Arnold du Toit is the founder of Drive Daddy, a company that manufacturers a product called the ‘RolleyGolf’, the first powered golf trolley you can hop-on and ride as well as store in a small car boot.
Arnold started the company when he was just 21 years old during his final year of university studies.
In November, 2011 he was named as the winner of PC World Business' competition to find Britain’s best young entrepreneur, winning the Generation Y Not? competition for setting up Drive Daddy.
Q: You were just 21 years old and still at university when you created Drive Daddy, what inspired you to do so?
A: I always had a passion for building useful things and selling them as a kid. In my final year at London South Bank University that was still the case. I met some amazing entrepreneurs who also went to LSBU and started their own successful businesses with a unique course called the 'Enterprise Associate Scheme' (EAS), offered exclusively at LSBU. These entrepreneurs, including James Barnham from Nova-Flo, were real inspirations and LSBU invested in me through this course, allowing me to grow my passion into a business.
Q: Had you always envisioned setting up a business within the golf and leisure industry?
A: I love golf but I never envisioned working within the industry itself. Business and golf met through the RolleyGolf and a marriage was made. Golf is a great marketplace, with innovation flourishing to improve the game, meaning there is a lot of support for revolutionary products. The leisure industry, especially golf, also happens to be booming in the recession along with luxury goods in general. It was a real “in the right place, at the right time” scenario.
Q: Turning an idea into a business ultimately requires some level of funding – how did you manage to achieve this especially given that you were still a university student at the time?
A: I mentioned briefly in my answer to the first question that London South Bank University have an incredible scheme called the 'Enterprise Associate Scheme' which I was awarded a place on. This scheme not only funds you for two years, but provides worldwide IP support and protection, Proof of concept and development funding, office space, and a state-of-the-art prototyping facility to build your products and get them to market successfully. They also pay for you to complete a masters degree in enterprise and mentoring to help guide you through the journey. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I owe it to them for my success.
Q: The business has developed from the creation of an innovative product, the ‘RolleyGolf’. Would you describe yourself as more of an inventor or an entrepreneur?
A: There is a bridge between invention and innovation. To me that bridge is being an entrepreneur. The invention is an un-signed cheque in some ways. An entrepreneur finds the correct people to fill in the blanks, but also has to cash it. Sorry for using such an analogy, but in my business the IP I have created in Drive Daddy is the blank cheque. It will not only be applicable to golf alone, but has even bigger potential in other emerging electric vehicle markets, who as we know are looking to get the most from a single product. That’s the filling in the blanks part. Getting the clients to seal the deal is the cashing-in part. That is why I know I am an entrepreneur.
Q: The golf and leisure industry is a highly competitive one, what made you believe that your product could be a commercial success?
A: Mainly gut-feeling, however commercial success is down to really solving a problem. That’s what the RolleyGolf does, it really changes lives. We have some great clients who were finding that they couldn’t complete a whole round of golf by walking anymore and thanks to the RolleyGolf, were able to play their favourite sport once again. We’ve even had non-golfers converting to the sport after trying the RolleyGolf.
Q: How did you set about marketing the product?
A: Well the EAS only invested in the product development side of things so I had limited funds, meaning that marketing was where I needed to be creative. Guerrilla marketing has a lot of ‘ump’ and being an entrepreneur you network like crazy. So through a mentor of mine, I was introduced to a small start-up called Yawn Creative. These chaps fell in love with the product and helped build the brand, despite no funding but purely because they believed it would take off and took what turned out to be a well-judged risk. So along with Yawn and my mentor I set about spreading the word across London and nearby golf clubs. At no cost we were suddenly invited to feature in magazines, events, and shows worldwide. Even Governments invited us to showcase the product in the hope we could generate potential assembly jobs in their regions. That’s the magic behind inventions; if you market them correctly they become viral.
Q: Overall, what are the biggest challenges that you have faced so far in terms of running the business?
A: If you have a great idea, and you have the drive and passion for business, then you tend to sell before anyone else can keep up. This was always my hurdle. The demand grew very quickly and we were limited by resources. This meant that we had to delay orders and manage expectations. It’s a 'catch 22' situation for most entrepreneurs, you either shout loudly and tell the world about your product, hoping for global attention or grow quietly and risk never being noticed. I believe a healthy dose of disruptive influence is the right medicine.
Q: What would you say are the three most important characteristics that an individual must possess in order to be a success in business?
A: In three words; integrity, honesty and drive. By exhibiting those three characteristics, you can be safe in the knowledge that even if you fail at least you’ve held on to who you are and that the people around you won't be let down. This means you'll be a success no matter what happens.
Q: What are the advantages of running your own business?
A: Hopefully anyone who starts a business does so to change someone’s life for the better. Sometimes it can even change the world. By running your own business with such a vision you ensure that all processes are channelled according to your own gut-feeling. The amazing thing about being your own boss is that you create an opportunity for more people to share your vision and thus create new and exciting jobs within innovation, and as I mentioned before, innovation is infectious.
Q: What are the disadvantages? For example, is it sometimes difficult to create a work/social life balance?
A: We've all heard of the saying ’lonely at the top’ -well, that is a little bit true. Each entrepreneur sits on top of his/her empire, defending and protecting it from naysayers but there is a unique balance to cultivate. The stress and worry regarding not letting people down can become overwhelming and for that reason this balance is crucial to harness. Make sure you spend time with your loved ones and keep them in the loop. This way they don’t just assume success from you but will support you in ways you don't always see. However, when the wheels start shaking, suddenly they are the ones that are able to provide you with solutions. Good and Bad news via Twitter, emails, Facebook, whatever it is - just make sure you do it.
Q: Do you think SMEs are to play an important part in the recovery of the British economy? If so, why?
A: You may have heard in the news recently about a new initiative called the ‘Youth Investment Fund’ which has been supported by Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Media. I’m pleased to say that the ‘Youth Investment Fund’ has now been turned into a reality as the Government recently announced a £10m ‘Youth Enterprise Loan’. Young people are undoubtedly the future, but so many in recent years have been leaving university with lots of debt and without a job to go into. I supported the ‘Youth Investment Fund’ campaign because it centred on the idea of entrepreneurs being able to loan money from the Government to back their new ventures using a pay-back scheme similar to university loans. The money loaned can be used to create new jobs and encourage growth so yes, in my opinion start-ups and SMEs will be hugely important to the recovery of the British economy.
Q: What are your plans for the business going forward?
A: Currently my focus is on ensuring that our current clients are looked after and happy. Then the next step is to develop the unique TWINDRIVE technology and Rolley Mechanism in Drive Daddy into emerging electric vehicle markets. We are already in early discussions with airports, media companies, security agencies and the latest environmentally-friendly resorts. RolleyGolf has sparked the imagination of some of the most influential figures within these markets and I believe the IP can sustain clean and environmental growth in all of them which is the most exciting aspect of my business.