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Master of (re)invention

From humble beginnings as the son of a hardworking professional couple from Beverley, Jonathan Elvidge has become known as a master of invention.

But it’s his knack for re-invention that has proved most invaluable to him during his eminent business career, as he will explain at our next InspiringBusiness2018 seminar on 27 September.

Aptly, Jonathan was speaking to us from the Bluedot festival at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester, for this blog.

“My life has very much been characterised by Dr Who-style reinvention,” he said.

“My earliest memory is of the Apollo moon landings and my destiny has been shaped by my interest in science and engineering, and basically trying to fix things.”

It was his Gadget Shop success that really pressed Jonathan into the public eye and got him known as an entrepreneur inventor.

“I’ve basically gone through my life getting frustrated at problems and asking ‘why hasn’t someone come up with a solution to this?’,” he added.

“I guess what’s set me apart in business, is that I’ve then gone on to try to find the answer.

“The Gadget Shop was borne out of me asking why someone hadn’t invented a solution for people who couldn’t think what present to buy someone.”

Serial breakthroughs

Jonathan started his career as a telephone engineer and was 28 when he achieved his first success with the Gadget Shop. He then lost control as part of a financial restructure and it folded. Three years later, he then established a new iteration of the concept with a colleague Joth Baron, called Red5.

Other businesses he’s established include Monocle Madness, which he started as a fix for people losing their reading glasses, as an accessory they could always carry around their necks.

And he has worked with inventor friend Richard Pennack on Sealatech (Richard’s idea) which produces a specially-designed cap for sealant guns, to avoid that annoying issue all DIYers have experienced at some point, where leftover sealant goes off in its tube after every first use.

He got so fed up with the lack of a convenience store on trendy Humber Street where he works, that he teamed up with entrepreneur and friend Phil Benson and they opened their own shop, called The Store on Pier Street. “I just wanted somewhere I could buy a basic sandwich and a drink,” he said.

Something new

And he’ll be talking about his latest joint venture concept at our forthcoming seminar – Moodbeam – a mood-tracking ‘wearable’ he has created with fellow local entrepreneur Christina Colmer-McHugh to allow the user to log their Moods and for the first time really see how they feel.

“Moodbeam is currently in the final stages of development and will be in production shortly and available early next year,” explained Jonathan.

“Essentially, it works like the kinds of fitness trackers we all wear these days, but instead of tracking someone’s physical fitness, it can log their emotional wellbeing, which in many ways can be even more important to their overall health.

“Initially, we envisaged it helping parents to keep a connection with their child’s emotional wellbeing when they weren’t with them, but we’ve realised its potential is much more far-reaching than that, in terms of monitoring everything from wellbeing in the workplace to identifying patterns and triggers around depression, anxiety and stress and many other aspects of mental health.

“Discussing mental health was still something of a taboo when we started on our Moodbeam journey but now, thankfully, people are increasingly open to talking about their issues, and we hope our invention will prove invaluable in understanding how people feel and what’s impacting on that.”

It takes bravery and stamina

So Jonathan continues to invent on an almost daily basis, but it’s the importance of reinvention in business that he’ll be focusing on at our late-September event, something that, once again, he has done many times.

“I guess the difference between the average person and an entrepreneur is that the entrepreneur will ask ‘why isn’t there a…?’ and then develop that question to ‘why don’t I…?’.

“Then, actually bringing that idea to fruition is the really challenging part and you have to accept that there will be massive highs and lows, and problems you have to overcome, along your journey to business success.

“Turning a vision into reality involves an element of managed risk and the person who succeeds will be the one who is pragmatic enough to see every failure as a learning experience.”

Jonathan is now 54, and has been in business for almost 30 years. He started out in a simple working family from Beverley. Mum Barbara was a nurse and dad Ken was a hospital engineer, and they met at work.

“Dad was a teenager during the war and they were both of that era where money was tight, and stability and securing a steady home, job and family, were the most important things. They didn’t really understand where I was coming from in business, but were proud of my success nevertheless,” concluded Jonathan.

“I got my inspiration from reading lots of books about successful business people and realising that they were actually just ordinary like me, and it didn’t take money or education or natural intelligence to become a success.”

“In fact, I think being ordinary (in a nice sense of the word) really helped me, because it connects you with the mainstream and often your frustrations are theirs too.”

And, as his latest Moodbeam project shows, Jonathan doesn’t intend to stop recreating himself for many years to come.

If you would like to hear more of his pearls of wisdom, you can hear him speak at our FREE InspiringBusiness2018 seminar, book here.

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