Read full article here
The only way is Essex, well it certainly looks that way for Tom Pellereau the geeky inventor- winner of The Apprentice 2011. Standing tall on a business park situated in Loughton is Amshold; it’s here where Stylfile inventor Tom and his business Aventom are based. With Pellereau’s first design idea on the market, She Said Beauty’s Francesca D’Arcy asks the south London chap what life’s been like working alongside Lord Alan Sugar, and if fame has gone to his head.
Firstly your Stylfile is in our July’s box, why have you decided to work with us here at She Said Beauty?
There are so many beauty products out there at the moment She Said Beauty is a really great idea. It’s a clever model. We’ve got some new products coming out and I’m hoping to build relationships with companies like you that are also growing very rapidly and creating new retail models. It’s a chance to get the Stylfile into different people’s hands (read our review of The Stylfile here).
Did you ever imagine that you could win The Apprentice over a year ago?
The reality is no. I went on the programme because I didn’t know everything; I wanted to learn a lot and entered the weekend I should have been applying for proper jobs. It was amazing, finding out what I was capable of and learning so quickly. Being potentially fired every week was tough, but I learnt a lot from it happening that way.
Knowing everything that you do now, would you still go on the show?
I’m still very glad I went on The Apprentice and it’s a once in a life time opportunity which I hope will only be once in my life time. In honesty without that chance it would’ve taken a little longer to get my products out there, so this has definitely fast tracked everything for me.
How did you come up with the design for the Stylfile?
In late 2005 I watched my sister file her nails; specifically it was when she changed from her left hand to using her right hand. She’s left handed, and it seemed tricky for her. I thought there has to be an easier way, what about if it was curved?
Product ideas start off as drawings how do you make these a reality?
The very first prototype was made in my oven. I went out and bought a standard nail file. I bent it around nails in a plank of wood to create the ‘S’ shape. Placed it in the oven for 90 seconds, and then let it set. It didn’t look great, but it worked and developed from there.
Did a lot change from the initial design?
Very specifically the colour changed. At first it was white and plain. I learnt quickly that consumers don’t just want products that work better; they also like them to look good. So getting the colour right for the middle and the right abrasives were important.
Are you looking to expand this range of the nail files?
I think at the moment there’s a really good market and opportunity to expand the range. For example nail accessories. There are a lot of problems to be solved within the beauty industry, so by improving the design of products we are not only creating a talking point, but also making life easier for everyone.
I know you’re a fan of health related products, are you looking to go into that field in the future?
I think so. Health, beauty and exercise are areas that really interest me personally. We are all really conscious about our health and know that we’re going to live longer; we all want to have a higher quality of life as we age.
You have your face on your Stylfile products, are you going to continue doing that?
Potentially, it’s interesting actually as it wasn’t my idea. ‘The Tom Face’, as I like to call it – my apprentice look is prominent on the packaging, but people seem to like it. I’m very fortunate as I was portrayed well on the show.
Does Lord Sugar advise you on the design of the products?
He won’t come up with a palette of colours, but he knows how retail works. Consumers have seconds to choose your item over all the others so they need to stand out and show clear differences. Lord Sugar gives me some grilling’s, he gets a little frustrated with me about things, and he yells a bit, but with that he gives me lots of great advice.
What feedback have you received from consumers after using your Stylfile?
I have had a lot of people saying that after using the Stylfile they would never go back to basics. A lot of bloggers and beauty buffs have been very positive about it. After all it’s a consumer product, it’s for everyone to use easily and create that professional look at home. It’s perfect for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time but wants to look after their nails.
Do you know any men that use your products?
I do know some, I certainly do. At present it’s a very female focused product, and that’s something we are going to work on. Men look after themselves more now so it’s an important area, one for growth in the future.
What is your definition of female beauty?
It’s a hard question but I think natural beauty is very important. We all have different feelings of beauty so it does depend. It’s fantastic because beauty is in your own hands. How do you wish to be beautiful today? Do you wish to be very natural or garish or do you wish to be fun, we can all change how we wish to be.
Do you think winning the Apprentice gave you a platform to meet people?
I get recognised a little bit more on the street than I used to, and I can get meetings a lot more easily. Then once you’re in the meeting you have the opportunity to prove yourself. I seem to have that ‘He must be good’ title, but you have to deliver once you’re there.
Do you think fame will change you?
I have a tough job to do at the moment which keeps me very grounded so let’s hope not, although Lord Sugar tells me straight so if it did, I’m sure he would say, we have a big problem here Tom.
What inventor have you been inspired by?
There are two main contenders for me. Edison and his amazing light bulb invention is iconic, influencing a lot of telephone and video parts today too. He was an amazing guy and light is pretty handy. James Dyson is another one who has done phenomenally well, he’s so focussed.
You have dyslexia; do you feel that it’s played a positive part in your inventing?
Definitely. I’m very positive about dyslexia, I don’t know what I would be like if I didn’t have it. I’m fortunate as I went to a school where I got lots of extra help. I was only seven or eight when I was diagnosed.
What advice would you give young designers and inventors who are just starting out?
It’s all about finding a problem, then trying to create a product that is going to solve it. Work out if people are going to pay for it too, as that’s important. You then have to make a prototype and demonstrate what your new product can do. Along with persistence you’ve got to be strong willed and believe in yourself. A bouncy personality with lots of energy helps too.
After a year of working with Lord Sugar, what’s next?
To continue communicating the positive uses of the Stylfile, then to develop new products that will create as much excitement. Ultimately in 10 years time I would love to be in a position where I would spend a lot of time listening to consumers and bringing our products to them.