From a product design engineering degree to designing a product for engineers (and other manual trade workers), Victoria Hamilton shares with BQ what starting her own business was like...
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Recoil Knee Pads are the next generation in knee protection for manual trades workers.
We design, manufacture and sell our own brand of knee protection which utilises patent pending spring technology to reduce pressure and improve user comfort.
What did you do before you started this business?
Before this business, I was a student at Strathclyde University studying Product Design Engineering. However, during university and during the course of this business (when we bootstrapped), I have also been a project engineer with Centrica Energy and a team leader/duty manager for Homebase.
What inspired you to start up?
My dad and my uncle are both self-employed, so I always liked the idea of having my own business.
When the opportunity came along to take Recoil to the next level (it started as my final year design project at uni) I decided just to go for it.
I had very little to lose by just giving it a go, and if you don’t try, then you’ll never know.
How would you describe your business to a novice?
We design, manufacture and sell a knee pad for the construction and trades industry.
We are a team of two, so both have to be a jack of all trades to basically do whatever needs doing.
We each have specialist areas of expertise, but our roles cross over a lot just now and we basically do whatever needs doing.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
I have a few good mentors that I go to for advice through various enterprise schemes such as The Strathclyde Uni Enterprise Hub, The Scottish Institute for Enterprise, Scottish EDGE and Entrepreneurial Spark.
However, my best supporter is my mum, she keeps me going and can always be relied upon.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
I was fortunate that I won a business start-up competition early on.
Since then, I’ve bootstrapped and worked part-time to support the business, accessed grant support, taken out loan funding and entered a lot of competitions.
I’ve done it in stages, accessing funding for specific purposes as I’ve needed it.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
My biggest achievement has been having the product listed by Homebase. That was very cool, also because I used to work for them!
How do you differentiate your business from others?
We focus a lot of our time on customer service and making sure those that purchase the product are happy. We’ll go out our way to make sure every customer is a happy customer.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
It’s an emotional rollercoaster. It has exhilarating highs and devastating lows.
But above everything, its good fun, I love it, and can’t imagine myself doing anything else.
I love carving my own future and carving a future vehicle that will employ others and create a positive impact on the local community.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
Ideally with 10 other staff and a whole range of products within the personal protective equipment marketplace.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Believe in what you do, be passionate about it, and make sure you do it for more than just money.
The roller coaster can get tough at times, and only genuine passion and drive will get you through it. Don’t give up and believe in yourself and your product.
If it was easy, everyone would do it, so just remember its ok if it gets tough, there’s a high coming on the other side.
Why did you enter the BQ Emerging Entrepreneur Awards?
I was nominated by a connection I’ve made over the years. They encouraged me to enter as hopefully the Recoil story can encourage, motivate and inspire more young entrepreneurs.
What would it mean to you to win an award?
Winning the award would be fantastic and a real honour.
We’re at a really interesting stage of branching into international markets and finalising an investment deal, so it would really help add to our credibility.
I also volunteer a lot with young enterprise schemes and STEM promotion, so I’m sure the kids I work with would love to hear about the award if I am fortunate enough to receive it.