THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

19 September 2016

How one woman turned her passion for swimming into a successful business

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A keen swimmer and all-round active person Lisa Irlam noticed a gap in the market and took the plunge into the wearable fitness technology world. Her business, Swimovate, launched in 2007 and since then the business has gone from strength to strength, selling the innovative PoolMate - a waterproof watch the counts your laps while you swim.  We asked Lisa some of our burning questions about how she got started and became the success story she is today.

Hi Lisa! Where did the idea come from to start your own business?

As amateur triathletes, my husband Jim and I realised that there were plenty of products to monitor performance for runners and athletes, but nothing for swimmers. We talked to retailers, magazines, triathletes and swimmers who all said they would buy a product if it existed. There was a gap in the market and the PoolMate idea was born.

How did the Business & IP Centre help you along the way?

Initially we did some technical research, reading scientific papers at the British Library and discovered the Business & IP Centre and what an amazing range of support and services it offered. We attended free workshops on intellectual property and researching your market and spent a lot of time searching the databases that the Centre provides access to. It really helped us to understand our field and what we needed to do to make our business a success. Through the Business & IP Centre we met some inspiring and very helpful people who gave us invaluable advice and support, completely free of charge.

What have been your greatest achievements since starting up?

The best feeling was selling out of our first batch before it had even been delivered and knowing we were at the start of something massive. After selling over 100,000 units, it still gives us a buzz to see our watches on people’s wrists on the street.

What one piece of crucial advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting a business?

Be very careful with your finances, it’s easy to get carried away with costs. Make sure you only risk what you are prepared to lose. Try to do as much as possible yourself, this will teach you so much and don’t forget to make use of all the great free resources out there, like the Business & IP Centre.

 

We’ve been helping people like Lisa turn great ideas into businesses for over 10 years now. To celebrate we’re holding a day of free workshops, talks and events on everything you need to know to start a business, from raising cash to getting your business online. You’ll meet like-minded people, chat to seasoned business experts and entrepreneurs and even get your first professional headshot. And our new ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’, Julie Deane (founder and CEO of The Cambridge Satchel Company), will be showing you how to start a business from your kitchen table. Join us at the British Library on the 27 September and get inspired to take your first step to entrepreneurship.