Q&A with Rob Law MBE - CEO and inventor of Trunki

Lynn Barlow
Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Creative and Cultural Industries Engagement | UWE
4th October 2017

UWE, in partnership with Business West, runs an annual lecture series that brings top business leaders to Bristol. We caught up with Rob Law, CEO and inventor of Trunki (Magmatic Ltd), before he gave his address:

1. Tell me about Trunki:

Trunki today stands for pioneering children’s travel gear. 

Through our first product we stumbled upon a big market opportunity to sell really functional, innovative travel products for toddlers and up.

So we’re now forging this whole retail category of what we call ‘children’s travel’.

2. What challenges have you faced?

I guess one of the most significant challenges back in the early days was that the government decided to ban hand luggage - just after I’d launched my business!

That was a bit of a challenge, at the height of the terrorist threats back in 2006, but fortunately the ban was lifted within 6 weeks and we were able to carry on trading.

Shipping internationally helped us – we were exporting from day 0, so that was a bit of a buffer for us at the time.

I say us, back then it was just me in my bedroom! About 9 months after launching I was able to start hiring people.

3. So you went from you in your bedroom to more than £8m turnover and 1 Trunki sold every minute?

Yes that’s right!

It was from humble beginnings to a workforce of 80 people.

We manufacture our products in the UK for the European market.

We’re exporting.

Our products are on sale in about 100 countries, and we’ve calculated that consumers have spent around $200m on our brand worldwide!

4. What sort of leader are you? 

One that doesn’t shy from delegation.

I think that’s one of the secrets of success.

You can’t be doing everything. And there are people who are much better at doing parts of your role than you are, so it’s important to understand your strengths and weaknesses and play to them.

Leadership didn’t come naturally to me initially. 

I had to go on my own little journey to understand how to lead people and what skills I need to evolve, from things such as emotional intelligence to having a clear mission and vision for the team to follow.

5. How did you learn to become a successful leader?

I think the penny dropped a year or two into trading. A few staff issues prompted me.

I realised that I had a great product, but to take it to the next level I needed a fantastic team.

So I then started reading things, picking up books like Jim Collins’ ‘Good to Great’; trying to really understand what you needed to do as a leader to map out the future trajectory of the business, and to get the right people in the business to take you there.

6. What do you look for in a graduate employee?

Drive and passion without a doubt.

People who are really interested in a particular area of work or the business and people who have gone above and beyond to train and educate themselves in that, having hobbies related to that.

Working late into the night developing whatever it might be with their skillset, for example.

In short, someone who’s really biting at the bit to give it a go!

7. Did you realise that these were the qualities you needed to be a succesful product design graduate?

I was lucky enough go on what was back then the best product design course in the country.

Everyone on that course was very passionate about being product designers and I think it’s so hard to succeed in the industry that when you do succeed you work incredibly hard at it.

That work ethic was drilled into me through a passion for what I was doing and wanting to learn and become better. It was then quite a challenge with my first employees to realise that they were knocking off at half 5 and going home!

I was like: ‘you should be working until midnight!’

That was a big learning curve.

It was those initial difference that allowed me to be able to reflect on myself and think about leadership because I had different views to everyone else it seemed.

8. Give me your projection for Trunki over the next 10 years:

We’ve got a great picture in the office of Neil Armstrong holding a Trunki on the moon.

So, with the new space tourism about to kick off, we’d like to see Trunki’s being used on some of those missions!

This series of free public lectures brings top level business leaders to Bristol. You can discuss these events on Twitter using the hashtag #BristolLectures and view further content from Rob Law's lecture here. For more information please contact events@uwe.ac.uk.

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