Lisa Irlam is a brilliant example of an entrepreneur who has turned her passion into a thriving business. A keen runner and athlete, Irlam was struggling to find products to help her train for the Triathlon - there were heart rate monitors for running and gadgets to measure progess when cycling but nothing for swimming.
"I used to forget how many laps I had swum," she explains. "And I spoke to other swimmers and they had the same problem. When I tried to find a product that could help me monitor my laps there was nothing. I had stumbled on a gap in the market."
Irlam's background is in electronics. She and her husband set about developing the first Pool-Mate prototype, a watch that could measure laps automatically. Using free resources at the British Library, the pair managed to patent their invention. Extensive market research proved the concept as several retailers expressed their interest in stocking the Pool-Mate. In 2009, Swimovate was born.
The business was a resounding success from the off. Once Irlam had ordered her first 1,000 units of the Pool-Mate from her manufacturer in east Asia, she put out a press release through a free PR website. Within hours, the gadget press had leapt on the story and the Pool-Mate was being written up in six languages all around the world. Within 18 months, Irlam has sold 30,000 units.
Swimovate is set to hit a staggering £1.5m turnover this year. There are four different colours available, the second generation of the Pool-Mate has launched, featuring a download function that allows you to record your training on your computer - and there's a new model with a built-in heart rate monitor in the works too. Earlier this year, Lisa Irlam won the Nectar Business Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year Award for her oustanding business acumen and drive.
In this video, Irlam talks about some of the challenges she faced bringing the Pool-Mate to market, and how she turned Swimovate into a global brand within weeks of launch. She also reveals an exciting new strategic partnership that is set to take her business to the next level: a branded Pool-Mate watch with Speedo. Check it out.
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