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Rob Law, keynote speaker at The Business Show Swindon

A thousand company owners network at Swindon Business Show

More than 1,000 business owners networked, generated leads, met new suppliers, and improved their skills at The Business Show Swindon yesterday (Thursday).

The STEAM Museum in the town was bursting with 90 trade stands, while delegates were able to learn from experts on a range of subjects, including marketing and exporting.

Speed networking sessions were, as always, fully booked and Meet the Advisor one-to-one sessions also proved popular.

Key note speaker Rob Law, designer of the Truni ride-on children’s suitcase, took his audience on the roller coaster history of his company, which included more twists and dips than many.

He recalled how the idea of the Trunki came to him as a product design student at the University of Northumberland, when he entered a competition by plastics company BASF to design a new piece of luggage.

Winning the competition, he was urged to licence the design, and he won a Princes Trust grant and loan to turn his business idea into a reality.

But the road to success was beset by problems – the toy company that first licenced the Trunki went into liquidation, and when Law started to manufacture the product himself, the factory in China that was making the Trunki went bust – leaving his £10,000 business load investment behind locked gates on the other side of the world.

Early production problems led to customer complaints and a memorable drubbing on Dragon’s Den, when Theo Paphitis yanked the pull-along strap from the suitcase. Peter Jones then told him his company was worthless.

But while most of up would have packed up and gone home, Trunki production continued to roll, finding favour with parents and children with its innovative design and bright colours.

Today, Magmatic employs 40 people at a funky HQ in Bristol – a converted chapel kitted out like a space station with a board room table that doubles as a table tennis table – and the firm is a poster child for ‘reshoring’, having brought production back from China to the UK, where a further 45 people are employed in production.

The Trunki is available in 1,500 stores across 90 countries, and the biggest challenge facing the firm – which is valued at £12m – is the imitations flooding the European market from China.