Growth on the drawing board

Freeload founder Pat Maguire says the city has proven to be a great place to start and continue...
Freeload founder Pat Maguire says the city has proven to be a great place to start and continue growing a design-based business. Photo by Jane Dawber.
''You've got to put yourself out there and aim for the top'' - that's the mantra of Dunedin designer Pat Maguire.

Mr Maguire is the founder of Freeload, a design innovation company he set up to design and commercialise his invention of a fully adjustable, self-securing bicycle carrier rack.

Earlier this year, Freeload signed an intellectual property (IP) deal with global brand Thule, alongside a contract to design further load-carrying products for bikes.

Now Mr Maguire and his board have established a new, yet to be named, design innovation company that will become the parent company to several design-based products and IP companies.

He was particularly excited about that latest development, which allowed the team to continue consulting and providing products to the likes of Thule, but also gave them the creative freedom to develop their own designs or products for commercialising themselves or with other companies.

Already, the company has plans to reinvest a third of its 2013 revenues on new products and IP, targeting high-profile international clients with global markets.

Mr Maguire, who grew up in Dunedin, started his working life at Farra Engineering. Following a stint living and working in Nelson, he returned to Dunedin and worked at Otago Polytechnic, where he founded the industrial design degree and the Evolver production innovation model.

He completed his master of entrepreneurship degree at the University of Otago's Business School in 2004.

It was when Mr Maguire finished his master's that he decided he wanted to set up his own business, having identified an opportunity to develop a global product.

He had always wanted to develop a product and sell it globally, focusing on that international market straight away. That was something he learned when developing design and innovation programmes at the polytechnic.

''You've got to put yourself out there and aim for the top,'' he said.

By the mid-2000s, virtually every part of the bicycle had been redeveloped and the only part he could see that was still under-developed was the way it carried loads, he said.

While carriers had mostly been taken off modern bikes,he saw an opportunity to createa carrier that could fit withthe latest technology.

Ironically, one of the companies he was inspired by, from a design point of view, was Thule, a brand that was established in Sweden in 1942 and sold a wide range of accessories to simplify the transportation of gear and equipment. He saw an opportunity to do for bikes what Thule did for cars. He had always felt very confident about the product, saying that he knew he was ''on to something''.

Mr Maguire initially approached Thule in 2007 to try to sell it the idea of the Freeload racks but he admitted it was ''a bit early''.

Two years later, the company saw it at a trade show and the chief executive rang Mr Maguire at home.

Building on the success of the IP deal with Thule, the Freeload team has since won two awards for it at the Eurobike Awards in Germany in August this year, one for a breakthrough handlebar rack and the other for a pannier attachment system.

For Freeload, and now the new direction, Dunedin had proven to be a great place to start and continue growing a design-based business, with a very supportive business and education community, Mr Maguire said.

The team of four full-time designers, including Mr Maguire, were all shareholders in Freeload. With the increase in design and development work, an increase in staff numbers was possible next year.

While ''everyone'' was focusing on high-tech and developing applications at the moment, a lot of the work the companywas doing was low-tech and customer-driven. It was about creating a product that enhanced the experience of a person. In their case, it was about outdoor lifestyle, leisure and recreation, he said.

A major key to the company's success had been working in an area that not many others were working in - timing the development and opportunity ''when no-one's in the space''.

And knowing what he could achieve was why Mr Maguire kept going.

''To me, this is only the start. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing,'' he said.

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