DROPPING a tin of paint all over the kitchen floor two years ago when up a ladder led to 54-year-old New Luce farmer Alistair Taylor having a ‘light bulb’ moment that could see his innovative ‘Ladderlimb’ invention selling all over the world.
After clearing up the paint at Balneil Farm, Alistair thought long and hard about how to get round the problem of only two hands available to juggle paint cans, brushes etc., while remaining attached to the ladder. He soon came up with the ‘Ladderlimb’.
This tool that allows you to secure a paint pot or tool to the side of any ladder has caused such a stir since it came on the market that Alistair recently had an approach from a American business tycoon who was interested in buying the business for an undisclosed sum.
This week, budding entrepreneur Alistair took time out to call into the Galloway Gazette offices in Newton Stewart to talk about how much his life has changed since he invented the literal lifesaver for all tradesmen.
He said: “At first I thought someone must have made something to get round this problem but, having looked in places like B&Q and Homebase I discovered no one had.
“So I made one myself and then I registered the patent. I got great help and advice from Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway. They put me in touch with the University of the West of Scotland at Hamilton who, through their Inspire Projects team there worked on the design of a prototype to my specifications. That was in November 2010.
“After getting backing from interested investors, the next step was going out and about looking for potential customers. Within days I had an order for 300 units from a local company!
“We then contacted a company in Ireland that had appeared on the Dragon’s Den TV programme. Their business was sourcing potential markets for other companies.
“At the moment the ‘Ladderlimb’ is manufactured in China. I tried to get it manufactured in Scotland but pricewise it was just impossible. The ‘Ladderlimb’ retails for £19.99 and this is the cost to everyone whether you are in trade or not.
“There is the possibility that we could get the ‘Ladderlimb’ manufactured in the Czech Republic which would speed up delivery time to Scotland.
“I would love to get it manufactured in this country so if there is anyone out there reading this that can make it at a competitive price I want to hear from them.
“At the moment a lot of local retailers in Dumfries and Galloway are stocking it and now the major retailers in the central belt want to stock it to. Internet sales have also taken off and we are taking orders for the ‘Ladderlimb’ on a daily basis.
“I was recently at the Ideal Homes Show and the Tool Fair in Manchester where there was a lot of interest from those involved in fire and rescue services. Since then I have supplied Fire Brigades based in Dumfries and Galloway, Strathclyde, Cumbria and Northumberland as it is a help to them professionally and also cuts down on maintenance costs. The ‘Ladderlimb’ is currently on trial with British Telecom, Sky Health and Safety and Scottish Power. We have also had enquiries from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand.
“As the business has expanded my son David is returning home to work full time with me as I also have the farm to run as well as ‘Ladderlimb’ business. He worked in the financial sector in Glasgow. It has taken off so quickly that my wife, Effie, who works at Glenluce Primary School, has reduced her job from full time to three days a week to help build the business.
Alistair and Effie also have a daughter Claire, who works for Edinburgh City Council and younger son, 23-year-old Stewart, is shortly off to join the Merchant Navy. Alistair says that he has had to do a minimal amount of advertising as the ‘Ladderlimb’ has sold itself mainly through word of mouth.
One satisfied customer, Shaun Wilkinson, wrote to Alistair to say: “In my opinion you have created one of the best straight-forward devices to improve ladder safety of the last 15 years. Every tradesperson who works up a ladder should have one. It’s their vital third hand helper.”
For more information on ‘Ladderlimb’ go to www.ladderlimb.net