Photography by Michael Cooper
Pictured (left) is Clare Medland, Rolltack, with Mark Bleakney, Invest NI.
Dromara-based Rolltack Ltd. has been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to develop an innovative product that makes transporting heavy and awkward equestrian equipment easier and safer.
The small company, established in December 2011 by Clare Medland, used a range of Invest NI programmes to develop the Rolltack, a versatile saddle trolley, that’s now attracting inquiries from equestrian enthusiasts, stables and equipment suppliers in Australia, Dubai, the US, Japan, Britain and other parts of Europe.
Rolltack received export start support from Invest NI and used an Innovation Voucher, Proof of Concept funding and technical advice to turn an initial concept into a commercial product.
Invest NI has also helped the business to show the new product at major international equestrian events in Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Rolltack has also just finished taking part in Invest NI’s Propel Programme to help smaller businesses grow faster.
Mark Bleakney, Invest NI Southern Regional Office Manager, said: “Rolltack is an excellent example of how our comprehensive range of support can be deployed to help in converting a good idea arising from a hobby into a fully fledged product, and then in helping to establish a new business and launch it successfully in the international marketplace.
“The business, which aims to create three new jobs over the next year, has identified an opportunity for what is a unique product in one of the most dynamic and fastest growing sports/leisure markets worldwide. Our support for Rolltack is in line with our strategic commitment to assist locally-owned businesses with innovative products for export markets.”
Miss Medland, who runs the business with the support of Anne, her sister, and niece Louise, all three equestrian enthusiasts, said: “The idea for Rolltack came from our own experiences in handling heavy and awkward riding tack. Putting a saddle, for example, into the back of a vehicle can result in damage and additional cost to repair. Lifting it into and from a vehicle can also cause back, arm and shoulder injuries.
“These problems led me to check with equestrian suppliers and on the internet to see if anyone had come up with a solution. When I discovered that there wasn’t a suitable product I decided to design and make my own. I hadn’t any design or manufacturing experience and turned to Invest NI for help.
“The advice and practical support I received was fantastic at every level. Indeed staff across the organisation could scarcely have been more encouraging and supportive. I was included in the Design Development Programme which provided me with the design of the company logo and product branding with Paperjam Designs.
“The Innovation Voucher scheme enabled me to work with the Northern Ireland Technology Centre at Queen’s University in refining the design for manufacture. This also led to a link up with Clarehill Plastics in Moira for the production of the moulds and the main body of the trolley.
“Invest NI’s Marketing Information Services provided a huge amount of data about the market opportunity and the best events, especially BETA, the main international equestrian exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham, at which to show the new product. Taking part in the show gave me invaluable feedback from potential customers.
“This led to a number of approaches and orders. I’ve recently supplied the product to Britain and Australia. In addition, taking part in the show enabled me to identify an opportunity for a different product.”
Rolltack has recently received Invest NI Proof of Concept grant under the NISPO Fund to develop another product for the equestrian industry. NISPO is managed by E-Synergy on behalf of Invest NI and provides a suite of funds and programmes for seed and early stage businesses.