An idea is just an idea until you make it happen – High Growth Scotland with Kim McAllister

Michael Harkins with Richard Branson
Michael Harkins with Richard Branson

Ideas are the easy bit.

We all have ideas for the next big thing – my husband and his friend are convinced their golf-bag-buggy-with-baby-seat invention will set the heather on fire.

It’s taking that idea to market and actually selling it that’s the tricky part.

Michael Harkins is a great example of a person who had an idea and ran with it.

The swimming instructor invented the Turtle Pack – a swimming aid for children – back in 2015. This week Sir Richard Branson posted pictures of his grandchildren wearing them.

“Before I started my entrepreneurial venture I would constantly hold myself back at school, swimming and university because I set barriers in front of myself. Now, if I can believe it, I certainly can achieve it,” he told me.

The 25 year old from Livingstone first entered his prototype into the Sports Innovation Challenge – when he won he thought he might be on to something.

The swimming aid teaches children to swim in the correct body position with their arms free. It’s multi-functional and progressive – the turtle shell floats get smaller as the child gains more confidence.

The Turtle Pack in action
The Turtle Pack in action

“Since the birth of the idea I have received lots of help and support from various organisations including Business Gateway West Lothian through various one-to-one mentoring, workshops, IP and manufacturing support,” he said. He is now on the Scottish Enterprise Growth Pipeline programme and recently won a six figure sum from Scottish Edge.

“The lowest point of my journey was when I came off the high of winning £110,000 in the Scottish Edge competition,” he admitted. “It was such an emotional experience but afterwards, I just felt quite low. Starting a business requires great discipline, sacrifices and hard work. It is a lonely journey most of the time and it can affect people mentally.”

Michael has big plans for the company – he wants to be the number 1 learn-to-swim brand globally by 2025 and would like to develop more products.

“If I had to give entrepreneurs one piece of advice it would be: give yourself time,” he said. “Focus on your strengths and find those around you to improve your weaknesses. Every day is a school day, be open to learning something new constantly.”

Other video interviews by Kim McAllister

Video interview with Russell Dalgleish of Scottish Business Network – High Growth Scotland with Kim McAllister

High Growth articles from Kim McAllister

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