How Lorna is watching the backs of staff working with children
Business editor Robin Johnson talks to Lorna Taylor, founder of Jolly Back – a Derbyshire firm which develops products which help improve the posture of teachers and pupils in the classroom.
DURING our primary school days many of us will remember the teacher asking us to sit up straight.
However, it is more than likely that the teacher was not sitting up straight themselves because they were made to use the same chairs as us kids.
Having the right type of chair is important to maintaining good posture, whether it is in the classroom or the office.
And it was the problems being faced by younger years schoolteachers that inspired physiotherapist Lorna Taylor to find a solution.
She said: “It was while I was delivering a back health programme in schools that I became aware of the sheer number of teachers and support staff working in primary and early years who had back, neck, hip and knee problems.
“This was at the same time that my middle daughter started at preschool. Her keyworker had just returned from six weeks off with back pain.
“She cares for her disabled son and frequently has to turn him every night. When I saw her sat hunched over on a tiny old kid’s school chair with a pained expression, I knew I had to do something.
“I set about looking for a low, mobile teacher’s chair with a seat wedge to improve natural upright posture when sitting low down and wheels to reduce the twisting and shearing forces on the spine.
“After an extensive search I discovered there was no such product. So, I decided to come up with my own.”
In 2009, mother-of-three Lorna, who lives at Smalley, decided to set up her own firm called Jolly Back to develop a special chair for preschool teachers that could be used in the classroom.
Armed with a budget of just £3,000, she set about finding a solution.
She said: “I started with one of the pre-school chairs and thought I’d just add wheels to it. However, I soon discovered the tubing was too narrow.
“After a Google search I found sev- eral engineering and metalwork companies in Derby and one of them – MCE Engineering – offered to help. We came up with a prototype and got as much feedback as I could from schools and end-users.”
The feedback was positive and Lorna secured funding for the project through Medilink East Midlands and registered the design with the Patents Office thanks to Derby’s Swindell and Pearson.
It wasn’t long until the Jolly Back chair started winning awards. For example, in 2012, it won best new product at the International Education Show, in Birmingham.
Lorna said: “The education and business awards, along with a brilliantly written press release, without doubt helped me secure the first sales.
“The awards were free to enter, so it was fabulous external recognition and promotion.
“It also really helped boost my confidence. When you work by yourself there isn’t an appraisal or work colleagues to bounce an idea off.
“Winning an award is also motivating, too, as the hours are very long at the start. It spurred me on.”
Since then, Jolly Back has grown steadily and organically. But Lorna admits it has been challenging balancing raising three children while developing a business.
She said: “I have been keen to grow the business for several years