We’re really enjoying your book. What was the trigger to prompt you to write it?
I do a lot of business speaking, giving keynotes and workshops with management teams. After every event, people come up to me and say I should write a book about my business challenges.
But that’s only a part of my life, so I thought by sharing my personal story I could help more people to find the tools to overcome challenges and be more resilient. By luck it just so happened to launch at a very poignant time.
Who did you write this book for?
Anyone, as we all face challenges in our life. The business lessons are transferable into everyday life. We all have the mental strength to fight our demons and overcome challenges in life and in business.
Who do you think is your typical reader, if such a person exists?
Someone who is, or aspiring to, run their own business or lead an organisation. Or anyone going through a personal or family trauma.
Who would you love to read your book?
Richard Branson, as I would love to put a quote from him on the front cover!
How do you decide which new Trunki characters/styles will be included?
It’s a mix of trends, what’s popular with kids, which colours are missing from our portfolio of products. We’ve launched over 50 designs over the 14 years and all these models line the inside cover of the book.
Your products are designed to be very durable as well as recyclable – are you looking at using materials other than plastic in the future?
People are confused over sustainability, and rightly so as it’s a very complex problem to solve. The urgent need to reduce plastic consumption is about single use plastics from packaging and used in some personal care categories. These are the things turning up in our oceans.
Trunki is design to last over 5 years. It’s not going to find its way into the sea (at least not without a child holding onto it!) and once’s a child’s outgrown it they make ideal childhood memory boxes. The first goal to be more sustainable is to re-use, as it takes a lot of energy and resources to make a product.
There is a huge market for second hand Trunkis as they have been made to last so long. They even come with a 5 year guarantee. Once it can’t be reused any more, it's designed for recyclability.
If we made Trunki out of a biodegradable plastic (which are often quite brittle) it simply would not last as long and could not be recycled.
About a quarter of the way through the book you say that you didn’t dwell for long on the Dragons’ Den rejection, and when Toyline was wound up you were in shock 'for about 5 minutes'. How do you manage to cope so well? It would have been the end of many businesses.
What seems like an insurmountable problem can be overcome. The storm will pass, but it will be exhausting and you need all your mental energy to overcome it. So use that energy wisely, stay focused on the things you can control and ignore the rest.
You need an open mind to see the opportunities you have and to make the most of them. That may take you away from your initial direction, so be open to change.
There are no right or wrong ways, just ways that work and ways that don't. Remember, success is just a hiatus in a series of defeats.
Some of us remember your original appearance on Dragons’ Den and Theo's over-reaction. However, it was a surprise to find out that you completely sold out of stock the night the episode aired. How many Trunkis was that? And how quickly did it take to restock?
I have a whole chapter on this in the book, but essentially I went into the Den two weeks after my first stock arrived, asking for £100k for 10% of my business. The pitch went well and I towed Richard Farleigh around the studio.
Everything was going to plan until Theo got hold of Trixie, the pink Trunki, and used his brute force to pull off the tow strap. In that moment we all lost our judgement. I failed to convince the Dragons it was an easy problem to solve (the hook just needed moulding in a stronger plastic) and the Dragons turned into a pack and attacked.
Among their many negative comments were: “Your business is currently worthless”, “I don't see the business opportunity”, “I don't like the product, I don't like the business… I'm out”. I left the Den wishing I'd invented a time machine, not a ride-on suitcase!
Four months later when the programme aired, BBC advertised the episode as “Wheelie Rubbish” and I knew this could be game over for my business. However, I also realised that I would get a decent amount of web traffic, even though I might not sell a single Trunki.
So I thought I'd try and use the opportunity to gain customer feedback on the product. That night over 2,000 people filled in the survey with amazing endorsements and delight in discovering my brand. Despite my humiliation in the Den, I'd proved that there was a market for this unique product.
Parents and children loved it and that night I sold out my entire stock and couldn’t keep up with demand for the next 3 years.
You’ve clearly used that as a successful learning experience. If you were doing it again, what would be different this time?
Looking back now I wouldn’t change a thing from Dragons' Den.
You talk about the importance of finding your 'element'. Do you think everyone has their own 'element'?
Yes, absolutely, I think anyone can find something they love to do where you can completely lose track of time. I guess some of your readers might find this with books.
The real prize is to turn that passion into employment, and getting paid to follow your passion. That will require a lot of sacrifice, laser-focused determination and endless years of practice.
Your work, family and sporting achievements must take up almost all your time. How do you like to unwind?
Going on adventures with the kids. I love taking them on bike rides off the road, quite often they will be singing while pedalling, totally happy, and that fills me with pure joy.
What was your favourite book or audiobook as a child?
I loved the Famous Five and being enthralled by their adventures. I’m reading the books to my kids now, and we go digging for buried treasure on the beaches while on holiday.
Do you enjoy any particular podcasts?
How I Built This by NPR is a great business one, following the stories behind the world's biggest brands and companies. We all have stories to share of challenges and the long slog to success.
Thank you very much for speaking to us. We wish you every success with the book.