Michael and David of Trtl with the Trtl Pillow

Michael and David of Trtl with the Trtl Pillow

Around the World in 80 Trades: Trtl

Exporting was a natural step for Trtl with their travel product - we found out how they made it happen from day one in their business.

What does your company do?

Trtl (pronounced turtle) is a travel retail brand based in Glasgow that specialises in creating and exporting innovative travel products. Trtl’s first product on the market is the Trtl Pillow, created by Michael Corrigan and David Kellock as a solution to a problem that most travellers experience, not being able to sleep on a flight.

The Trtl Pillow is the travel pillow reinvented and is a comfortable way to help you sleep on the go. It can be used when travelling by car, plane or train to help you sleep in a better ergonomic position than standard u-shaped travel pillows.

When was your company launched, who by and why?

The company was launched in 2013 by Michael Corrigan and David Kellock. The inspiration to start Trtl was after a motivational and passionate speech from Sir Tom Farmer of Kwik Fit speaking of the adventures he had when creating his company, to Michael and David’s Mechanical Engineering class at the University of Strathclyde.

How long has the company been exporting?

The company has been exporting since day one of trading. Exporting has been a key factor in the growth of the company.

What do you currently export, and where to?

The Trtl Pillow was created to be a global product and help you travel around the world comfortably, so exporting the product worldwide is so important to building the global brand and reaching consumers near and far. We have exported the product to over 65 countries so far, with the principle export markets being the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. We plan to keep on reaching and exporting to more markets as the business grows.

What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?

When we started the company, we immediately started with the vision of creating a global brand with a global product and therefore exporting was a necessity. The challenge of taking on competition which are based in California and Shanghai is something that truly excites us.

What is the easiest part of exporting?

The easiest part of exporting is taking the opportunity to do so, there are many avenues available to begin your exporting journey and the easiest step is to jump in.

Our message would be to seize the global opportunity and do so one step at a time through real market feedback; research and then test the assumption in multiple ways before committing more resource.

And the most challenging part?

The logistics and supply chain is a huge piece of the puzzle. We manufacture in two locations and ship to Europe, Asia, Australia, North and South America. The key to being able to cope with this is to hire great people and really work to build great relationships with your partners.

Planning, reflecting on lessons learned as well as stock management are all key and it is working with great people that enables us to overcome challenges. Be aware of the simple things like legalities, taxes, export fees, insurance and currency issues but do not let them stop you.

Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did
you overcome them?

There are many challenges that arise from doing business internationally, but the key is to try gain an understanding of what might happen and keep things as simple as possible. Time differences can be difficult when customers in that region have certain customer service expectations.

As we look to 2017 and increasing our exporting in China and Japan, we are entering markets with very different cultures and languages. Again our focus is always on people and fortunately, we have members of the team who are Chinese and Japanese nationals, which is definitely an asset.

Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?

We received help from many advisors including Huishan Chapman from Scottish Enterprise, this helped us learn new things about key export markets, and as we have grown as a team we have also had support internally from team members who are aware and knowledgeable of key export countries. This has been a major factor in allowing us to export to new markets quickly.

What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?

Our advice would be to seize the global opportunity and do so one step at a time through real market feedback; research and then test the assumption in multiple ways before committing more resource.

Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?

Our focus is to develop our current export relationships within the Far East, specifically China and Japan further and begin to create new partnerships in order to successfully create a brand presence and impactful export journey within these areas. The Middle East and India will follow.

Trtl have been shortlisted in the E-Commerce, Most Entrepreneurial and Micro Exporter of the Year categories at the HSBC Scottish Export Awards 2017 in association with Scottish Enterprise. Join us on 22 March to celebrate international trade across Scotland.