Yorkshire-based designer Michael Omotosho describes winning the Young Innovators Award from Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust as both a business-saver and life-saver.

Enabling independent living through inclusive design

At the time, Michael had just hit a major feasibility issue in his ambition to design an electrical plug pull that would make it easier to remove plugs from sockets for those suffering from arthritis or loss of dexterity.

The setback meant a partner, which would have provided a route-to-market, had stepped away and then the pandemic began impacting his plans.

With the financial support from Innovate UK and a wider business support programme led by Innovate UK KTN programme, Michael reinvested in a new design and within just a year has been recognised as a pioneer in inclusion and independent living.

Overarching vision

A major shift in mindset proved to be the first major milestone for Michael, seeing him step back from day-to-day business details and developing an overarching vision.

Michael says, “This meant having a process and business strategy that would assist in coming up with further successful innovative ideas and knowing how to mitigate the risks of unforeseen circumstances.”

He adds, “This has had a positive impact on the business; setting us up for success and achieving more than we intended. It has led us to improve our design and manufacturing, progress our business plans, how we engage with communities and build better relationships with partners.”

The pivot in approach proved central to Michael’s fresh business approach and his vision to answer major societal questions around product inclusivity.

Product sales

With the financial support from Innovate UK, Michael reinvested into the business and redeveloped his Plugull (a play on “plug pull”) innovation. He was able to establish a design studio to collaborate on design ideas and secure a new route-to-market partner.

Michael says, “We have currently sold out of our first batch inventory of 5000 units in an exclusivity deal with Arthr, part of Versus Arthritis, a retailer of arthritis aid products and champion of independent living. This matched our ethos as a company and stood out among the other offers we received.”

The focus is now on establishing other distribution channels to high-street stores such as Superdrug and on growing the online presence for Plugull, which is now being sold on Amazon and through the company’s own website.

Meanwhile, Michael is developing his second product in the Plugull range, which he hopes will have a global reach, and has set the business a target of 10,000 to 15,000 unit sales in the first six months.

Winning recognition

The company is now an award-winning business for its design solutions and was recently recognised by Make UK due to its innovative stance towards independent living.

“We have plans to build a team that will be instrumental in making our vision a reality by tackling a variety of inclusive design problems in all sectors, through products and ideas engagement in the community, which will help us plan ahead for new product developments.”

Michael’s vision is to curate a community of individuals effecting change at the onset of product development. Alongside his innovative approach to design, he is also looking at a bespoke way to compensate community members for their time, expertise and knowledge.

Shaping self-belief

With the support of his Innovation Champion, which he describes as his “unofficial business partner”, Michael says he was helped in carrying the weight of managing a business among his other responsibilities and he has grown in self-belief.

“As a Young Innovator, I describe myself as bold, courageous and resilient. This wouldn’t have happened without the support of the Young Innovators programme,” he says.

To future cohorts of Young Innovators, he says maximise the opportunity that joining the programme provides. “Let it shape you by taking you out of your comfort zone, engage in all aspects of the programme, be open to networking and learn from the others.”

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