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Enterprise Hub Network - Case History

Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Hub
Martin Brassell


Company Background

TommyCan Ltd founder and product development director Martin Slack came up with his business idea in 2004, after a number of years working as a sound engineer and composer in feature films and advertising. He set up the business in 2007.

The TommyCan concept is an innovative petrol/diesel canister that makes carrying spare fuel for a vehicle cleaner and easier, and also offers significant environmental benefits – with escalating fuel costs, the fact that TommyCan products eliminate spillage and reduce evaporation puts them streets ahead of the competition.

Key to the concept is an innovative nozzle design that makes filling and pouring much faster and cleaner, while virtually eliminating odour and evaporation, and reducing fire hazard.

Other design innovations make the product more eye-catching and user-friendly than competitor products, many of which have not enjoyed the benefits of design improvements for many years.

The TommyCan product has been developed in association with the Centre for Rapid Design and Manufacture in High Wycombe. The range consists of three fuel cans, in five, 10 and 20 litre sizes, suitable for both petrol and diesel storage. Functionally and aesthetically superior to any other products currently available, Martin Slack believes that there is strong potential for the products to make inroads into UK and overseas markets.

The benefits of the TommyCan product are likely to be most keenly felt by diesel users, who are legally able to carry spare fuel in ten litre cans, but who are often resistant to do so because diesel is so messy and smelly to handle. TommyCan’s enhanced functionality will remove most of these concerns.

UK patents are being secured, and key manufacturing and distribution partners in the UK and the US have been brought on board. The plan is to develop these markets first, and then to investigate and tap into other markets as appropriate.

Work with the Enterprise Hub

TommyCan has been working with Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Hub since the business started, and has received wide-ranging assistance including:

  • Securing grant funding under the Pocket Scheme from Finance South East
  • Advice on producing the business plan
  • Securing - through the British Library – market investigations into the scale of the commercial opportunity
  • Ongoing access to networking opportunities and strategic advice

Martin Slack said: “The quality of the advice and support that we continue to receive from Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Hub is outstanding. To secure the services of a comparable business expert commercially, I believe I would have to give someone a 30 per cent equity share in the company – the Hub really has been that good.

“The quality of business support organisations varies a lot, but I believe many more people would get involved with their local Enterprise Hub if they realised that this is an organisation that genuinely wants to deliver.”

Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Hub director Martin Brassell said:  “The TommyCan concept will revitalise the market for portable fuel cans. Martin Slack has put in an enormous amount of work to turn a great idea into a highly commercial product, and he is at the point now where he should soon start to see that effort paying off.”

What’s next

The first products will be rolled out during the summer of 2008, and, after that, investigations will continue into new overseas markets, and applications will be made for patents in suitable territories. With this in mind, TommyCan2 is enrolling on the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) ‘Passport to Export’ programme, to secure specialist and advice and support to help in ensuring success in overseas markets.

The company is also actively investing in a number of product range enhancements.

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