The Disruptors: This simple bike tool is a saviour for cycling fans
- Credit: Rehook
We make unique and innovative cycling tools. Our first product, Rehook, is the original tool to get your chain back on your bike.
Its unique patented design keeps oil and dirt away from your hands and clothes, and it can get into small gaps that fingers can't reach.
It makes a multitude of chain-related tasks like dropped chains, jams, maintenance and tyre changing much simpler to solve.
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What was the opportunity you identified that led to the launch of your business?
I had the idea for Rehook after dropping a chain on the way to the office—I had a meeting first thing and I got fairly grimy putting the chain back in place.
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It was a simple problem, so I was amazed that there wasn't a tool for it.
How did you use invention and innovation to disrupt the market?
I discovered a new 3D printing method capable of printing production-ready parts, so I jumped at the chance to start manufacturing something without having to shell out thousands on tooling.
A company that was 3D printing custom engine exhausts for F1 cars agreed to put a load of our Rehook 3D models inside the exhausts to use up some of the wasted material. They were able to cover the cost of their waste and we got low cost production quality tools in return.
We were able to fine-tune the design and test the market within weeks. We built and started selling the tool with only £1k of start-up costs, which is insane really.
My background is in building tech businesses; which I enjoy, but tech needs constant improvement, maintenance and support.
I'd wanted a physical product so I could focus more on marketing, sales and finance. When we started, I didn't realise my experience in software companies would be so useful. A lot of manufacturing seems to be behind the times—I speak to some manufacturers and they even print out their emails before reading them!
Knowledge of how successful tech businesses run has been a huge advantage in thinking about things differently and to a much higher standard.
What were the challenges you faced along the way and how did you learn from them?
It was really difficult to make the jump from a side project to working on the business full-time—when you have financial commitments it's always going to be a risk to drop a regular, safe income.
We made the jump after appearing on Dragon's Den this year, but in reality, we could have done it much sooner if we'd spoken to local investors.
The increase in a business's pace after an injection of cash is huge—we could have been a year ahead of where we are if we'd made the move sooner.
What has been the moment you are most proud of so far in your business' development?
Launching at a cycle show in 2016. We only just broke even on the exhibitor fees and cost of accommodation and travel, but it was such a great moment to launch the first product and receive such great feedback. My wife, son, mum and stepdad all came along to Birmingham for it, too.
If you were starting from the beginning again, what would you do differently?
Starting over we would definitely go straight to UK manufacturers. When we shifted from 3D printing to mass production, we assumed that the best place to manufacture was overseas.
We had a number of bad batches of straps which broke easily and lead to some negative feedback, so this year we moved all of our production to the UK and the quality is so much better.
What would be your advice to someone launching a disruptive start-up?
Start small and test as you go. It takes time to get things right, so starting with something small is a great way to figure out what does and doesn't work—and gives you time to really understand your industry before you start to add complexity to your business.
You'll inevitably get some things wrong, so test as you go and minimise the impact of any potential mistakes.
What are your plans for the future?
We have new products in the pipeline including something we're really excited about launching in the spring.
We're currently onboarding distributors in 10 countries and are ramping up B2B sales in the UK, so we aim to have our next product on lots of shelves on the day it launches.
The Disruptors is a video series highlighting the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge businesses shaking up their respective industries. Read more and follow the series here.Want to tell us about how your business is disrupting its sector? Contact David Fieldhouse on 01603 772456.