Founder: Version 22
Simon Lyons studied Product Design Engineering. Following graduation in 2013, Simon started his business in The Studio on the Loughborough University campus. Here he discusses his products and how Loughborough has helped him with his business so far.
I chose Product Design Engineering as I felt it was the perfect mix of Design and Technology (D&T), Physics and Maths, my three favourite subjects at school (and my A Level choices). I’ve always been interested in how things work, in coming up with new ideas and with building things from materials I’d find around the house. This seemed like the natural next step!
How has gaining a first class degree from Loughborough University helped you to progress in your career?
It has given me the skill set and confidence I needed in going it alone and launching a product-based business.
Did your placement year have a big impact upon gaining skills and knowledge for your final year? Would you recommend placements to other students?
My placement year was hugely enjoyable and taught me a lot about the engineering process in big firms and how products are brought to market. A lot of what I took away from placement has helped me plan product development within my own company. I would definitely recommend a placement yes!
I practiced martial arts in my first few years at Loughborough and went to the gym regularly for the remainder of my degree. I’d say having extra-curricular activities is a great way to take regular breaks from work which, in contrast I think, makes you more productive in the time you do spend on work. It’s fun too, and that’s a lot of what university is about after all.
I’m not going to lie, it’s hard work. I usually work much more than a regular 9 to 5 week and often have to do things that I’m not interested in at all, like accounting. I love my job though, after all… I look forward to Mondays! Not everyone can say that.
The Studio has been brilliant. It has provided a perfect place to work, financial support and training, and I have made many friends also running their own businesses there too. We help each other out all the time.
Running a Kickstarter campaign feels like trying to fit three months of work into one… it’s hard work! There is a lot of planning involved beforehand (in fact, that’s where most of the work is) but if it pays off it can be very exciting and rewarding indeed. Our most recent Kickstarter campaign launched with a goal of £5,000 and raised £35,000 in just 30 days! This extra funding has been a huge help in getting our second product off the ground. The publicity from the Kickstarter campaign has also led to a lot of press and some interest from potential trade partners too.
Every production run is fraught with issues. No matter how long you think something will take to make, I can guarantee it will take much longer. Probably twice as long in fact. The best way I’ve found to overcome hurdles is to stay in constant communication with manufacturing partners so you can spot and address any problems you see coming before they become too much of an issue.
Winning awards and competitions was hugely important in the early days of Version 22, in fact it’s where most of our funding came from! Placing in these competitions, as well as coming with financial support, also gave me huge confidence in my business and product ideas. Sometimes you need this extra confidence to get through the hard times.
Although Version 22 may have won a few competitions, believe me I’ve lost many more! It’s a numbers game with competitions so if you’re planning on entering some find as many as you can.
There are two moments currently tied for first place I think: getting featured in The Sunday Times, and the day our most recent Kickstarter campaign (for Nimble) came to an end.
In the future I see Version 22 as a household brand stocked in many of the major high street retailers around the world. We will have many more products, more employees and an office somewhere nice too!