My first ‘real’ job, fresh out of uni in the early ’90’s, was working for…
In January of last year, Alix O’Hara was watching a two-year-old trying to eat an apple at the Deakin shops.
As Alix explains it, the toddler was using the apple both as food and as a fun ball to roll along on the ground. He might have just been playing, but that toddler had unknowingly inspired Alix to create something that could change the way children eat, forever.
“He kept dropping, bouncing and rolling it as if it were a ball,” she explains. “And it occurred to me that to a child, food and plaything were one and the same concept, so how could we make this universal tendency of children to play with their food and explore the world through their mouth both less messy and more hygienic?”
Months of research and development later and Mashblox was born.
“Mashblox is an infant feeding aid combining children’s tendencies to play with their food and to explore the world through their mouths into a simple, practical solution for them to feed themselves things that are otherwise spoon fed to them, or are difficult to eat with cutlery,” explains Alix.
Alix describes the concept as giving children back control over their own food consumption while also making messy foods a bit easier to serve up.
“They’re basically hollow silicone building blocks that you can fill with any mush or sloppy foods, like spaghetti bolognese, vegetable mash, scrambled eggs, stewed fruit etc.”
In creating Mashblox, Alix made sure they were Australian made and crafted from BPA-free silicone as well as being “dishwasher, fridge, freezer, microwave and oven safe to 180°C”. To clean them, you simply turn them inside out.
For Alix, Mashblox gave her the opportunity to both create a unique product and gain independence by being her own boss.
“I just kind of realised I had the seeds of everything I need to do something for myself,” she says.
Despite Mashblox having only recently launched, Alix is already being recognised for her achievements, having taken out Canberra Women in Business’ Young Businesswomen of the Year Award for 2017.
“Receiving this award is an incredible recognition of my journey with Mashblox and the people who have helped me on the way,” she says.
And the praise hasn’t stopped there. Alix says responses from dieticians, occupation therapists and even speech pathologists have been positive saying they all “recognise the potential benefits, and I’m getting wonderful feedback from parents on Facebook.”
Alix has even paired with the University of Canberra to research how giving these children back some control can change their eating habits.
“The hypothesis is that adding a playful and tactile element to food may promote engagement with foods that children otherwise reject on sight,” says Alix. “But at least equally as important is the independence that Mashblox provides a child over their own food.”
Alix hopes the Mashblox journey is just in its beginning stages, with her true passion in the project is in its potential to make a meaningful difference.
“I think that Mashblox has a unique opportunity to meaningfully shape dietary habits when they’re being developed, which sets kids up for life while saving parents stress. It’s one thing to make a product that sells, it’s quite another to make a difference.”