20 QUESTIONS: Rob Law, Trunki

Best known for being summarily rejected by Dragons' Den, Rob Law's company now turns over £7m a year. He tells us why he originally wanted to call Trunki 'Magma', and why he doesn't trust the UK legal system.

by Emma Finamore
Last Updated: 24 Apr 2014

1. IF YOU HAD DONE SOMETHING ELSE, WHAT WOULD IT HAVE BEEN?

I really like using my hands to create things,  I used to make my own furniture. If I hadn't started Trunki then I think I would be a furniture designer-maker.

2. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU NAME YOUR BUSINESS?

When I first registered the business I wanted to call it Magma, a melting pot of ideas creating physical products, but Magma was already taken by a limited company. After we brought a melding factory out of administration back in 2012 I wasted no time in renaming it Magma Moulding.

3. IF YOU COULD BE BASED IN ANOTHER CITY, WHERE WOULD IT BE?

I love the outdoors, being able to get on my bike and stuff, so from a personal point of view it would be somewhere in Colarado, maybe Denver – great weather, being outside a lot – but from a business point of view, it would probably be London.

4. WHEN YOU STARTED, HOW DID YOU RAISE MONEY?

Initially it was through the Prince's Trust. I qualified for one of their start-up loans of £4,000, and they gave me a £500 grant, which helped me secure a global licensing deal. When we started trading in 2006 I had to take out a £10,000 personal loan to be able to give up my day job.

5. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT DECISION SO FAR?

Realising that in order to take the business to the next level I have to invest in the people around me. That came to me about six years ago when I read Jim Collins' Good to Great, a fantastic book about building a team with a shared vision.

6. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MISTAKE?

Believing in the UK legal system. We've been tied up in a big intellectual property battle (with Paul Beverley, MD of Hong Kong-based PMS International Ltd and his rival product, the Kiddee Case) and we won our case at the High Court, only to be overruled by the Court of Appeal. It seriously undermines what we're so good at in the UK - creating new things and new products. We will be appealing that decision at the Supreme Court.

7. WHAT IDEA DO YOU WISH YOU HAD COME UP WITH?

The iPhone - a remarkable invention. Not just a great product that everybody wanted to use, but it turned a whole industry on its head. A revolutionary product. I love it.

8. HOW DO YOU HANDLE STRESS?

I'm a triathlete, so cycling, running and swimming all helps me de-stress. I never run with an iPod, I find that running without any distractions is a great way to mull over what's going on in my mind.

9. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?

When I was about 13 I laboured on a reclamation yard, stacking palettes and bricks. The highlight of that job – aside from the small pay packet – was driving a forklift truck.

10. WHAT WAS YOUR WORST JOB?

When I was about 22, backpacking round Australia, I had to make ends meet, so I took a job as a door-to-door salesman - trekking around the suburbs of Sydney trying to sell burglar alarms. It was soul destroying trying to sell a product no-one wanted.

11. WHAT WAS YOUR BEST JOB?

Aside from what I do now, thinking back it was probably when I was interning in New York as a design student. The job was great, working on consumer products, but it was more that it gave me the opportunity to explore the Big Apple. It was fantastic. 

12. IF YOU WERE ON THE APPRENTICE, WHAT WOULD YOUR TEAM NAME BE?

Team Magma

13. WHICH COMPANY WOULD YOU INVEST IN RIGHT NOW?

We are actually already investing in UK industry - there's a real growth opportunity there. I think that personalisation of products and more bespoke products, rather than traditional mass-manufacturing; picking and choosing colours, putting someone's name on the product, could be something unique that the UK could offer.

14. APART FROM PROPERTY, WHAT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING YOU’VE BOUGHT?

Probably my Audi S4, but I do have a bit of a fetish for carbon fibre bikes - they leave a bit of a hole in your wallet.

15. SUITS OR JEANS?

Jeans every time: jeans, t-shirt and jacket. I haven't worn a suit since about 2011.

16. FLEXIBLE WORKING OR OFFICE HOURS?

Flexibility, within reason. In the summer we all work an extra half hour Monday to Thursday, so we can finish early on Fridays and have a long weekend.

17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT YOUR OFFICE?

We call our office The Mothership, an old chapel that we completely redesigned. My favourite part of it is a giant orange slide called The Escape Chute. Every time the bank manager comes round we insist he uses it.

18. WHAT APP CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?

An app called Strava - it tracks my training times against other users, so it's like a social media motivation for training.

19. WHO IS YOUR BUSINESS IDOL?

I think it's got to be Steve Jobs. His ability to make complex products really intuitive and simple to use, pioneering the future.

20. IF YOU WERE PRIME MINISTER FOR THE DAY, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

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 Law is working with O2 Business to encourage budding entrepreneurs to start their own business. For more information, visit thebusiness.o2.co.uk.

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