TOM Maxwell was still in college when he launched a toy company with his brother Andrew. Now their product Turbospoke, a simple device that clips on to the spokes of children's bicycles, is generating €500,000 a year. Having just moved to a new office in Dublin from their home in Waterford they spoke to Sarah McCabe about how they are preparing to take on staff for the first time.
"The idea for the product came to me years ago," says Tom. "Turbospoke was inspired by playing cards that my dad used to pin to my bicycle spokes with a kitchen peg as a kid – they made noise as you cycled. That temporary fix was great fun but never lasted very long.
"The idea is simple. Our toy attaches to a child's bike and using a durable plastic card that is inserted into the spokes, generates realistic engine sounds as you pedal. It also has an "exhaust pipe" for added effect.
"I began developing it during college and then decided to take two years out of my degree in industrial design at NCAD to really commit to building the business. After securing a manufacturer in China, my brother Andrew and I set up a company, Tomax, and launched it in 2009 from our home in Waterford.
"The product has gone on to sell globally in 20 countries, including the USA, the UK and Germany. We recently started selling into Russia and China. It is an official accessory on Raleigh bicycles.
"We sell through distributors rather than our own outlets or concession stands; in Ireland it is available at Smyths toys and Halfords. We had an incredible reception in Ireland – the initial Irish shipment sold out in a month.
"We have shifted about 350,000 units since launching and are now generating €500,000 in revenue every year. The product sells for €22.50 although we recently launched Turbospoke Classic, which is a pared-down and cheaper version of the same thing. At €6.99 it's cheap enough for kids to buy themselves.
"Our business was completely self-funded with some help from our parents. We have managed to grow it ourselves, just the two of us, but are now ready to take on employees. Last year we moved from our home office in Waterford to Dublin – there's just more of a buzz in the city and it's easier to be creative.
"Getting a US distributor early on was a big moment. We distribute through Schilling, one of the biggest in the world. We built this relationship at the New York Toy Fair; attending trade fairs generates a big chunk of our business.
"It's all about getting the product in front of the right people."