All-terrain wheelchair inventor - Why I said no to TV’s Dragons’ Den
PUBLISHED: 19:37 07 February 2014 | UPDATED: 19:38 07 February 2014
Not many entrepreneurs say no to the Dragons in TV’s Dragons’ Den. But Tim Morgan from Nantwich, inventor of an all-terrain wheelchair, did just that
It began with an inventive youngster fiddling with components to upgrade his mountain bike.
Hurtling down hills became a way of life for Tim Morgan, as he grew up near Welshpool, mid-Wales. Bike-mad from the age of ten, by 15 he was competing in mountain biking’s Welsh national championships. And he saw that careering down rubble-strewn slopes did not end well for some competitors
‘I’ve always been aware that a lot of people take part in dangerous sports and should something happen, they’d want to carry on,’ says Tim, aged 30, who lives in Nantwich. ‘I had a look around at wheelchairs, and there didn’t seem to be an off-road practical wheelchair that could help people get back outside.’
So Tim took his mountain biking know-how, and his engineering and design flair, and came up with the Mountain Trike. What began as a university project is now a business with a worldwide market, based at an engineering factory in rural Walgherton, Nantwich.
He sold 28 trikes in six months in 2011, 46 in 2012 and 70 in 2013. But Tim believes the trike, which sells for £3,995, could appeal to as many as 40,000 of the 1.2m wheelchair-users in the UK, and a possible global market of 500,000. Which is why when he appeared on an episode of BBC TV’s Dragons’ Den a few months ago, he valued the company at £2m, asking for £100,000 in exchange for five per cent of the business.
When Dragon Deborah Meaden offered to stump up all the cash, but wanted 15 per cent of the business, Tim became one of the small number of budding entrepreneurs to say no to a Dragon and walked away.
‘It was pretty intense, but I felt confident, I was happy with my pitch and they gave me really positive comments,’ he says of the experience. ‘It was just the company valuation they couldn’t agree with.’
Tim went to Bath University to study engineering design. A year out in industry took him to Bentley at Crewe, and, after graduating, he returned to the car-maker for three years, working in interior engineering. Parts of the dashboard of the Mulsanne, including the de-mist vents, are his work.
At the same time, Tim was also refining the Mountain Trike, which he had produced as a final year project at university.
‘We had flexitime at Bentley, so I’d do 7am to 4pm at Bentley and then work through until the early hours at home doing market research and developing business plans, design work and seeking funding.’
It was through Bentley that Tim found a manufacturing partner in GB Engineering of Walgherton, whose managing director Geoff Beresford is also manufacturing director of Mountain Trike Ltd.
‘His input has been invaluable,’ Tim says.
Also invaluable is the feedback from users of the trike, such as the multiple sclerosis sufferer in his 50s from Leeds who is now able to get back to the outdoor life with his sons, or the injured soldiers at the military rehabilitation unit Headley Court in Surrey, which has five Mountain Trikes.
‘We have sold quite a few trikes to soldiers who have suffered injuries in Afghanistan and other conflicts,’ says Tim. ‘There’s one guy in Warrington who is a triple amputee; he’s lost both legs above the knees and his right arm above the elbow. He has prosthetics he’s managed to adapt so he can push the lever drive of the Mountain Trike. It’s brilliant to see how someone with that kind of extreme injury can get back out on the trails.’