The global pandemic has seen many people taking to the streets on their bikes to get fresh air and exercise to combat the negative mental and physical effects of lockdown. Tomcats Special Needs Innovation, based in Gloucester, has made sure people with disabilities have not missed out, with their custom-built disability trikes and equipment for children and adults with mobility issues and special needs.
International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD) is a United Nations-sanctioned day that is celebrated across the world on 3 December.
The day aims to promote the rights of persons with disabilities while campaigning for greater inclusivity in society and recognition of the need to acknowledge people’s individual needs.
According to the United Nations, persons with disabilities are among the hardest hit by COVID-19.
The founder, Bob Griffin, set up the company after his partner wanted to find a solution to help her son, who has Angelman’s syndrome, a disability which causes severe learning difficulties, sleep disturbance and poor coordination.
His solution was to create a ‘Tomcat Trike’ with a ‘Carer Control’ system that allows a parent or guardian to be fully in control of steering, braking and child’s safety, whilst giving them the freedom to exercise.
The company has been supported by the Department for International Trade (DIT) to export and now its innovation is used by children across the world, with the company’s international sales having increased year on year, rising 41.6% from 2019 – 2020, including a £400,000 deal in Norway. The company also exports to Holland, Russia, Belgium, Ireland, and Denmark.
Bob says: “We’ve had the support of very good International Trade Advisers along the way, all of whom who are very much behind our goals and vision.”
The company has been supported by DIT to launch in Norway after successfully winning a NAV tender - the equivalent of our NHS.
Bob said: “Our DIT adviser Peter Hollingsworth has supported the company in innumerable ways, including advice on potential markets, accompanying us to export shows, while raising our awareness of legal pitfalls.
“The DIT has also supported us to attend seminars and workshops on a wide range of topics, introduced us to consultants on a range of specialist issues such as Intellectual Property, shipping and setting up separate companies in foreign countries.
“Most important of all is the mentoring and the advice that you get from experts who understand the difficulties and can steer you in the right direction.
“Our export difficulty arises when we try to introduce innovative, premium products into countries with a capped, national grant scheme. The challenge is to raise awareness that more can be achieved by the end user with a superior and innovative solution.
“I would not recommend attempting to export without DIT’s support... no one knows your business like you do, however you’ll need expert advice, guidance, and mentoring to take your skills outside of your comfort zone and into a foreign market.
“Tomcat certainly wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we have achieved in our export plan without the advice of DIT’s advisers.”
The company has twice won two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in Innovation in 2013 and 2020, a D.O.T “S.M.A.R.T” award in 2005; winner and runner up for the product of the year award at Naidex, as well as several regional business awards.
Peter Hollingsworth, the company’s ITA said:
“Tomcat Special Needs Innovation has achieved significant export growth over the past few years. This has come from endless hard work and determination to provide a solution for people with disabilities across the world.
“I would encourage any company who has aspirations to globalise their business to get in touch with us to see how we can support them on their export journey.”
To discuss your export options with one of DIT’s International Trade Advisers in the South West contact 01275 774 456 or visit www.great.gov.uk to find out about the range of support available and live export opportunities.
DIT’s services in the South West are delivered by Business West. For further information, click here