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BLOG: Part 2 – Innovation puts Leicestershire business in pole position for cycle safety market

8 February 2023

We continue our interview with George Fox, one of the founders of the innovative bicycle helmet company, Hedkayse. This time George shares the company’s vision for an exciting future of growth and diversification.  (Catch up on part 1)

You’ve told us about how your core product is selling well and how it’s been successful in the inclusive and adaptive market for people with disabilities.  How else have you broadened your market?

We’ve made limited edition versions of the helmet for the lifestyle segment of the market and sold them in Selfridges, Harrods, in Paris, Milan and Berlin.  My fashion background taught me that it’s useful to introduce new ideas at the high end of the market so that they can cascade to other markets over time.  One version features hand-stitched Spanish Tornado hide and costs £320 from Selfridges. We’ve also got an all-black one called Stealth and one that’s covered in 3M reflective material and we can do custom prints.  Those models are more about a lifestyle choice than safety and the look of them is important to people that have that kind of money or those priorities.

We’ve learned from feedback with our core product, and we’ve learned from Europe where they seem to get the concept of convenience and safety straight away. They’re looking for something that does its job, that they don’t have to worry about, and which fits into their lifestyle of taking the kids to school. Our helmet is perfect for that.

There are clearly lots of possibilities for your helmets and the technology you’ve invented.  What are your long-term goals?

“The way I’d summarise our situation now is that we have three horizons: number one is the sale of these helmets because that’s our bread and butter. We are 300% up on where we were this time last year, we have six employees and we’re expanding mainly because of going into the US. We’re selling 50-70 helmets a week to the US now.  By this time next year that’s going to be 200 helmets a week. We’re contacting Macey’s and lots of other US retailers. This time next year we will have global certification standards, so we’ll be able to sell in all the key markets around the world; Australia and Japan, for example, love UK-made products so that’s another good market for us.

“The next generation of our helmet is going to be 350g instead of 480g. That will be interesting because people will be able to compare the performance of ours against the established norm.

“Horizon two is slightly further away but where the real value of the business is going.  We’ve created a technology that can be applied to protecting heads in many different sectors and by the end of this year we will have five companies signed up for a development timeline to license and integrate our material into their products.  The sectors we’ll be in are mountain climbing, equestrian, skateboarding, snow and ski, and we are also making a boxing glove.

Each of these companies are household names who’ve seen the benefit of using our product. We’ve asked them what data they need from us to prove the case and we’ve provided it. This time next year, we will also be speaking to companies in the US defence, road safety and other sport areas like kayaking.  That would put us in the role of a supplier of intellectual property and the value of the business would increase quite a lot.  That would give us money to re-invest in the first part of the business to accelerate and improve and to have an even lighter product. It will also fund the scaling of Horizon one because we’re going to need a bigger premises but will remain in the UK.

“The third horizon is to do with the fact that we now have a material that doesn’t break, so we’re going to make it smart. We’ll start with something simple like an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) that’s a chip that goes into your helmet and which captures data about your accident.  So, an ambulance team arriving at the scene of a road accident could scan the RFID sticker to get all the information they need about a patient.  And it has tremendous value to insurance and medical companies because it provides information about the accident. This horizon is some years away but it’s very exciting.

It’s been a long road for Hedkayse and a big investment, but it certainly looks like their innovative response to improving a very well-established product has created huge potential for them and success that is well-deserved.  It’s great to see that the Business Gateway was able to help them in their journey.