The designer of a cushion that could help cut the number of knee injuries in the UK has been given funding to bring his invention to market.
Black Country Reinvestment Society (BCRS) has assisted Wolverhampton-based Sprung with its Redbacks invention, created by managing director John Wood.
Match funding of £6,500 has been given towards Redbacks, which has developed after initially being created as a shin guard for footballers.
Mr Wood said: “Most knee cushions these days are made from foam, but it was obvious to me that to be totally effective it had to be made of plastic, because pressure from kneeling causes foam to disintegrate. Expanded polypropylene, as used in bike helmets, will break on impact, because it’s designed to and knocks will cause irreversible damage. If it is hit just once, it’s useless. So we explored alternative materials.”
The knee cushion’s construction is based on the honeycomb structure and is manufactured from an engineering plastic called TPE – thermoplastic elastomer and is injection moulded in the Czech Republic.
Mr Wood put his life savings of £13,000 into the development of Redbacks and dedicated two years to its development.
He added: “When we were ready to launch, we needed more money in order to pay for stock to sell to our customers.
So we approached the banks to borrow £12,000.
“They all loved our product and wanted us to do well, but our credit rating wasn’t high enough. We were not turning over enough money and as I had put all of my savings into the development, I had no assets.
“Through one of the banks we tried to access the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme (SFLGS). They said they would give us 50 per cent of the required loan - £6,500 – if we matched it, but then wanted a personal guarantee on their 50 per cent – we said no.
“I had to guarantee the whole £12,000 so that they could control the interest rate. That’s not the way the scheme is supposed to work. “The bank manager told me they were looking to support new businesses, not existing ones. As a final blow, my bank took our overdraft facility away.”
Wolverhampton-based BCRS recently celebrated its small business loan fund reaching £5 million, with plans to extend it to £10 million within two years.
BCRS has already created a £750,000 loan fund with Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council and managers are in discussion with other local authorities in the Black Country.
They have created a £1 million loan fund with Staffordshire County Council and are also looking to expand into the Stoke-on-Trent region.