How losing my son on a trip to the zoo led to The Hug Group
A couple of years ago, shortly after leaving my previous company in the City of London to work on my golf handicap*, there was an Inset day at the school where my son Harry was in the nursery. After my last attempt at “daddy day-care” when I accidentally dropped him in the sea, I was under orders from my wife to be more careful this time. I decided we should go to the zoo. Everyone loves the zoo and what can go wrong?
We had a great time: pulling faces at the monkeys; feeding the goats; making noises like lions; walking like penguins and so on. To top it all, there was a huge playground and a coffee stand. “Perfect” I thought, he can burn off some energy while I grab a coffee and relax for a while.
Harry didn’t need telling twice, off he went to explore and I ordered a latte and caught up on some emails. 5 minutes later I looked up to check everything is OK – he’s nowhere to be seen. Not a problem, it’s a big playground and he’s probably just round the corner, this happens all of the time. After a couple of minutes of increasingly frantic searching I’m now in full panic mode. It’s hard to imagine the thoughts that go through your mind when your child is missing until it happens – has he been kidnapped? Is he face down in a pond? Has he managed to get to the main road and been run over?
It was the worst few minutes of my life. I was looking for a member of staff to raise the alert and about to phone the police when I saw his bright yellow trainers at the top of one of the climbing frames. He was having the time of his life, completely oblivious to the terror I was feeling. The relief was indescribable. He was “lost” for less than 5 minutes but it felt like hours.
A couple of days later and I’m having beers with an old friend from my city days and we got talking about families. I was telling him about the incident at the zoo and that I was thinking of giving Harry my old iPhone so that next time I lose him (let’s face it, there will be a next time) I can use “Find my friends” to track him down. “Genius” said my friend, quickly followed by “I bet you a beer that he’ll have broken/lost/destroyed it within 5 minutes though”. Hmm, he’s got a point. Expensive technology and 4 year olds don’t mix!
He then told me about an experience his wife had when helping out on a school trip to an aquarium with their youngest son. She had been allocated just 5 children (including hers) to look after but found it almost impossible “it’s dark, it’s noisy, children all look the same and they won’t stand still when you try to count them”. She survived the trip, got home, opened a bottle of wine and said “I’m never, ever doing that again”. We agreed that in 2017 there surely must be something available to help people keep track of where their children are.
Talking with Harry’s teacher at the school gates one day later that week, and after letting slip about the zoo incident she mentioned that school trips are a nightmare for teachers because of the fear of losing a child. She quickly added that she’s never lost someone herself, but knows a lot of teachers that have and the stress often leads to teachers reducing the number of trips they make and keeping the children closer to them than they would do otherwise. A product that helped teachers keep track of the children would be “a godsend” she said, but in her 20+ years of teaching she’s never seen anything like that appear.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention so jump forward to 2018 and I’ve started The Hug Group Ltd and launched our first product – ClassHug. This is the only child tracker available for the education market, now used by schools and nurseries on 3 continents to keep children safe.
Since starting The Hug Group I haven’t lost Harry again (despite my best efforts) and his teacher was so impressed with the product she now works for us, all of this because of a trip to the zoo!