The Icing on the Cake: A Smart Solution for Food Transportation

Patience Nwodu – inventor, Business Change Project Manager and avid foodie – launched Chíbu Reusable Carriers in February 2019. Designed by Ms. Nwodu, Chíbu® is ideal for bakers (professional or otherwise), pastry chefs, cake designers and picnic lovers alike looking to safely transport goods such as cakes, cupcakes, desserts and wine. Ms. Nwodu explains why she created Chíbu, how it offers a stress-free solution to common cake-transportation problems and the different ways that intellectual property (IP) is supporting her in achieving her business goals.

Chíbu® is ideal for safely transporting bulkier goods such as cakes, cupcakes, desserts and wine. (Photo: Courtesy of Patience Nwodu)

How did you come up with the idea for Chíbu?

It was my birthday, and where there is a birthday; there is surely a cake. Red Velvet cake in this instance, a 10-inch beauty I had ordered which was delivered in a standard cake box. I wanted to take it into the office and share with my team.

Public transport can be taxing at the best of times, especially in London. Struggling through the ticket barriers on the Underground, I was avoiding the rush hour commuters and uttering apologies – trying not to drop the cake. After navigating a busy train and avoiding the throng of people getting off at my stop, the escalators were a welcome sight. I felt as though I had just been through an obstacle course.

I thought to myself, “It shouldn’t be this hard.” With that thought, Chíbu® was born. My love of cakes, my knack for problem solving and my desire for convenience with style all became the recipe for something great.

Tell us more about Chibu

Chíbu® is an Award-Winning carrier and, in my view, the best cake carrier system available. It is made from sustainable, renewable and biodegradable cotton canvas and has been tested and endorsed by industry professionals, who also use it. Last year, I was thrilled to win the 2020 Gold Award by the Intellectual Property Awareness Network (IPAN) at the Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network (GlobalWIIN) Virtual Awards Ceremony in the UK, for my engagement with the IP system. I had not only registered the Chíbu trademark, but also submitted a patent application for Chíbu’s unique carrier design. I was selected out of 35 contestants, with a unanimous decision from nine judges, across three continents.

Chíbu’s versatility makes it suitable for all occasions. It is made with high-quality materials, making it a sturdy, reusable carrier that is designed to last for years. It can also be flat-packed, making it easy to store.

Chíbu is a study carrier made from a sustainable, renewable and biodegradable cotton canvas. (Photo: Courtesy of Patience Nwodu)

What prompted you to develop it?

Following my own experience of trying to transport a large birthday cake, I was looking for a practical solution and came up with the formula RS²MS² = HAPPINESS (Reduce Stress x Save Money x Save Space = HAPPINESS). When developing Chíbu, I wanted to provide customers with a convenient way to carry their cakes and I also wanted my product to help spread happiness.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in creating Chíbu?

Not knowing where to go or whom to approach with my idea was the first big challenge. After an endless search on Google, I came across a company called Innovate Product Design. Their team helped me with product development and prototyping.

Finding a patent lawyer was the next challenge. Since there is nothing like Chíbu on the market, protecting my carrier’s design was a top priority. I found a lawyer on LinkedIn who helped me with file for a European Community patent.

I was fortunate to have been introduced to Mark Sheahan by Dr. Bola Olabisi at one of GlobalWIIN (Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network) award shows. As Inventor in Residence at the British Library’s Business and IP Centre, Mark put me in touch with a trusted patent lawyer who helped me file for an international patent.

At what point did you realize IP could support your business?

I knew my product was unique from the get go, and knew that I needed to protect it. Although there are other types of cake carriers in the market, Chíbu is one of a kind.

What can IP Offices do to support businesses like yours?

As someone with an idea, IP Offices can help me – and business-owners like me – understand the other ways I can protect my invention. For example, how to protect future designs, or how I might use copyright to protect my drawings or instructions. They can also assist with increasing my product’s visibility. I believe the world needs Chíbu, and IP Offices can help make that a reality.

How are you using IP rights and how are they helping your business?

Chíbu® creator Patience Nwodu knew her product
was unique and that she needed to protect it with IP.
(Photo: Courtesy of Patience Nwodu)

As I mentioned, I have already applied for a patent for my invention. The name Chíbu is registered as a trademark and the design of the carrier is registered as a European Community design. IP will be important if I want to market my product through licensing or encourage investment in my business.

What are the main lessons you have learned?

The main lessons I have learned in this process are:

  • Believe in yourself and your idea or product;
  • Recognize what can be your IP, and find out how to protect it;
  • Keep pushing; and
  • Never give up.

Why it is important for SMEs to focus on IP?

Protecting IP can save SMEs a lot of heartache in the long-run.

What advice do you have for other SMEs when it comes to IP?

When in doubt, always seek advice from the professionals.

What are your plans for the future?

I welcome any other suggestions to help my brand grow. I would love Chíbu Carriers to be available in global retail stores, and I am open to licensing inquiries and collaborations in order to achieve that goal.