Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about where you are based, your background experience how you first started inventing?
Peter: Born and raised in Newport, went to London to study Optometry at Uni and stayed in London until last year when we moved to Bishops Cleeve Cheltenham. Worked in Optics throughout, though after 11 years in practice worked for a Global Healthcare company (Bausch & Lomb) for 11 years and finish the last 6 years there as European IT Director, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), rolling out new software across Europe. In the midst of this I got me idea for Greepers, showed in to some friends who encouraged me to protect the IP and proceeded to get the patent, but as I had a good job at the time did not do anything about it at the time. Eventually after one false start (I made an agreement with a firm that was supposed to commercialise the product but they took things in their own direction, did not listen to me and eventually I gave up on them), I took voluntary redundancy and started my own company to bring my idea to market. This is the first time I have done anything like this!
Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about Greepers, what they are, and how you came up with the idea?
Peter: I was driving up the M40 one day thinking about the fact that even though my kids (3) knew how to tie their shoelaces, they kept coming undone and they’d not re-tie them. So the though process was how to stop the laces coming undone once tied. I had my Eureka moment and pictured the simple system that is now Greepers. In the current form Greepers are pre-tied shoelaces that you replace your existing laces with. They enable the user to loosen and tighten the laces but the never come undone – due to the strategic positioning of a central toggle and some stoppers on each loop of the bow.
Tara: What were the first steps you took after having your idea?
Peter: Having pictured the idea, I went home, went in my shed with a couple of pairs of my kids shoes and got the first prototype working just using 5 beads – this was the key, it’s simple! I then talked to a few trusted friends to get their opinion and advice, which was that the idea seemed a good one and that I should protect the IP which I did.
Tara: Did you try and patent or protect your idea in any way and how did you go about it?
Peter: On the advice of my friends I used a local patent attorney to get me idea patented. It was much more expensive this way but felt it was a good enough idea to make this investment – actually sold a car to finance this!
Tara: Did you get presentation drawing sheets produced or make a prototype of the Greepers, how did you go about this?
Peter: I have always been very practical so I made the first prototype in my shed. As it is a simple system it was fairly straight forward to create a functioning model.
Tara: Did you always intend manufacturing Greepers yourself or did you look into licensing the idea?
Peter: Once the patent application was published I was approached by many companies offering to bring the product to market for me. I was pretty sceptical about this and most of them involved way more money than I had available and I did not want to go to investment partners at that time. In the end I did choose one that seemed to have a good track record, needed an investment that I could fund myself and that offered a decent return. However this did not work out – the guy running the company was an inventor himself and they thought they knew better than me, did not listen to my requirements and eventually we went our separate ways – me with none of the investment back and so was somewhat burnt by that experience.In the end, having become slightly disillusioned with my own job and being fairly proficient in a number of things and having some self confidence, I thought I’d give it a go myself.
Tara: How did young about finding a suitable manufacturer for the Greepers and did you self fund this?
Peter: I started networking a lot and phoning various companies – mainly shoe manufacturers to try and licence the idea. This led to some good info and in the end I went to China myself and arranged various meeting to find manufacturers (having desperately tried to find British factories that would be cost effective but they were not even close sadly).
Tara: What have you found have been the most successful ways of promoting Greepers?
Peter: I set up my own website so that I could sell the product straight away with minimal cost and best margin selling direct to the consumer. In addition I started calling on shops in sectors where I got most interest – for the moment this is sport and the disability sector. As sport has picked up and I have gained some good product endorsement I have now appointed a sales agency for this sector and I focus more on the disability sector and exporting.
Tara: What were the most difficult elements of bringing Greepers to market?
Peter: The biggest issue I have is how hard it is to get in front of big companies. A lot of them seemed to be full of people who think they are far more important than they really are. People also seem very risk averse which I believe is very shortsighted – they keep doing the same stuff until thier market dies and wonder why they die with it rather than looking for the new things!
Tara: How long has it taken from your initial idea to taking it to market?
Peter: Well I did not pursue commercialising the product immediately but from the time I started the company it was a good 2 years before I had a product I was happy with – there were some mistakes made for sure but that’s how your learn!
Tara: Is there anything you learned developing Greepers that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?
Peter: Yes plenty! I would look for financing much more close to home. I have been surprised how beneficial it can be (for both parties) to borrow from friends and family, particularly in the current climate. I can give them a better rate of return on borrowed money that they are getting from their saving but it’s also much cheaper for me to borrow from them – it’s win win! I have made mistakes but no regrets on this as this is how you learn the best and often it’s better to do something rather than nothing!
Tara: What advice would you give any aspiring inventor with an idea?
Peter: Talk to people who you can trust and whose opinion you value. You don’t have to do what they say but a lot of the input will help. Network like crazy – never be afraid to tell someone about your idea as you never know who may be able to help you.
Tara: Where can people find out more about you and the Greepers?
If you enjoyed this interview you can find more here.
Are you an inventor or invention expert with an interesting story or advice to share? Please get in touch via the contact form or email tara (at) ideasuploaded (dot) com