Top team: Liam Currie (left to right), Thomas McLean, Achsah Stewart and Samara Davis have taken Bottle Bolt from concept to launch.

Top team: Liam Currie (left to right), Thomas McLean, Achsah Stewart and Samara Davis have taken Bottle Bolt from concept to launch.

Kiwi kids pack big engineering punch with Holdsafe launch and Bottle Belt

By Greg Robertson, publisher/editor

Starting a business can be a daunting task for anyone, but a group of Year 13 Palmerston North students have taken on the challenges and met every hurdle in their stride to produce a product that not only solves a problem but is turning heads.

Launched in 2017, Holdsafe has a hierarchy, just like any business, and people doing specific jobs relevant to what’s needed to further the business model. It also has a great product.

To get a word or two in with Thomas McLean, in charge at the helm of Holdsafe as general manager, wasn’t easy at SouthMach 2017. In fact, we went back five times before we were free to talk with the Westmount School student.

What attendees to the show were clambering over to get an eye on was a product that fulfils a niche gap… one of those types of things where the need for the product is only obvious to most after the fact of creation: the Holdsafe Bottle Boost. All 100% Kiwi-made.

“We’ve got a great product and a really enthusiastic team full of ideas, YES has given us an opportunity to do business in the real world while still at school,” he says.

Thomas, his team and Holdsafe are all part of The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES). The enterprise programme uses a combination of teachers and members of the business community to provide an experience that is both authentic and relevant to the current world – immersing them in the business environment – where students live and solve real-world business problems. This helps to prepare them for the next step in life, from school to work. Cedric Charles gives this to the young entrepreneurs. He is Holdsafe’s very appreciated mentor and runs his own engineering hardware supply business, Co-Mac, while offering a lifetime of business and industry know-how and support to the students.

Thomas, along with financial advisor Liam Currie, sales and marketing manager Samara Davis and Achsah Stewart form a tight-knit team with enough product enthusiasm to fill any gas bottle, and through trial and error, good business principles, plenty of solid advice from Mr Charles, and a whole lot of initiative have the business model humming.

“From the first prototype of our trolley designed right up to our current patent-pending design, that we have now manufactured; so many invaluable lessons have been learnt through this process,” says Achsah, administration and communications manager.

“Market validation was a biggie for us. We had two strong and very different potential products which we had no idea on how we were going to decide, and many different viewpoints on why it would or wouldn’t sell. Throughout thorough market validation, (opting away from a healthy ice block concept) we chose the Holdsafe trolley.”

The pupils have had a true taste of business where the bell doesn’t ring at 3pm. Normal school hours became “crazy hours” for this group of pupils, and they have now built a website with ‘shop’ capabilities, manufactured the product through concept and design to completion, and have even exhibited at trade shows.

And although it’s a really neat story, it wasn’t the story or their school uniforms that slowed then stopped the foot traffic past their stand at SouthMach; it was a product that fills a gap and provides a solution to a problem.

‘Here at Holdsafe, we’ve got your back!’ is the company’s catch-phrase; the play on words not shying from a troublesome and injury-prone job of bear-hugging gas bottles around the engineering workshop.

Thomas minces no words, while also taking the opportunity to promote a strong angle of sale for the product, he’s learnt fast: “(Are engineering firm owners) Aware of that large grey health and safety cloud that is continually hanging over your head from knowing your engineers aren’t working in accord with the current health and safety regulations?”

And that’s where he says the sturdy and reliable trolley, the Bottle Boost, comes in, designed primarily for safe and easy gas bottle transportation.

The lifting mechanism means effortless manoeuvring of a bottle onto the welding cart, dramatically decreasing pressure and stress on a staff member’s back.

Features include a heavy-duty steel frame, durable puncture-proof wheels, 100kg capacity, easy-to-use adjustable strap, can be used inside or on rugged construction sites and supports any standard industrial gas bottle range.

The Holdsafe team, having developed a way to safely move the bottle with Bottle Boost, then went on to the securing of the gas bottle which resulted in another stand-out product called the Bottle Belt.

Not only does the Bottle Belt secure gas bottles neatly in place but in turn improves OSH compliance and lowers the potential for personal injury. The workshop is a lot neater too.

The future is bright for the Holdsafe team while Bottle Boost and Belt look set to help with a real-world engineering problem while saving a few backs in the process.

YES, determination – no matter the age – can take you everywhere.