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  • Writer's pictureStephen Mills

Why did I start this company?

Updated: Dec 21, 2018

Why did I start this company?

Sometime ago I had a problem that is true to most people that own a home with outdoor land. In my garden I had a patio, and on that patio I would get a rather large puddle of water every time it rained. The problem was made worse by the fact that it never drained away and I just had to wait for nature to take its course and dry it up for me.

I needed a solution, and to be fair there were many on the market, the problem was that they required a lot of work and money to solve what was a simple issue (just letting the rain get into the ground where it falls). So like a dog with a bone, I set about trying to make my own solution out of common products that you could buy from your local DIY store, the best I could up with was still not fit for task which meant I needed something else, something I would have to make myself from scratch.

I know this sounds extreme but I have always loved a project and building things of my own design. My brain did its usual thing of ticking over in the background during my everyday life until it happened upon what could be a very simple solution, and thus the Stack Drain was born in its very early first version.

Fast forward a few months (after I have taught myself a lot of new skills, including 3D printing and various CAD packages) and I had my first prototype.

It was basic and needed improvements but it worked! So well in fact that I realised this could be a cheap, easy solution that might be of interest to other people.

The problem at this stage was I had no idea how you take an innovation of your own design and get to market or even if it was wanted by the market, not to mention someone else may have already had the idea but just not acted on it.

Now it turns out there are a number of companies that are more than happy to take your money with promises of fortunes and quick routes to market. However don’t get carried away, always find time to read the small print, because if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

After doing my research and comparing companies I found a great company that would work with me and help me move this forward by the name of Trevor Baylis Brands (TBB), yes the same Trevor Baylis that invented the windup clock. The greatest asset of this company was keeping me grounded and making it clear that if I was to succeed it would take hard work and patience; also they prided themselves of being there to help inventors and not rip them off.

A year later I had achieved a number of milestones:

· Found interest from a number of large companies including Wavin UK and Polypipe UK;

· Become a finalist in the Travis Perkins Innovation Awards;

· Patented my invention and registered the designs; &

· Created my final version (20th if you were wondering).

But I still had not taken the invention public, the reason being that I wanted to do it myself, I wanted it to be something I could grow and develop and maybe even one day pass down to my children. The problem was trying to get the funding, which is not easy in a country that is always tightening its financial belt.

Fast forward another year and I now find myself living in Sweden of all places, a move that I made for personal reasons and in no way linked to my invention. However this move whilst unrelated would prove to be the best thing I could have done to push the invention forward, I mean I am now living in the land of innovation after all.

Whilst I was working a construction job in my first few months of being in Sweden I met, my now business partner, Frederick Håkansson. Early on into our friendship it became clear that he was a very unusually optimistic person, so optimistic in fact that when I told him about my invention, with a view to see his interest, he almost jumped at the chance to be a part of it. He saw its potential straight away and how we could grow it as a product; he started to make observations about how we could get it funded and how we could really make it happen. Needless to say I was glad to meet this guy and now even more grateful it has grown into a business relationship.

So with a little stubbornness and a lot of funding from the Swedish government agency known as ALMI we took our first steps forward to what is now known as “The Drain Company – Stockholm”.

You might have guessed that this is the abridged version but you get the idea. Maybe one day I might write the full version but I’m sure this has done enough to bore you already.

Inventor and creator of the outdoor Stack Drain system, business partner in the Drain Company - Stockholm.
Stephen Mills - Inventor of the Stack Drain outdoor drainage system

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