Sheffield Business Awards 2014 finalist Mills tells how playing it cool made him a winner

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Sheffielder Richard Mills had his eureka moment while nursing a football injury with a bag of frozen peas.

He thought there had to be a better way – but Googled it and found there wasn’t a product on the market that could rival the effectiveness of a bag of Birdseye’s finest on the pain and swelling caused by injury.

So he set about creating one. Swellaway, a unique, electronically-controlled hi-tech medical device which can hit zero or 40 degrees in seconds, and contains a compression strap which massages the swollen area in synch with heart rate, is about to go to market.

It won Richard’s company Swellaway Ltd the Next Big Thing accolade at last year’s Sheffield Business Awards – and, he says, it helped his company ten-fold.

“Last winter we were trying to attract investment but a lot of people hadn’t heard of us and what we were trying to achieve,” says Richard.

“The Sheffield Business Awards were a brilliant platform for us publicity-wise. And winning gave us that extra validation. It got people’s attention and made them want to learn more about us.

“We successfully raised a six-figure sum to carry out vital product development and research.”

One of those investors is Wayne Rooney – Richard, 40, won over the Manchester United star with a live demonstration. The company is now pitching for second-round funding of £1mi which will take the product to market in February.

The device has great potential for sporting injuries and is currently being put through its paces by university sports scientists, but the first round of sales will be to the horse-racing and show-jumping industry. Swellaway has signed a deal with the UK’s biggest equine equipment supplier for 1,500 units.

Richard says: “The business awards are a great flagship for the great things happening in Sheffield and a brilliant platform for the companies who make it to the podium.

“The awards night was also a good networking opportunity for us. We made links with Anchor Magnets, who won the Environmental Award, and are looking at the health schemes run by Outstanding Achievement in Sports, Hospitality and Tourism winners Westfield Health.

“Since the awards we have grown to 10 employees and we want to look after them.”