You may remember me from Dragons’ Den, the one with the Trtl Travel Pillow?
No? We do.
No? We do.
It was an incredible time, which David (my co-founder) and I took a lot from. You can get the inside track here.
And now – six months after the programme aired – I’m sitting in LA, taking part in the Oscars extravaganza.
A LOT has changed since we pitted our wits against some of the sharpest entrepreneurial brains in the UK. In fact, as befits a company dedicated to making long haul flights a more pleasant experience, things have really started to take off.
Business Takes Off
We broke into the US market: gaining a strong foothold on Amazon.com (we’re consistently in the top three bestselling travel pillows) launched with theGrommet.com (a large e-tailer); and signed a deal with Brookstone (a company known for innovation throughout the US).
We’ve consolidated what we have at home too, again with amazon.co.uk, in addition to the Trtl Pillow now being available to buy at Argos.
The growth over the last year has been incredible with sales increasing to over 40,000 in 2015, up 1200 per cent on the previous year.
We’ve been featured by the Huffington Post, the Telegraph, the Independent and Wanderlust. We even have two prominent US TV shows looking to support our product.
And last month the Trtl Pillow was mixing with the stars at a Golden Globes gift lounge.
A Lot Of Trtl Pillows!
But best of all it’s what’s set to happen in 2016 that excites me. We are forecasting 200,000 sales. That’s a lot of travel pillows.
All pretty incredible stuff for two lads from the south side of Glasgow.
Back in LA
So here I am in LA, right bang in the thick of it as excitement builds towards Sunday’s 88th Academy Awards.
The buzz is palpable. Everyone is expectant; they expect something to happen. It’s busy but when I catch my breath, the surreality of the situation has somehow helped me reflect on all that’s happened over the last year.
And think of what learnings there could be for someone considering starting a scalable business. Whether they live in Scotland, LA or anywhere.
A Scottish Turtle's 5 Top Tips
#1: Doubts, I’ve Had a Few
There is little doubt in the moment.
We all have doubts in life. It’s how we deal with these, or rather, our perspective of these, that can really make a difference.
I’m a huge fan of Headspace, and what I’ve learned is that most of the time, doubt is imagined, it’s all in our heads.
Any time you have doubts, try and catch yourself (you'll get better at this with practice, I know I have).
And remember that, there is little (if any) doubt in the moment.
“The moment is the only thing that is truly real in the world. It’s the closest thing to fact you’ll find.”
#2: Be Vulnerable
We live in a world where vulnerability is not viewed in a positive light…to be vulnerable is to be weak and fragile.
It takes a great deal of courage to be vulnerable with the world around us.
Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, tackles the idea of vulnerability and its place in the life of those who seek fulfilment.
It’s a key part of being fulfilled because when we open up, we connect with others. And I mean truly connect.
It’s about being open to the world around you and presenting who you truly are; no facades and no superficiality.
“When people get to see who you really are, it builds trust, understanding, a sense of belonging.”
Some people find it easy; some hard. I fall into the latter category: a work in progress.
#3: Shoot For the Moon and Work Back
You only live once. So goals should be big and inspirational.
“We’re going to help travellers around the world get an extra 3.6 million of hours of sleep this year.”
Beyond this, well that’s top secret for the moment (I’ll gladly discuss it over a coffee with you, message me to get in touch).
Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) talks about “The genius of the And” – how great companies are focused on the detail while keeping the big picture in sight.
I flip between the two; pushing to meet the targets and milestones of the present while looking towards where we want to be in 20 years’ time.
“Think big, start small, and become bigger.”
#4: There is No Greater Force than a Group of People who Trust each other Implicitly and are Working Together Towards a Common Purpose.
At Trtl, I’m very lucky to work with people who believe in what we believe, who are hardworking, supportive, creative, fun, and self-aware. And open to any feedback anyone may have.
It’s a beautiful thing to watch people grow and step up to take responsibility.
Last week, I flew to Dublin on business and came back to the office at the end of the week to find a banner that Justyna had designed to be used for the photo opportunities we’ll have with the celebrities in the gift lounge.
We had agreed on the general design but she added a little stardust to complete it.
“There was a stroke of genius there and I had nothing to do with it. This makes me happy.”
#5: Action is King
What do I mean by this? Well, there is always time for thought; a little dreaming and planning can go a long way.
Action, especially out of our comfort zone, is fundamental to our growth as human beings.
Now, I know I’m not saying anything new here.
Going outside of your comfort zone and doing things that scare you isn’t an original concept and, if anything, it’s a song (albeit a true and simple one) that’s been overplayed.
The thing that people seem to miss though is that through action, there is experience. Just like David and I learnt in the Den.
And through experience, there is something real to hang your hat on when new situations arise.
Doubts will come and this is completely natural but these are absolutely manifestations of the mind.
“You’ve just got be willing to stick your neck out now and again, just like the turtle does.”
We’ve grown from sticking our necks out. We’ve improved as people. We’ve improved as a team. And the goal to become synonymous with travel comfort and innovation the world over, is still very much alive.
Be brave; what’s the worst that can happen.