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Developing an idea into a Product - an interview with an Inventor
by Startacus Admin
Ever had that Eureka moment when you are lying on the beach and you have that ‘great idea’? It might be the ‘next blockbuster film’ or a ‘career change’ you really decide you want to make. Or...it might just be an invention you reckon could be the next big thing...
In this case Jonathan Meare had an idea for a solution to that pain in the back moment when your beach towel refuses to lie still. And so, the concept behind The Beach Towel Clip was born. It’s a simple idea - instead of finding four stones/bags/bottles to hold your towel down - you use 4 clips and when they’re snapped apart, they’re simply pushed into the sand to hold down the four corners of your towel - Bingo!
Bearing in mind the summer months are upon us, we thought it rather timely to speak to Jonathan about his idea, the development of his product and its success to date...
Let’s start with your eureka moment - how did you come up with your beach towel idea in the first place? Having spent many holidays trying to keep my towel flat and not flying away every time we went for a dip in the sea I thought 'enough is enough' let’s put pen to paper & try and work out a solution. My first idea was to put metal eyelets in the corners and to push metal tent pegs through but these rusted. Later that summer whilst on the same beach a gentleman walked up & commented how he had seen us holding the towel down with pegs earlier that year & copied us. (I thought could I be on to something!)
What led you to take that leap from paid employment to self employment? In 2008 when the recession started I had a position as Senior Buyer for one of the UK's largest House Builders, I had worked 20+ years as a Buyer and would probably have still been doing that job had I not thought that the next few years were likely to be very flat with business just ticking over.
How did you develop your idea from 'idea in the head' to prototype and then full retail product? Having established that the world’s towel manufacturers were not going to put eyelets in every beach towel I realised there had to be a plan B. I picked a product development company in Manchester and sat down explaining my ideas. We went through several ideas and finally come up with the product we have today. Sketches became 3d printed prototypes & these were tested on soggy windy beaches in North Wales. I then selected an injection moulding company in Cambridge and the product hit the shops in June 2010
What support were you given to start your business and how did you finance the development of your product? The product development company in Manchester told me at the start that the North West Development Agency were running a scheme called 'Innovation Vouchers' which we successfully applied for and were able to use for R&D, designs & prototyping. Business Link helped me out with an Innovations expert who helped me look at routes to market. UKTI then signed me up to their Passport to Export programme and have assisted me in launching the product worldwide.
How easy was it to protect your idea? The process of registering designs is very easy and doesn't take too long on either the IPO or OHIM websites.
What’s next for the business? Now we have stockists in 25 countries and are trying hard to establish distributors/retailers around the world. We still work with UKTI and get fantastic help from the FCO's in each new region. Because the product is 100% UK-made they have been very supportive with our export project.
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