Designer's Marilyn-inspired invention is breath of fresh air
TV dragons missed golden opportunity when they turned down the 'Dyson of clothes dryers', writes Tom Prendeville
Most people are familiar with the iconic poster image of Marilyn Monroe standing on a subway grate wearing a white dress billowing in the air from the up-draught.
Thanks to the image from the movie The Seven Year Itch, Cork design engineer Daniel Bradfield was inspired to invent a revolutionary new clothes dryer with huge global potential.
Appropriately enough, the household appliance is called the Marilyn Air Dryer, and it can fully dry a machine wash of clothes for less than three cents: a fraction of the cost of any other clothes dryer on the market. Not surprisingly, the innovative white-goods appliance is being called the Dyson of clothes dryers.
But just 18 months ago the Dragons Den crew scoffed at the inventor and joked that the appliance looked like something you would find in a skip.
Alas, on that occasion Daniel Bradfield left the den with no investment and with a flea in his ear.
However, the dragons were wrong; Bradfield persisted and has now gone into partnership with Glen Dimplex to launch the product worldwide.
Looking back on his bruising outing on the Dragons Den, Bradfield says: "I wasn't going to take an investment anyway. They'd never have given me what I wanted without taking half of the company, but it served its purpose as a marketing exercise."
The design of the Marilyn is slim and elegant and consists of six cool air fans and a lightweight rack for the wet garments. The essence of simplicity, the steady breeze dries the clothes in gig time without condensation. Extremely energy efficient it uses less than 25 watts.
The genesis of the idea goes back almost a decade to when Daniel who had a young family to rear, and was exasperated by the ongoing costs of the household tumbler dryer.
"We had four kids at the time, and with the Irish weather being as it is, the tumble dryer was on every day of the week. At the time I was working in R&D with an air-conditioning manufacturer, so I knew what you could do with moving air."
"It is not the warm sunshine that dries clothes but the air flow; so I put together a unit for my own family and it worked," he explains.
With design-engineering work literally drying up during the downturn, he decided to go into the clothes-drying business.
With help from South Cork Enterprise Board and his local Ballincollig branch of AIB he set up Air Dryer Systems Ltd in the Rubicon Centre which is part of the Cork Institute of Technology Campus:
"Initially we launched the Marilyn Air Dryer at agricultural shows and it sold out. Manufactured in China it retails for €129 and it will fully pay for itself within six months. It is lightweight and totally eco friendly. I firmly believe a lot of our success has been word of mouth- which is the best," he added.
Bradfield has now signed a deal with Glen Dimplex who will rebrand the product as a Dimplex Dryer. Last month he signed up with Glen Dimplex UK and expects to conclude a series of worldwide deals in other major Dimplex sales territories in the coming year:
"I am delighted to be signed up with one of the world's biggest appliance manufacturers; I could not have gotten a better partner – and we got an excellent deal."
Bradfield is now busy expanding his factory to cater for the growing orders. The company has three new products in the pipeline and plans to double its workforce to six people in the coming months.