Continuing Collingwood’s Q&A Sessions with Key Opinion Leaders and Influencers, Anna Jones Collingwood’s medical specialist, recently spent some time with Ruth Amos – Managing Director of StairSteady - a mobility device to maintain independence and safety on the stairs. Anna wanted to further understand the lessons learnt during her journey from design to launch, and how Ruth’s drive and determination launched her brand both domestically in the UK and then internationally.
Anna was keen to understand how Ruth developed her market share and maintained focus when faced with challenges and often “engineering” stereo-types.
You started your company “StairSteady” following the success and interest your GCSE Technology project generated, so how did you make the leap from “coursework” to “career”?
I think the shift came slowly, I always knew the product had potential and the first time I saw a “factory made” full unit, I knew the product could help people. The core goal for me has always been to have a product to help people stay active and safe in their own home.
Being straight out of education, what challenges did you face working in a very established market where often medical and healthcare practical expertise takes precedent over inexperience and minimal sector specialism?
I didn't really think much about it at the start. I was very naive but confident. I had a passion for the product. I managed to network with some great people and we had had some fantastic press. I do think that it took a few years for the industry to take the product seriously. I found I had to be persistent, consistent and honest with people. I have always found that to be the best way.
Some of the Medical/Healthcare clients we work with are understandably unsure about bringing in talent from other sectors or from out of the sector altogether. Do you think they are right to be nervous or are they missing out on new perspectives?
I think they are missing out! I was able to design the StairSteady because I had no perceived ideas or knowledge of the sector. I was looking at an old problem with fresh eyes. If we don't do this in business we will get left behind.
Once you’d establishing a solid UK dealership network, how did you make the step to branch out internationally and were there any lessons learnt along the way?
We had many offers and a lot didn't work out. It is about the right people, passion for the product and having a clear plan. We are really hoping to do more internationally with the product over the next few years, but these areas can’t be rushed.
What’s next on the “StairSteady” journey – what are the opportunities, challenges and threats?
We are still looking to expand our national reach. We have some great mobility dealers, retailers and sellers, but this is still a relatively unknown product. We are also wanting to really cement the product internationally (especially across Europe). There are always challenges, but you can’t let them stop you, with the right team and support we are really excited about what this year holds.
Having almost started your personal journey by default, what is it about the world of healthcare/mobility which has maintained your interest and focus to date?
The ability to make such a big difference to people’s lives has kept me passionate for this industry. It is so varied and vast, there is always more to learn and new people to meet.
I understand you are a Trustee for Young Engineers, what one piece of advice would you give to young entrepreneurs and inventors like yourself?
You will always find excuses to hold you back, to not launch your product or to just keep it as an idea, but you only learn by actually doing it. Planning and research is important, but you only really understand your business or product once you have practical experience of doing something with it.
Reflecting back on your journey, and with all your awards and accolades what are you most proud of?
That is a hard one, industry wise, when the product won the British Healthcare Trade Associations ‘Best Established Product’ in 2013 that was great recognition from the industry. Personally I have been able to do so much and been awarded so many amazing awards, I don't think I could choose just one.
What is it about “Ruth Amos” that has made you who you are today?
I think my passion and my often ridiculously optimistic view on life. At times this ‘journey’ has been very tough, and still is, but I have learnt that the best way to deal with that is to always look for the silver lining. To be able to stand up after I have fallen down. I remember that someone once told me that lots of things happen in life that you can’t control, but you can ‘choose your attitude’, you can choose your response and how you decide to react. Another massive part of this is my support network, my family and friends. They are fantastic and I have some amazing role models in my family.
I'd like to thank Ruth for her time and insights, I would also be interested in hearing from Medical professionals with their own market insights; sharing tips for developing, growing and improving their businesses that we can share with the Medical community.