Swimovate – New product case study

Following redundancy, amateur triathlete Lisa Irlam set up Swimovate and a couple of years later launched Pool-Mate, a lap and stroke counter for swimmers.

The company has a turnover of £1 million.

How did you get the idea for Pool-Mate?

I was looking for a product to help with my swimming and realised there were lots out there for runners and cyclists but there was nothing for swimmers. It was a huge market that was completely untapped.

What is the appeal for swimmers?

A lot of people use Pool-Mate for counting their laps because everyone forgets how many laps they’ve swum. Those who are more competitive can check their progress – see if they’re getting better and keep track of their times.

Were there any initial challenges?

I had been production coordinator for an electronics company so I had a bit of experience getting electronic products manufactured but it was a completely different field from watches. I went through different watch manufacturers on the internet and eventually found a couple. We were going to go with one manufacturer to produce 1,000 units and then at the last minute they said they would have to do a minimum of 5,000, which we didn’t have the money for. Then I had to find another manufacturer and that took a few months. We found a fantastic one in the end.

How did you finance it?

We did it on a really small budget of £10,000. By keeping the costs low, within a month of selling we were in profit. I did go on Dragons’ Den but they couldn’t see the commercial potential of the product so they didn’t invest and I didn’t make enough of a fool of myself to be shown on TV. We were glad we didn’t get the investment to be honest. It’s just nice to have done it all ourselves.

What growth opportunities can you see?

We sold 20,000 watches in the last year, which is way ahead of my forecasts. We feel we’ve only just scratched the surface. We want to get into the US and other markets around the world and we’re planning to expand our range.

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