Jordan Daykin is the latest entrepreneur to feature in our success stories. Jordan is the inventor and owner of GripIt, a plasterboard fixing capable of holding 250kg, as well as the CEO of VPS Group. He invented GripIt with his Grandad at just 13 years of age. He discusses his time on Dragons Den, inventing his product and his plans for the future.
How did the invention of GripIt come about?
As with all of my most successful businesses’, GripIt was inspired by a challenge I came across in my everyday life. My grandfather and I were attempting to attach a curtain rail to my plasterboard bedroom wall when I was 13 and discovered that it was impossible with existing fixings because they didn’t have the space to open up properly in the gap between the plasterboard and the wall. Not deterred we went down to the garden shed and created a new fixing from the scrap metal and plastic we had to hand. Unlike what we had been attempting to use, it sprouted arms sideways when inserted into the wall, gripping it tightly and enabling it to hold the weight necessary to support the curtain rail.
What made you think that you could make a business out of it?
Two weeks after the curtain rail incident we had to attach a TV to the wall. From our previous experience, we knew that we would struggle to do it with shop bought fixings, so I began researching how other people had overcome the issue. Rather than a solution, I found scores of people saying it was impossible. After creating another GripIt that had the necessary strength to securely attach the TV to the wall, I realised that my Grandad and I had invented a product that made something people had reported as impossible, possible. We not only had a viable product that solved an issue, but a target audience ready and waiting for it. It was at that point that I realised the business potential of GripIt.
Was it ever your intention to start a business from your invention?
When we first invented the GripIt I never imagined we were doing anything more than solving a pesky DIY problem. However, I have always had entrepreneurial ambitions, having started and sold my first business for £10,000 when I was just 11, and upon realising that we had invented something completely unique that solved a widely experienced problem, I knew that I wanted to pursue it as a business.
What was it like working with your Grandad and how does it affect your business?
My Grandad had been retired for 15 years when we invented the GripIt. From our first conversation about the commercial potential of the product he made it clear that he felt too old to re-enter the business world, and that this would be something I would have to drive and manage. However, he was instrumental in helping me develop the product and business plan in the early days – I was only 13 after all. Spending hours every day for months planning how the business would work in practice was an absolutely great experience.
Can you describe your experience on Dragons Den?
Exhilarating and surreal. I had never pitched GripIt to anyone outside of a sales setting and suddenly I was standing in the famous warehouse studio, that I had watched on TV for years, with three minutes to explain why these incredibly successful business people should hand over £80,000 for a stake in my company. Things only got more intense after my pitch, with a constant stream of quick-fire questions, demonstrations, and Dragons declaring they were out, until Deborah made me an offer. I left speechless, the hour and a half I had spent in front of them had felt like little more than 20 minutes, but suddenly I had the financial backing and expertise I needed to take GripIt the distance.
You are seen as one of the youngest and most successful entrepreneurs on the show. What do you think is the reason for your incredible success?
It’s down to the product and the people. GripIt’s are the strongest plasterboard fixings on the market, capable of holding up to 225kg and supporting anything from shelves to boilers. They have no equal peer, making us stand out. Meanwhile, we only employ people who can think outside of the box and adapt to the ever-changing challenges at the company.
Do you think GripIt would have seen the success it has without Dragons Den?
I am confident that GripIt would have achieved the success it has without Dragons Den, because it’s a unique solution to a commonly experienced problem. However, it would have taken longer as Deborah Meaden’s investment and contacts opened doors far more quickly than I could have done alone.
What skills and attributes do you think are absolutely necessary to run a business?
I firmly believe that the single most important thing business leaders need is self-belief, built on knowledge. Throughout your business journey you will constantly face setbacks and resistance, particularly if you’re introducing new concepts to a well-established market. Having faith in yourself and your concept, based on a carefully constructed business plan, will be crucial in helping you push through the doubt.
What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of running your own business?
As with most entrepreneurs, my businesses are not only work but my passion. This comes with the major advantage that I truly love what I’m doing but does mean it’s hard to switch off. I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to improve my companies, what will be next for them, what challenges need to be overcome, and this can be a source of stress. However, my family are the perfect antidote, as they give me the motivation I need to get away from the office.
What are your plans for the future?
I have recently become the CEO of VPS Group – an automotive contractor and manufacturing business. Over the coming year I will be focusing on applying the business lessons I learnt from GripIt to VPS, to raise funds and broaden our already impressive customer base that includes Isuzu Motors, Toyota and GBA Group. At the same time I will be continuing to diversify the GripIt range, expanding the company further into Australia and America, and will be investing time in the young entrepreneurial initiatives I am involved with to help inspire the next generation of young business people.
What advice would you give to any young prospective entrepreneurs?
Your greatest tool is knowledge. It will help you identify when you’re onto a good idea and anticipate obstacles your business may face. Understand your company’s growth potential, weaknesses and strengths, and where it sits within the wider market. Making a conscious effort to continuously learn through research and reflection will facilitate this.
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