WHEN Julie Wilson and Amy Livingston met at antenatal class in 2011, a new business was born.

“Our babies were both teething and dribbling quite a lot, so we’d give them teethers,” Ms Wilson explained. “But these would end up getting thrown on the floor and getting filthy and dirty. So we’d have to keep picking them up, sterilising them and putting them back in our babies’ mouths. Then we thought – why not have a teether that’s attached to the baby, so it catches the dribbles and is handy if the baby wants to chew? It just seems so logical.”

Fast forward four years and the duo have barely paused for breath. Since launching their ‘Neckerchew’ – the world’s first chewable dribble bib – in 2013, sales have soared. Their business, Cheeky Chompers, enjoyed 600 per cent sales growth between year one and two, and has more than doubled again over the last year.

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“It just went very well, very quickly,” Ms Livingston continued. “We went to a baby show where there were lots of mums and the feedback was phenomenal. Then we went to a trade show and signed up significant players very early on. We got John Lewis and JoJo Maman Bébé (a leading UK retailer of maternity and baby clothes and nursery products), so two really good retailers. That was three years ago. Now we have four products on the market in 30 countries and a range of big retailers including Marks & Spencer and Boots.”

After the Neckerchew came the ‘Comfortchew’ – a cotton and fleece comforter combining a rubber teether, ribbon tags for baby to play with and an elasticated link which attaches to the baby’s wrist, cot, car seat, buggy or dummy. Products three and four were the ‘Cheeky Blanket’, an attachable luxurious fabric blanket with hand and foot pouches with sensory tags, and ‘Chewy’ the teething hippo, an attachable soft pliable chewable hippo to stimulate the senses

“What we’re trying to do with all our products is create great stuff that helps parents,” Ms Wilson said. “We know as parents ourselves that lots of things are frustrating and could be better. There are gaps in the market.”

Responding to demand from mums, dads and carers, the company has also diversified into the special needs market with a larger size of its Neckerchew for older children and adults.

“Some of the stories are heart-breaking, but it makes you feel good to be helping,” Ms Wilson added.

Cheeky Chompers has sold 600,000 products since launch, with its biggest markets in the US, Australia and Taiwan. It also sells all over Europe, Canada and Asia The ambition is to grow this year’s £1.2 million turnover to £5 million within three years.

“We want to be the go-to baby brand for products that have that certain ‘I wish I’d though of that’ innovative twist.” Ms Livingston said. “At the moment we’re growing so fast. This year our target is to get into Korea and China, they’re our biggest targets.”

The friends have done not too badly given that they were told on TV’s Dragons Den in 2014 that their expectations for the business were ‘delusional’.

Entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne joked that he would eat 100 of their bibs if they reached their targets.

Their experience wasn’t wasted, with the national TV exposure leading to a lucrative business partnership.

“When we were on Dragon’s Den in March 2014, we got a call the next day from Tom Joule (the founder of British casualwear designer Joules),” Ms Livingston explained. “He said I love your product, it’s a fantastic design. We’ve now done eight collaborative designs using Joules’ fabric designs and our products, and we sell them through Joules’ 100 stores and our key retailers in the UK and internationally.”

As well as proving the dragons wrong, the ‘mumpreneurs’ have won a slew of awards and endorsements. These include ‘Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year’ at last November’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, staged by Entrepreneurial Scotland in association with accountancy firm Deloitte and The Herald.

The duo named this as one of their proudest moments, alongside landing blue chip customers like John Lewis and M&S and breaking into America, where their customers include Seattle-based upmarket fashion retailer Nordstrom and Barnes & Noble, the biggest retail bookseller in the US.

“We also won two gold awards for innovation and quality in America’s Mom’s Choice Awards (which has reviewed thousands of entries from more than 55 countries),” Ms Wilson said. “How brilliant is that as an endorsement?

“We’re also proud of the response we get from parents. We must get five to ten photos a day of happy babies using our products. And messages from mums and carers saying thank you for helping us.”

The company is based in Roslin, East Lothian, where it employs five people. Its products are made in Glasgow by nappy maker TotsBots.

“They have 18 people in their factory just making Cheeky Chompers products,” Ms Livingston explained. “It’s brilliant for us to think that we’re creating jobs in Scotland too.”

What advice would Cheeky Chomper’s founders give to other entrepreneurs starting out?

“For me, it’s to believe really strongly in what you’re doing,” Ms Wilson said. “Make sure you’re actually filling a gap in the market and make it the best it can be. The right quality, the right innovation and something that adds a little value. And be so determined, because sometimes it’s tough. But you have to keep at it.

“For us as a partnership, it’s fantastic that there are two of us. If you can find a really good business partner, it really helps.”