After reporting on its original introduction in 2010, PE revisits a novel health and safety product that has proved to be ‘dust what the doctor ordered’ for thousands of sparkies around the world.
It’s often said that the simplest ideas are the best. Proving this point emphatically is a brilliant invention that continues to make waves since its launch at the start of the decade.
When PE first visited electrician Dean Barnes and his wife Joanna, who run the fittingly named Simple Ideas UK, even the most ambitious soothsayer would’ve been hard-pushed to foresee that the company’s ‘first born’ product, DADE (Drill Dust Collector Eliminator) – a clever accessory that’s designed to collect dust and swarf when drilling into ceilings and metal trunking – would go on to sell well in excess of 100,000 units, becoming a national and global success in the process. Such has been the tool’s resilience in a market that can swallow new entrants up in the blink of an eye, it’s even faced the heat of TV’s Dragon’s Den and lived to tell the tale.
The brainchild of Dean, DADE was inspired by a common issue that electricians face on a daily basis – exposure to dust. “I’m a bit of an electrical nerd and really love new things that can save time,” he says. “The idea for the DADE came from the fact that I suffer allergic reactions when I’m cutting holes in ceilings – especially those made from horsehair plaster. There were one or two existing dust collecting tools on the market, but they often proved to be cumbersome and difficult to use, and still didn’t completely solve the issue. Although I’d tinkered with one or two ideas for a product of my own, the real ‘lightbulb moment’ came when I was holding a baby’s bottle.
“The teat was made of a very durable, yet flexible silicon material and I felt that this would be perfect for a dust collecting product. After searching around for a while, I managed to source a supplier and, after a few initial refinements, we then went into full-scale production and haven’t looked back since.”
Despite the couple clearly having a great invention on their hands, the initial market reaction was somewhat lukewarm, something that could have forced lesser souls to reconsider. Jo, recalls: “Dean had spoken to some of the local wholesalers that he trades with and they were almost mocking in their reaction to the idea – “you’ll never sell any of those” was a common reaction that he’d get, and as we were very new to this we naturally started to have a few doubts about whether we were doing the right thing.
“That said, we believed in the product and took a chance on investing the money to get it designed and brought to market. We launched in the summer of 2010 and the article that was featured in PE soon after really helped to generate some traction and buzz for the product. It wasn’t long before we had some serious interest from one of the nationals and things took off from there really. Nowadays you’ll be hard pushed to find a wholesaler that doesn’t stock the product.”
It is here that Jo’s influence on the business has proved valuable. With a strong career background in sales, Jo acts almost as a ‘front-of-house’ representative for the company, her drive and business nouse dovetailing perfectly with Dean’s ideas and enthusiasm. She also understands the importance of putting in the miles and refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer when you’re trying to get a new venture off of the ground.
“First impressions do count and we felt that our enthusiasm and understanding of the product went a long way to helping us secure new stockists. It also gave us the chance to leave them with some free samples, which you can’t do if you’re at the end of a phone. Getting out on the road with the product really helped to catapult things even further for us, and our attendance at trade shows like ELEX was also brilliant as this allowed us to demonstrate the product to an audience.”
After attracting a sizeable crowd to the stand at one particular show, another door soon opened for the DADE. A major tool supplier who operates worldwide was exhibiting opposite the DADE demonstration area and, impressed by the buzz around the tool, approached Dean and Jo about a potential supply agreement. The relationship has flourished ever since, helping the product to penetrate foreign shores
Despite a hectic and successful first year, the biggest opportunity to spread the DADE gospel was still to come when the couple applied for, and were accepted, on to BBC’s Dragon’s Den. “We approached them because we felt that we’d really cracked the UK market but wanted to make that next step and expand overseas. We didn’t have the expertise to do that so were hoping that one of the Dragons could take the product worldwide for us,” recalls Jo.
“Pitching to the Dragons was a brilliant experience,” says Dean. “Jo lead the pitch and my job was to demo the unit, so it was a real team effort. We’d gone in hoping that we could tempt Duncan Bannatyne into investing in us but all the Dragons were very honest and said that they believed we should continue our own path, rather than giving a sizeable part of the business over to an investor. Although we were both disappointed at the time, in hindsight it was the best thing that happened to us. After people had seen us on TV, things exploded literally overnight and the interest in the product was huge.”
Indeed, with a tool that sells by the bucket-load here in the UK and is now enjoyed by electricians in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and some parts of Europe, the Barnes’ can safely say that their dream of creating a global product has been realised. But as any successful entrepreneur can testify, ambition is the driving factor behind any business, and Simple Ideas UK has its sights set on bigger goals.
Dean concludes: “We’re very keen to grow our overseas presence even further now and would dearly love for a company to come along and help us to take that next step. That said, we’re so proud of what we’ve managed to achieve to this point as we’d never have dreamed that we’d still be here when PE first came to interview us all those years ago.”
For more information about the DADE dust collector from Simple Ideas UK visit: www.simpleideasuk.org