Claire, who spread the word of Solar Buddies with their 1.9 million followers.

“I first found out about Tiktok through my kids,” said Laura. “We made a TikTok account for Solar Buddies, but it wasn’t until lockdown that things took off. At that time, people around the world were stuck inside and looking at their phones more than ever. A lot of US-based influencers started noticing our product, and everything blew up from there!” 

Learning from mistakes 

Like every business, Solar Buddies has faced challenges along their journey. Laura and Kelli’s most memorable mistake came after they were approached by a potential health sector client who wanted to work with them but felt their brand wasn’t quite ‘right’. Reacting to the feedback, Laura and Kelli changed the name of the business to Falcon Health. The rebrand caused confusion on social media, and the potential client disappeared. The pair vowed that in the future, they’d have complete confidence in their brand and do their research before making any wholesale changes.

Teaming up with the Dragons

In their biggest challenge yet, Kelli and Laura took Solar Buddies into the Dragons’ Den – hoping to secure an £80k investment. After an impressive pitch, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones both decided to invest in the product – with Laura and Deborah bonding over their shared love of numbers. The industry giants will now add their years of experience to the Solar Buddies brand, helping to expand the range and build a carbon-neutral brand.