Michael Harkins’ company TURTLE PACK, based at the University of Stirling Innovation Park has won £110,000 in prizes from the Scottish Edge Fund to develop his business.
Michael received the 2nd highest cash prize at the Scottish Edge awards ceremony as he won £100,000 in the Scottish Edge and £10,000 in the Wildcard Edge. Turtle Pack will be using the funding to build the team, manufacture the product, expand the IP and grow the brand.
“I am truly thrilled to win this money which will help me develop my product and my business - Turtle Pack - an award winning swimming aid for children which aims to remove anxiety, build confidence and develop life skills,” says Michael, (24) from Livingston.
Michael’s eureka moment came from his experience running the Dolphins Swim School, where he could see how children using traditional swimming aids such as arm bands, noodles and floats were developing the wrong swimming technique. Inspired, Michael set out to invent a swimming aid to solve these problems. Turtle Pack works by reducing the buoyancy required in stages, as a child’s confidence and co-ordination improves. The child’s arms are free so they can swim with no restrictions and in the correct horizontal body position. The progressional aspect challenges the swimmer to work harder. It also rewards them visually each time a “shell” is removed. It’s fun and enjoyable to use.
Michael started his business whilst studying an undergraduate Masters in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Heriot Watt university in 2015. He took part in the Sports Innovation Challenge programme run by The University of Stirling Innovation Park’s Sporting Chance Initiative. Winning one of their first awards of cash, space in their incubator unit The Sport Hive and free business mentoring from their team, helped him to develop what was to become an award winning product idea.
“My passion is teaching children how to swim and I have had the great pleasure of doing this since I was only 15 years old,” he continues. “The advice and support, and most importantly belief in me that I got from the team at Sporting Chance Initiative has been invaluable.”
Dr John Rogers, Chair of the University of Stirling Innovation Park and Director of Research & Innovation Services at the University of Stirling says “Michael is quite rightly recognised as one of Scotland’s top young entrepreneurs. His business journey began when he took part in the Sports Innovation Challenge, and I’m certain he’ll be an inspiration to other aspiring student entrepreneurs across Scotland.”
Ryan Carenduff, Michael’s mentor at Sporting Chance Initiative says: “I first met Michael when his idea was just a rough sketch on a piece of paper, so to see him win such a fantastic award and amount of money is incredibly rewarding. Michael’s passion and commitment have seen him go from strength to strength and the experience he’s gained from working with our partners at organisations such as the Royal Society of Edinburgh make him the perfect “Entrepreneur in Residence” here at the Sport Hive, Scotland and the UK’s first sports business incubator.”