How did GripIt come about? What is its USP?
GripIt was born in my grandfather’s garden shed when I was 13 years old. We were trying to attach a curtain rail to a plasterboard wall in my bedroom and found it was impossible using existing fittings because they didn’t have enough space to open properly in the gap between the plasterboard and the wall.
With nothing else working, we decided to make something ourselves, and in a matter of hours we’d created a new fixing with scraps of metal and plastic we had to hand; we gave it arms that popped out sideways to grip the wall when inserted, enabling it to sustain heavy weights. When we later wanted to hang a TV we used our new invention and realised that if we were facing this problem, surely other people were too.
At that moment, I knew we could make a company out of it – it’s a simple product, but one that provides a unique and effective solution to a very common problem. It’s the strongest fixing on the market – it’s even capable of holding up a boiler!
What was it like leaving school and becoming an entrepreneur so young?
Ultimately, leaving school greatly contributed to my ability to be entrepreneurial. Being home schooled gave me the freedom and flexibility to learn the way I do best – by gaining practical experience – and even inspired one of my first businesses, Tutor Magnet, as I’d found it so difficult to find a tutor.
I was also fortunate to have my father and grandfather, who are both very entrepreneurial, as inspiration. From a young age, they coached me on coming up with new ideas, explained business models to me, and encouraged me to think about how other entrepreneurs have succeeded.
Starting my own businesses so young has meant that at 23 years old I have significantly more practical business experience – 12 years to be precise – than many could hope for. Of course I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve had lots of time to learn from them already.
How has the business grown over the years?
The business has grown far more than I could ever have imagined back when I was 13. It began with a handful of friends and family sitting around the kitchen table assembling GripIts by hand and is now an international business that employs 54 staff, has products stocked in over 5,000 stores, a presence in 34 countries, and is valued at £20 million.
“The business has grown far more than I imagined back when I was 13”
Although I believe GripIt would always have taken off, going on Dragons’ Den definitely fast-tracked the process; by securing an £80,000 investment from Deborah Meaden I was able to grow the company and secure additional investments in order to expand the business to what it is today.
How was your experience with crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding was a really exciting time for the company. I loved the idea of offering keen GripIt backers – we called them Gripiteers – the opportunity to invest in the company, and thought it was a great chance for us to spread the word about the business, so spent a long time preparing the best pitch possible and learning from other successful campaigns.
It was intimidating knowing that we had to raise all our funds before the campaign deadline or wouldn’t see any of the money. However, just five days in, we had hit our maximum of £2 million. It was such a resounding success that we decided to do it again and made another £2 million.
What is your current turnover?
GripIt’s current turnover is £3 million and growing.
What goals do you have for the business?
In the upcoming year, we will continue to diversify the GripIt range and expand the company further into Australia and the US.
We recently created the TwistIt, a lightweight and cheaper fitting that can’t be overtightened, and we’re hoping to push this into national chains soon. My ultimate goal is to make GripIt a household name around the world.
What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs?
Being a young entrepreneur isn’t always easy, so it’s important not to quit if things get hard; every stumbling block is a learning experience that will help you anticipate future challenges.
It’s also important to be confident but realistic about your growth potential, what makes you weak as well as strong, and what makes your company unique. Sometimes we want everything to happen right away, but I’ve learned that good things take time. In the end, it will all be worth it.