Turtleback invention swims to success


A revolutionary invention for the next generation of swimmers has landed a £20,000 investment at a Birmingham-based business awards.

Michael Harkins’ idea of a shell-shaped swimming aid that sits on a child’s back – allowing them to swim freely without the need for armbands and handheld floats – won the majority of votes from a 400-strong business audience at the Baldwins KickStart Young Entrepreneur Awards at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham.

The awards see three finalists pitch their business ideas to a live audience in return for a £20,000 investment made up of a £10,000 cash injection and £10,000 worth of mentoring and business support from business advisory firm Baldwins.

Harkins’ product – called Turtle Pack – triumphed over more than 30 other entrepreneurs who entered the awards earlier this year.

The 25-year-old from Livingston finished ahead of two other finalists on the night, which included an app to help tackle gambling addiction, and a unisex cosmetic product to support transgender women.

“This money is going to go a long way and allow me to scale up the manufacturing of the product so I can fulfil large scale orders,” said Harkins, who is developing the business from home along with two other full-time staff.

“We’ve sold around 130 products so far from our trial KickStarter campaign where we successfully met our target, and this extra funding from Baldwins gives us some breathing space to now focus our time on getting the website ready and finalising the manufacturing process.

“We now have the infrastructure in place so that if we see huge spikes in demand on our own website or land a big contract with a large retailer, then we are ready for it.

“In the short term the aim is to achieve as many orders as possible through the new website from parents, while in the medium term I’ll be looking to develop relationships with other e-commerce websites, leisure centres and even holiday companies.

“My long-term vision is inspire children to want to swim more regularly, so I am also looking into developing animated versions of the product that they will be using in the water – the ultimate aim would be to develop a TV series.”

David Baldwin, Board Director at Baldwins, will be helping Michael to develop his business over the coming months.

He added: “Michael has developed a product that every parent would want their child to use when learning to swim – it gives the user more freedom to swim, and removes the fear of sinking under water.

“It is a unique product that has no other competition so, with the right marketing approach, the potential for his business to make a splash across the world.

“Start-ups are often have to navigate choppy waters at the start of their lives as there are so many aspects that the business owner has to comply with before trading, so I’m looking forward to mentoring Michael over the next year.

“We are now in our sixth year for the Baldwins KickStart Young Entrepreneur Awards and the standard of our finalists remains incredibly high, and we also managed to raise £21,000 for the charity Help Harry Help Others which is an amazing achievement.”