Asap is an electric powered water craft which can be launched by one person and charged using solar energy.
The next big step is getting to manufacture level. It’s incredible that I’m able to stay with the Studio for an extra year while I do this – the support is invaluable
With rising fuel prices, two-stroke petrol jet skis are becoming a less financially viable rescue or patrol option for charity-run lifeguard stations. Asap sidesteps this issue and allows lifeguards to respond quickly to emergencies without tiring themselves.
Ross Kemp was among The Studio’s first cohort in 2011. He had a whirlwind two years, developing the prototype of Asap whilst working full-time as a product designer with Vax.
During his tenancy, Ross took part in the BBC3 show Be You Own Boss which gave him the opportunity to meet Loughborough honorary graduate Sir Richard Branson – and receive the offer of a lifetime.
In December 2013, Virgin flew Ross and his prototype to Australia to spend six weeks testing the craft with some of the best lifeguards in the world, including the elite of Bondi Beach.
Ross toured Australia with two of the products in a camper van – clocking up more than 5,000kms – determined to find out whether his product is a floater or a sinker. The response was brilliant, so he is now busy planning manufacture.
Ross’s hard work and achievements earned him a deserved place among the University’s Inspiring Graduates as well as a handful of awards during 2013 – the Best Start-up Business of the Year in the Lloyds TSB Enterprise Awards, a Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award, a Loughborough University Think BIG! Award as well as a Shell Live Wire Grand Ideas Award.
With customers across the globe waiting for the commercial launch of Asap, Ross hopes to manufacture the first batch this year.
Why did you originally apply to join The Studio?
As my degree came to an end, I was toying with the idea of starting a business, but wasn’t sure how to get started. I applied to the Studio quite spontaneously with the vague idea of developing my rescue water craft.
How has being a tenant helped you to progress your business?
I didn’t have a clue where to start. Without the Studio’s support, I’d have put my first prototype in the garage and got a job. There just seemed so much to do and it was all so daunting.
The Studio has helped me turn my idea into a viable business. As well as office space, I’ve had access to funding, contacts and workshops. The mentors are incredible – I go to meetings with a list of problems and leave with an even bigger list of solutions!
Most importantly, I’ve enjoyed this roller coaster ride, surrounded by friends all in the same boat – fantastic!
Two years on, where is your business now?
I feel like I’m just getting started. In June 2013, I’d managed to get to the point where I could give up my day job as a designer at Vax. Winning the Lloyds TSB Best UK Start Up was a big part of this decision.
I put a team together and we worked intensely – developing the product to a pre-production stage. Now, there are just a few tweaks to make before we can start manufacturing the product.
So, I’m in the process of planning manufacture and finding the right investment to begin production – and trading internationally.
What are your planned next steps?
The next big step is getting to manufacture level. Two years ago, I didn’t have a clue about this and the big numbers would have sent me running into the sunset.
Gradually growing and developing the product – as well as myself – in the Studio has actually made this a really natural next step. It’s a really exciting – rather than terrifying – time!
It’s incredible that I’m able to stay on in the Studio for an extra year while I do this – the support is invaluable.
What advice would you give to anyone considering a Studio residency?
Over the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet lots of entrepreneurs involved in different mentoring and commercialisation incubators. I can honestly say I haven’t come across anywhere quite like the Studio – it’s an incredible opportunity.
You really do get out of it what you put in. The more I’ve grabbed opportunities and got involved, the more progress I’ve made.
Starting a business can be stressful, lonely and exhausting – but it’s totally worth it. No one is going to do everything for you, but everybody in the Studio is there every step of the way.
So, go for it and throw yourself into it, even if you’re not sure about your idea – I certainly wasn’t. Joining the studio is the best way to start a business that I’ve come across. It really has been the most amazing adventure.