Chancellor, it is my pleasure to introduce Rob Law MBE, an inventor and very successful entrepreneur.
Rob Law studied Product Design at Northumbria University where he first came up with the concept for his ride-on suitcase in 1997. When asked to design luggage as part of his course his "eureka!" moment came when he couldn't find much inspiration in the luggage section of his local department store so he wandered into the children's section and spotted ride-on toys. The rest is history. The children’s Trunki suitcase was born.
While the road to success was not a quick or easy one Rob’s Bristol-based company now turns over £7m a year with a Trunki suitcase being sold every minute. In just seven years of trading, the company’s reach expanded to 97 countries across the world with the majority of manufacturing now happening in the UK.
Rob is a wonderful example of perseverance. When he first set about pitching his idea it was rebuffed by toy companies insisting his product was luggage and luggage companies maintaining it was a toy. After putting his plans on hold and going travelling, on returning to the UK in 2002, he turned his attention to securing funds for Trunki’s licence.
Rob’s first real success was in being awarded a grant from The Prince’s Trust and in finding a licensee for his product. However, this early success was to be short-lived as the licensee went bankrupt and Rob took out a £10,000 loan to start producing Trunki himself. He suffered several major setbacks including faulty production, the bankruptcy of a crucial supplier and terror alerts resulting in a ban on aeroplane hand luggage.
In 2006, Rob’s luck looked set to change when he appeared on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den but despite a promising start, a strap broke on one of the cases, causing all the investors to walk away. In response to this disaster, Rob added a survey to his company website, inviting customers to leave suggestions and feedback. Despite his on-screen calamity, positive comments and orders flooded in. Rob secured an interview with the John Lewis Luggage Department and Trunki’s fortunes took an upward turn.
The company has now won over 80 awards from the nursery, toy, design and business sectors. Rob was awarded the MBE in 2010 and Trunki was named the best small-to-medium enterprise at the 2012 National Business Awards.
When interviewed for Management Today, Rob was asked what he would change if he were Prime Minister for the day. He replied: “I’d put problem-solving skills at the heart of education: teaching our kids to think differently, come up with new ideas and embrace change. That would not only help them with their future careers in the global economy, but also allowing them to create a better future for all.”
Rob’s determination and success are inspiring, but all the more remarkable given the fact that he has cystic fibrosis. He has only relatively recently spoken publicly about living with the condition that killed his twin sister when they were 15. He explained: “I learnt very early how precious life is and I was determined to make the most of my time… I promised myself I would not let cystic fibrosis beat me.”
A keen triathlete and runner, Rob has not needed significant treatment for years and says “I count myself as very lucky. I hope that by speaking out, as many people as know about Trunki will come to know about cystic fibrosis so we can work towards extended life expectancy and ultimately a cure.”
Rob is patron of the Sixty-Five Roses Club, designed for donors who support the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The name comes from a small child’s attempt to pronounce cystic fibrosis.
Chancellor, I present to you Rob Law who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa.
Professor Veronica Hope Hailey