He’s one of the UK’s most well-known inventors and he wowed the crowds with the story of the Trunki at this year’s Let’s Do Business expo in Brighton.
Following Levi Roots’ incredible story at last year’s exhibitions, fellow Dragon’s Den star Rob Law MBE shared his rise to the top with exhibitors and visitors alike. As CEO of successful children’s toy case company, Trunki, Rob shared the highs and lows of running a business.
After greeting exhibitors at their stands, Rob’s keynote talk began with a timeline of key dates in his career.
It started in 1997, following an inspiring university project, Rob had an idea. He wanted to create luggage that encouraged children to use their imaginations and helped them to enjoy family adventures.
Having worked previously in New York, Taiwan and Australia, Rob ended up undertaking consultancy work in London to keep an income, despite not being able to gain a steady job in product design. During his spare time, Rob continued to develop his own business offering as a side project.
In 2002, Rob gained the support of a Prince’s Trust start-up loan and in 2003 he spent the £4,000 loan on legal fees to arrange for a toy company to bring Trunki cases to the masses across the globe. It wasn’t to be though, and in 2005 the company went in to liquidation, leaving Rob wondering what to do next. Following stints working for large global companies, Rob became disillusioned with the products he was designing and decided to launch his original pink and blue Trunkis on 5th May 2006, meaning the cases have just celebrated their eleventh birthday.
The business began to take off, but in the early days, Rob noted how he’d had to sell the Trunkis through local retailers and his own website as bigger high street names were originally unsure whether the product should be classified as luggage or a toy. Rob joked about how he’d hand deliver them borrowing his brother’s car to the first few lucky customers.
The path to business success wasn’t always smooth however, as Rob’s customers discovered a flaw in the design where the catches on the Trunkis hadn’t been sized correctly by the manufacturers meaning some broke off. Rob had to think on his feet and quickly conceded the Trunki’s were poorly. He sent humorous instructions for repairs to parents which were very well received by Trunki’s growing and loyal fan base.
Rob also told how the hand luggage ban in 2006 impacted on his business and coincided with a launch of new Trunki products. Just as the luggage ban was lifted, Rob’s appearance on BBC’s Dragon’s Den was due to be aired. Business had been doing well since filming for the episode a year before had ended and Rob prepared himself for the airing of the show.
The show was a disaster, with Dragon Theo Paphitis breaking a handle on the Trunki. Following this unsuccessful stint on the show, Rob decided to take matters in to his own hands and set about sending Trunki customers surveys to find out what they thought of the brand and its offering. Rob was thrilled to receive a vast amount of public support in response to the survey, and he noted this proved a real turning point for the business.
Trunki has now sold over 3 million units and is stocked in a whopping 1500 retailers including high street giants John Lewis, Selfridges, Fenwick, Boots, Halfords, the ELC, JoJo Maman Bébé and Mothercare. The case is available in 90 countries and the company is now valued at 12 million, with a brand spend of over 200 million. The industry still has its challenges Rob notes, as Trunki has fallen foul of copycats attempting to use a replica design of the cases. Rob spent £500,000 battling a copycat design at the High Court – but unfortunately lost the case.
Rob concluded his talk by discussing his staff members, noting he strives to have an engaged team and thinks it an important lesson for business owners to learn how to manage people and lead them. He explained he thinks employees should have a reason as to why a business operates the way it does and should buy in to a shared ethos. Rob believes his products allow for learning and exploring, and he encourages all Trunki employees to keep this at the forefront of their minds. Some of the current expanded Trunki range includes the boostapak car booster seat, the Jurni for 8-12 year olds, and the paddlepack.
When detailing what sums up the Trunki ethos, Rob said all employees are encouraged to be four things; dynamic, innovative, responsible and fun. He noted that he continually invests in his employees, giving up to a thousand pounds per employee to contribute towards their professional development.
After inspiring the audience with his story, Rob then allowed time for a Q & A, where visitors picked his brains on everything from global trading to product design. After an informative afternoon, it was time for Rob to leave and head back to the affectionately named Trunki HQ, the Mothership. From all at Let’s Do Business, we’d like to thank Rob for sharing his story and bringing Trunki to Sussex!
If you would like to find out more about Let’s Do Business’ upcoming exhibitions click here.
Posted on: 06-06-2017