Nit comb business returns to its roots

A FAMILY which built up a thriving nit comb business in Suffolk is returning to its roots. Lesley and Brian Krause set up Comb-a-Way 12 years ago in Benhall, near Saxmundham, after coming up with their own patented design for a head lice comb.

A FAMILY which built up a thriving nit comb business in Suffolk is returning to its roots.

Lesley and Brian Krause set up Comb-a-Way 12 years ago in Benhall, near Saxmundham, after coming up with their own patented design for a head lice comb.

The business, which offers a helpline for those affected, went from strength to strength, selling both to large chains and small, independent pharmacy firms, as well as through schools.

Mrs Krause's inspiration for the design came from a pet comb she used on her animals. She looked at combs after she noticed her daughters, whose hair she combed regularly, did not suffer from infestations, while their friends did.

The couple decided to set up their own business and had their own comb designed, with a unique strong handle, after realising that the practical design worked better than conventional designs.

The company did well, and was even poised to launch the product overseas, but Mr Krause died suddenly in 1999 and Mrs Krause did not have the heart to continue.

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Although her elder daughter, Louise Berrill, who now works for an accounting company, persisted with the business for a few months after her father's death, the family eventually decided to take a back seat.

For the next few years, the business was kept ticking over by two minority shareholder partners, based in Kent.

Mrs Krause believes it is a testament to the comb's popularity that it continued to sell without the level of marketing work she and her husband put in, and the company made enough to cover its costs.

However, she is now helping her younger daughter, Alice, aged 21, to re-launch the business after a seven-year break.

“We have really got our work cut out for us,” admits Alice. “I remember when I was little the phone was ringing constantly. They were just small pharmacies and things and they had become regular customers that would order every month.”

The family has now sent out mailshots to re-kindle interest in the product. They have set up premises at the Westerfield Business Centre in Westerfield, Ipswich, and are currently perfecting a new range of colours and packaging. The comb itself was designed by Minima in Framlingham.

The Krauses believe strongly that the manufacture of the combs should remain in the UK, where it easier to maintain quality, and use the same Birmingham-based company as they always have done.

“The idea is that you hang it up in your bathroom and comb twice a day, like you would brush your teeth,” says Alice.

While Alice mans the office and develops a seminar which she plans to take out to schools, Mrs Krause has been visiting customers all over the country to generate new business.

“It was my intention because I hold most of the shares that it would belong to the girls. I want to get it to the position where they can decide whether they want it or not,” she says.

“I think it's an amazing product that it's lasted this long without having any PR done on it.”

For further information, visit www.combaway.co.uk.