Young entrepreneur has international sights for stair invention
A 22 year-old Sheffield-based entrepreneur has set her sights on international expansion and a multi-million pound turnover with a business product she developed in her teens whilst studying her GCSEs.
Ruth Amos, who originally wanted to be a barrister, but went on to win Young Engineer for Britain whilst still at school, designed the Stairsteady handrail after being challenged by her teacher to create a product which allows stroke victims to use stairs independently.
Four years on since going into full production, Stairsteady Limited now sells to a range of customers including local authorities, and is on target to distribute 1,000 over the next year. During the next three years, through a combination of UK growth and international expansion, Ruth aims to increase this figure considerably and take annual sales past £3million.
Stairsteady is looking to expand overseas through a series of licensing and distribution agreements and has appointed leading law firm, Irwin Mitchell, to support and advise her.
Kerry Smith, a solicitor from Irwin Mitchell said: “Stairsteady has a fantastic product with huge potential and we are really excited about working with Ruth to help ensure the company’s international plans really take off.
“Irwin Mitchell is currently advising Stairsteady on its plan to license its intellectual property rights to a number of overseas-based manufacturers and distributors. This can be a popular route for small businesses with aspirations to expand into new countries, but it can also be difficult for entrepreneurs as they often fear they’ll lose the hands-on management that they have previously had.
“Control is absolutely vital in ensuring that the quality of the product, the marketing literature, the packaging and customer service are spot on. Choosing to license its intellectual property rights can be a big step for any business and although the process can be financially rewarding, it can also be damaging if the contractual agreements are not robust.”
Ruth Amos said: “Stairsteady is looking to expand across Europe as well as America. We are also excited about the prospects in Canada. Here, for example, elderly residents can apply for tax credits and grants for a range of modifications aimed at improving mobility around the home. This means that potential Stairsteady customers could receive the product and have it installed for free.”
Describing the importance of growing her business overseas, Ruth said: “The UK market provides significant opportunities for Stairsteady, but I’m keen to ensure Stairsteady taps into other markets and takes full advantage of its intellectual property rights. I want to grow my business in the right way though and this means choosing manufacturers and distributors who share my vision.
“This has not always been straight-forward though and in my experience it is essential that you get to know the organisation that you are working with and understand how they run their own business. There is a temptation to deal with everything at arm’s length because it is quicker, but I think this is very risky. If you are serious about building a business and exploring new markets, surely it’s worth investing the time to do it properly.
“Maybe it’s because of my age, but I have an uncomplicated view of business. I have worked hard to build up the company and I think it is important to invest time with overseas’ partners to ensure the reputation of the business isn’t put in jeopardy. Stairsteady prides itself on helping people and being an ethical organisation. If, for example, I appoint a distributor with poor customer service, then this will clearly have an impact on the brand.
“The same applies to choosing professional advisers. Irwin Mitchell is a leading firm with a strong track record for supporting fast-growth businesses. I trust their judgment and their guidance has been first-class and extremely valuable.”
Ruth added: “I’m extremely excited about the future for Stairsteady. The market is relatively new and it has been such an exciting journey so far. I feel very protective about Stairsteady’s brand and intellectual property rights, and I can’t wait to take it to new countries in order to build the company and of course help as many people as possible.”
Ruth is a regular speaker at business events and in addition to beating thousands of people to being named as Young Engineer for Britain in 2006, she is also the youngest person to appear inManagement Today’s ‘35 under 35’ feature.
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