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Case Study

Michael Corrigan and David Kellock

Founders, trtl

Thu, 28 April 2016

Michael Corrigan and David Kellock are the Founders of trtl; a reinvented travel pillow which allows the wearer to sleep comfortably on the move. Michael and David are both graduates in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Strathclyde. They first met SIE at our Summer Bootcamp in 2010.

 

How trtl Got Started

Michael and David met in their first year of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde. As part of their five-year degree, they decided to take part in the Erasmus programme with Michael heading to Italy and David to Prague. During their year abroad, their thinking started to change and they realised that they would like to work for themselves. Once they returned, they heard a guest lecture from the founder of Kwik Fit, Sir Tom Farmer, and they were immediately inspired.

 

“Tom had freedom of thought about him and the courage to act on it. He had a lot of adventures and really inspired us. He was living life to the full.”Michael Corrigan

Following on from this, Michael and David decided that they wanted an adventure too. They committed to starting a business and creating a culture that people wanted to be part of.

What Happened Next

Once Michael and David graduated, they signed up to take part in SIE’s residential Bootcamp. During the week, they explored a recent idea for a new travel pillow design based on previous experience of budget flights. With help from the SIE Business Advisors, they carried out market research and created a business plan. At the end of the week, Michael and David won £250 in the pitching competition and started to think seriously about their idea.

 

 

“We realised how many people travelled each year and immediately knew we had something.”Michael Corrigan

 

Following their week at Bootcamp, SIE’s Chief Executive, Fiona Godsman invited Michael and David to attend the Princes Trust dinner as her guests. They made some great connections and went on to receive funding from the Princes Trust which led to meetings with Neil Farish and Ryder Meggitt who became important mentors. It was also the start of an outpouring of support. They went on to secure a place at an Entrepreneurial Spark hatchery and won the Scottish EDGE Award on two occasions, once in 2013 and again in 2014.

 

“We were constantly surrounded by support and people with similar mind-sets. That really helped us to see that our dream wasn’t impossible”Michael Corrigan

 

In 2013, after a few bumps in the road, Michael and David decided they needed to slow down. After lots of research, they transformed all of the business branding complete with new name; Trtl (pronounced Turtle). They then took the new brand to the Cannes Travel retail fair with just enough money to get by. A chance meeting secured them tickets to the fair’s gala dinner and access to all of the key decision makers. Very shortly after this, they were stocked in T5 of Heathrow Airport. The following year, Stuart Macdonald became a key mentor for the team and the trtl Pillow was featured in the Huffington Post.

 

 

“That was the ‘wow, this is it’ moment. We ended up selling 1,000 units in 12 hours once the article went live. It was a UK only site with big delivery costs for the USA but that didn’t stop people buying the product. We knew then that we had something.”Michael Corrigan

Next Steps

Michael and David are now stocked on Amazon, and in Brookstone (a large US airport retailer) as well as selling direct from their own website. They have a five-year plan to grow the business and have their eye on some big overseas markets.

 

“We do this for the experiences. There are things that happen when you start a business which would not happen any other way. Cherish it!”Michael Corrigan

 

Michael and David plan to work on different areas of the business; Michael on running the business and David on the product development side. They both agree that it’s particularly important to grow a great environment for their team.

 

“I love doing things that are out of my comfort zone, every day is different, every day you’re learning. The uncertainty of it all is the beautiful thing about it.”Michael Corrigan

 

Michael and David’s entrepreneurial story is a great example of what young entrepreneurs in Scotland can do. For those wanting to follow in their footsteps, they have one piece of advice:

 

“Find what you love. Think about how you might make a living from it. Then go do it.”Michael Corrigan

 

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