A SALISBURY business that started out in a spare room before expanding with offices now in France and the US has featured on BBC’s The Apprentice.
Candidates had to create a new electric toothbrush aimed at children between six and eight, along with an app to go with it that would encourage teeth brushing.
They came up with the design concepts and were helped by the company to deliver the finished prototypes.
Alastair Swanwick, the founder of Innovate Design, said it was a “great privilege” to be featured on the show and that the company was “delighted” to be involved.
The challenge itself was a “stressful 24-hours” from taking the brief from the contestants to starting work to produce two prototypes and making sure they worked.
“Overall it was deeply stressful but it was exhilarating and a massive adrenaline rush for all of us,” added Alastair who says “planning was key” to the challenge running smoothly.
“It was something else, you never imagine you’ll ever find yourself in that type of situation. Failure is so very possible and yet it is simply not an answer. That can’t happen no matter what.”
Putting into context the very tight timescale for this challenge, the process typically takes around six months.
On what it means for the business to appear on the show, he said: “It gives us an endorsement but also recognises the skills from the team we have got at Innovate.
“I’m very lucky, we have some of the most talented colleagues in the country. They are like no other.
“We are lucky and grateful to have them all under one roof in Salisbury.”
In addition to the product design, app development, logo and packaging design, the Innovate Design team also developed the smart technology inside the toothbrush.
The team created a bespoke brush that not only monitors brushing time, but also the exact orientation the toothbrush is held at, whether the user is brushing too fast or slow and how much force is being applied to the brush head.
Bluetooth connectivity was added to enable sensor reading in real time.
Appearing on the TV show and meeting Lord Sugar also had a special significance for Alastair.
“Twenty years ago, when I set up the company, Lord Sugar wrote an article recommending us in his newspaper column. That article gave us the credibility we needed to launch a successful business and with our involvement in the latest series of The Apprentice, it feels like we have come full circle,” explains Alastair.
“It is brilliant all those years later to meet him and thank him for that brilliant article that helped us so much in gaining respectability,” added Alastair.
“You see him on television and he’s quite a scary individual but when you meet him in person he’s very polite, very charming and he has a strong, dry wit about him.”
Alastair and his wife Barbara Bouffard “fell in love” with Salisbury when they visited the area and ended up moving and setting up the business in the city.
Filming was done in Salisbury and the couple were delighted to have their home city on national TV.
The company’s humble beginnings started in a spare bedroom in Devizes Road before renting a back room office at 21st Century Antics on Brown Street and then later moving to Pennyfarthing Street, which it ended up outgrowing and as a result are now on Endless Street.
Offices have also been opened in London, France, Florida and Bristol. In Salisbury, it has a team of 25 people.
Innovate Design help people with new product ideas and guide them through the process from patent searches right through to making prototypes.
Alastair says they never know what ideas are going to come through their doors.
“That process is a strange one because you just don’t know sometimes what is going to work and what isn’t and if we, as experts we’ve been doing this for 20 years in this business but with the combined amount of years all of my colleagues together have got, you can’t just look at an idea and say ‘that will work and that won’t’,” he explained.
In the future, Innovate Design hope to develop its prototyping facilities and interact more with companies looking for new product ideas to build up a national and international network.
The latest series of The Apprentice features an entrepreneur from Swindon – Kathryn Burn. She set up an online pyjama store called My Christmas Pyjamas in 2018.
The episode of series 16 is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.
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