In 2004 Tom Dudderidge was on a plane back to London, having just closed “the biggest deal of my career”.
But something wasn’t right. “It wasn’t that I didn’t like sales. I loved it. It was just that completing contracts after a sale was such a long, drawn-out process. It was soul- destroying.” Dudderidge, now 31, had carved out a career selling mobile text-messaging software to large telecoms firms. By the time the plane landed, he decided he would start his own business. With a young family and a mortgage to pay, the newly unemployed Dudderidge needed to make his idea work. “I had just bought an iPod and thought it would change the music industry completely.”
The iPod music player was nothing new, but the most recent version was the first that could be used with all PCs, not just Apple’s Macs. So Dudderidge and his business partner, brother Jamie, began to focus on gadgets and accessories. They scoured trade shows for a product and eventually hit on a Taiwanese manufacturer who was making an iPod dock that allowed people to listen to the device in their cars. The pair had managed to “scrape together” £23,000 from friends, family and credit cards and bought their first shipment. “We had exclusivity with the producer and there was only one other firm in the UK with a similar product.” Naming their firm Disruptive, the brothers persuaded online iPod accessory vendors to sell the car dock. They also sourced other accessories, such as cables and cases.
It took just six months for their breakthrough deal to arrive. One of their distributors told the brothers that a major retailer was interested.
“He wouldn’t say who it was because he wanted us to conduct business through him. We refused and waited for the retailer to contact us directly.” This tough line worked – within days Boots came up with an offer. “It was coming up to Christmas and they wanted a lot of our products and fast.” By the end of 2005 Disruptive had sold more than £1m worth of accessories. “The iPod was taking off and we were going up with it,” recalls Dudderidge. All the same, they decided to change tack. “We had benefited from getting in early, but now lots of other companies were entering the market and driving down prices.” They rebranded the company GEAR4 and started developing their own products. “We came up with the idea for a micro speaker that people could connect to their iPod to share music with friends.” This time they found a Chinese manufacturer to make the ‘Pocket Party’. That sold well and helped them sign deals with retailers such as Dixons and Amazon. Dudderidge also began an overseas push. By the end of 2006 sales hit £4.8m, enabling the firm to reinvest heavily in product design.
By 2008. the firm’s beefed-up technical department was able to design and engineer products inhouse. These included wireless speakers for iPods and iPad tablets plus a range of ‘appcessories’ – accessories that interact with software applications. This bigger range helped sales to soar to £25m last year, with more than 50% coming from outside the UK. Dudderidge is optimistic that “tablets and smartphones are the PCs of the next generation – GEAR4 has a lot more room to grow.”
|Jonathan Willis is a media originator, publisher, author, property developer, film & TV executive producer, script and copywriter, entrepreneur and financier.
Jonathan wrote two books, the first of which was brokered to a publisher in days, and the second title based on auctions, around which he developed a publishing business on Fleet Street, sold 286,000 copies in six months. Subsequently, Jonathan has created many popular consumer and business magazines and books, and his advertising copywriting skills have led to the creation of several thriving private companies and 3 plc’s. His property publications have serviced 40,000 UK subscribers per month. He currently has in hand the development of 2 spa hotels on the idyllic island of Koh Phangan, Thailand, two holiday parks (in Spain and Portugal) together with a villa complex in Morocco.
Johathan’s latest project is The Ideas Factory:
Our goal is simple – to promote the healthy exchange of ideas within a friendly forum of like-minded entrepreneurs and investors.
Through a combination of regular newsletters, live events and website updates, the Ideas Factory keeps its members informed and abreast of outstanding and timely business, property and other investment opportunities, whilst also providing an informal forum for people to get together to form business partnerships and lifelong friendships. You can download the latest copy of The Ideas Factory Magazine here: