The Entrepreneur: Jonathan Cridland, Lumie

CEO of the company which helps treat SAD, Cridland reflects on raising funding, wishful thinking and selling his previous business "too early"

CEO: Jonathan Cridland
Company: Lumie
Website: www.lumie.com
Description in one line: Lumie has been researching, designing and developing light therapy products for over 20 years and we are Europe’s leading specialist in this field
Previous companies: CCI – a sporting goods business that I sold in 2005 to a private investor group
Turnover: Approaching £10m
12 month target: Up! As a private company we don’t have the pressures of meeting stock market or venture capital short-term targets

Business growth

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Lumie specialises in consumer healthcare products based on light. Our lights treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sleep conditions and skincare.
  • We invented the world’s first wake-up light alarm clock with our Bodyclock range.
  • Being Cambridge based with a talented technical team and close academic links has helped to create our comprehensive product range.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Being instrumental in introducing light therapy to the mainstream – Lumie Bodyclock wake-up lights and our bright lights are growing and growing in popularity as people understand they make a really positive difference to the quality of their sleep/wake patterns, as well as their energy, focus and productivity during the day.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Orders and actual sales. We’re a seasonal business and need to be on the ball for planning stock so we can meet demand. We’re able to drill down into the sales being achieved by our large retail customers and this also helps us monitor the success of marketing campaigns

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

Lumie products are available worldwide through lumie.com and distributors in some countries. Our key overseas markets are France, Germany, Scandinavia and Australia. North America remains a big opportunity for us. We export to overseas customers using FedEx who helps us identify the best markets for our products, and who helps us successfully get our products into our customers’ hands on time, while ensuring service levels remain consistent throughout the year.

Describe your growth funding path:

Lumie is a private company with most of its funding provided through long-term loans from its shareholders. This is supplemented as and when needed by bank finance. It’s not in our plans to go for a quote on AIM or otherwise.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

We’re in a field with plenty of research being carried out. The most significant research relates to light spectrum and to the discovery some years ago that people have a non-visual receptor in their eyes called melanopsin. This is known as the third receptor, the two visual receptors being rods and cones. Light technology has been driven with the move in recent years to LEDs in particular, though the halogen bulb still has lots to recommend it as it’s able to mimic the colours of a sunrise so well and brighten so smoothly. Getting the light right is always our priority.

Smart technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) look set to be important before long, though I’m a firm believer in the need for new technology to have a real benefit in use.

How will your market look in three years?

Differing types of light can be used to treat many conditions, as further research come out there will be opportunities for more applications to improve people’s life with light. Technology is moving ahead at a rapid pace, in particular smart technology and IoT. It’s hard to predict how this will pan out but it looks likely to bring about changes.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

We would like to continue to grow. Our focus is to strengthen sales and brand awareness in markets where we already have a presence. Getting a foothold in the United States would be good to open up new possibilities. We’re working away to create new products to support our business growth and make a difference in people’s lives.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Raising funds through the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) for a previous business and getting an AIM quote – the amount was too small to interest most institutions whilst large for many private investors. Once we’d succeeded with that, further fundraising was much easier; investors did well.

What was your biggest business mistake?

The sale of my last business. I sold too early and, in retrospect, could have achieved a much better return. That said I was pleased with the deal at the time so don’t regret it.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Our products are all medical devices, certified to the Medical Devices Directive (EC93/42) – the regulatory process involved in this is becoming ever more complex and is a key consideration in new product development.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Over optimism, real problems result from setting cost and overhead structures based on wishful thinking that fails to materialise  – it’s great to have plenty of optimism and set high targets but plan based on very realistic assumptions then anything achieved over and above will be a bonus.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Make sure your business proposition is strong and your plan stacks up, then focus your efforts on trying to create excellence in your concept, products or service – and persevere when the going is invariably tough.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

The freedom that comes with running one’s own business.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Each to their own, there’s plenty of success either way. Many truly successful entrepreneurs just get on and do it. Personally I have a business background having qualified as a chartered accountant, much of what I learnt has been pretty useful in running businesses.

What would make you a better leader?

Honing my communications skills – important both internally and externally to the success of any organisation.

Business book:

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

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