Forget the frozen peas with the Swellaway

Richard Mills
Richard Mills
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Did someone say gap in the market?

Richard Mills picked up a knock playing football one day, limped home and raided the freezer for a bag of peas, like millions before him.

And, while attempting to use the bulky, melting, mess of vegetables - that threatened to give him frostbite when its contents weren’t spilling on the floor - he had a Eureka moment.

Create something better.

Imagine the thrill of Googling a market and finding an almost complete lack of products. He saw something which pumps cold water from a bucket into a body wrap, but nothing more hi-tech than that.

But he did see lots of photos of top football players clutching lumpy ice bags to arms or ankles.

“I was looking at other product ideas at the same time. But after a year of research it just became so, so obvious.

“Even this year in the World Cup I saw Ronaldo with a bag of ice held on with tape. It was shocking, there was no tech to it whatsoever!”

Once Richard had figured out how a product could work - cooling systems similar to those used in computers - he approached Sheffield Hallam University’s Design Futures service.

It took two years but together they did it.

The Swellaway comprises a neoprene wrap with a box of electronics on top which uses a heat sink and fan to draw heat from the body.

It can hit zero in one minute - flick a switch and it can reach 40 degrees in less time than that. Users set precise temperatures and timings with a remote control - unlike a bag of peas.

But there’s more. Inside the wrap is a compression strap which helps reduce swelling and can massage the area in sync with heart rate to keep blood flowing.

Richard says it can reduce recovery time by 80 per cent and a portfolio of wraps means it can be used on almost anywhere on the body.

The device is currently being put through its paces by University of Central Lancashire sports specialists who say it is “game changing”, he adds.

But that’s jumping ahead.

Initially, he targeted the equine market and built 40 prototypes for race horses.

He hired a marketing company which found most stables simply hosed down hot animals, with huge variations in time and accuracy from leg to leg.

Several yards were given the Swellaway for a week and 99 per cent said they would buy it, he smiles.

When he reporting these findings to the board of his company they realised they were missing a huge opportunity - and decided to fast-track a version for humans which is set to launch in June next year.

So far Swellaway has signed a deal with the country’s biggest equine equipment supplier for 1,500 units. As for the human version, millions of pounds are being raised to take it to market.

Richard says he is “quite confident” the money will be raised.

As for Wayne Rooney, Richard says the Swellaway was his first private investment.

He added: “I knew that to have him endorse my product would be worth millions. I approached his management, Triple S Sports, and they invited me to pitch. They bought into it - it’s a win, win situation for us both.”