Company from The Apprentice opens design studio in Bristol, creating jobs

A product design company that recently appeared on the BBC The apprentice opened a new studio in Bristol, with plans to create new jobs.

In an episode of the reality TV show’s latest series, the product design team at Innovate Design helped contestants hoping to be nominated by Lord Sugar create an electric toothbrush for children.

Innovate Design staff delivered prototype brushes along with apps with games to encourage brushing for both teams. The boys came up with a brown wand-shaped brush and a wizard-based app, while the girls’ concept was a rocket-shaped brush with a tooth-like character.

Company founders Alastair Swanwick and Barbara Bouffard said they accepted the BBC’s invitation to appear on the show as it offered an opportunity to thank Lord Sugar for helping the company get started.

Shortly after its formation in 2001, the business magnate wrote an article in The mirror about Innovate Design, praising the work it does to help inventors and entrepreneurs conceive and bring new product ideas to market.

Lord Sugar helped Innovate Design get started, the company says

Mrs Bouffard said BusinessLive that Lord Sugar’s article had helped Innovate Design “get off the ground”, and the company viewed participating in the show’s difficult task as a “reward” for the good trick he had done for them.

Ms Bouffard said: “It was obviously an exciting thing to do, we were on TV, it was really stressful, but really exhilarating too.

“We were able to do something pretty amazing, I don’t know if people would have noticed, but the amount of work my design team had to put in to turn things around was amazing.

“Something like this would normally take six months to develop, and we did it in 24 hours. It was quite a challenge.

Innovate Design staff helped show participants through the entire process, from concept sketching and brush design, to electronics and app development, to character creation and packaging design.

The team created a brush that could monitor brushing time and the exact orientation the toothbrush was held in, alerting the user to how fast they were brushing and how hard they were brushing. Bluetooth connectivity has been added to facilitate real-time sensor reading and all of this technology has been designed to fit within the confines of the size of a toothbrush.

Ms Bouffard said the company found all of the show’s hopefuls “easy to work with”. She also revealed that Mr Swanwick had the opportunity during filming to thank Lord Sugar in person for his help and presented the Amstrad founder with his own specially designed electric toothbrush.

She said Lord Sugar was “delighted” with the gift, the handle of which depicted Lord Sugar as an animated “business tooth fairy”.

“I think he must have liked his toothbrush well enough to carry it around; I think he was happy. I wonder if we gave him an idea, because later I saw on his Facebook page that he went out with an Alan Sugar pen; maybe it was inspired by the toothbrush? »

The charity pen, dubbed ‘The A-Pen-Tice’, depicts his likeness and plays audio clips of his slogans. All proceeds from the sale of the pens are donated to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity.

Ms Bouffard said Mr Swanwick was delighted to be able to say thank you to Lord Sugar, who he found to be ‘a pretty nice guy’ and ‘not quite what he is depicted on TV’.

With a design studio already based in Salisbury, Innovate Design has now expanded its presence in the South West with a move to new space in Bristol’s creative Paintworks district.

Innovate Design's new studio in Bristol.
Innovate Design’s new studio in Bristol.

Many of the 15 members of staff at Bristol’s new design and prototyping centre, some of whom have appeared on The apprentice, moved from the Salisbury studio. Ms. Bouffard said the company was looking to add five more app developers and UX designers to the team.

“There were two things about Bristol that really appealed to us; the vibrant, industrial background of the city has made it a natural place for both of us and culturally it’s a better place to attract good talent,” she said.

“We employ and recruit young people in their twenties to mid-thirties who thrive in an environment like Bristol. It’s a bustling city, there’s lots of entertainment and the culture is amazing, so our staff are really happy.

Among the products Innovate Design has helped bring to market are Eazy Peel – an electric peeler for hard-skinned fruits and vegetables – and Fuel The Adventure – a portable battery charger with a distinctive jerry can design.

Ms Bouffard said that during the pandemic the company had seen an increase in the number of people approaching it with ideas for inventions, as people pursued creations made during the national lockdown that could help them start their own business.

Innovate Design staff at the company's Salisbury base.
Innovate Design staff at the company’s Salisbury base.

Ms Bouffard said Innovate Design, which has offices in France and the United States, was planning further international expansion, although it wanted to bring much of its work back to Bristol, where it believed it could provide clients with a “good service”.

“We have an office in France and we want to develop it again,” she explained.

“We deal with clients there, but we want the work to be done in the UK. We want to replicate this in more of Europe and use this French office to expand into other countries as well. than in America.

“We have a very small office in Florida; similarly, we can use it to get work and grow, and bring that work back to the UK and Bristol.

The 16th series of The apprentice features the show’s first winner, Tim Campbell, as an advisor to Lord Sugar alongside Baroness Brady. Mr Campbell is the co-founder of Bristol-based technology company Iternal.

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Joseph E. Golightly