We have talked to Michael Omotosho, the founder of Tosho & Co., a company designing consumer products which solve everyday problems that people might come across when using standard products. For example, standard plugs can be very difficult to remove from sockets. Those with no limitations to their movement or ability to use their hands and arms can see it as a small issue that might take only a few more seconds to solve, but for anyone with limited movement, it can significantly affect their comfort of living.
Problems like that are often overlooked by the majority of people, but Tosho & Co. are here to recognise them and offer inclusive solutions promoting independent living. Keep on reading to learn more about Michael and his company!
Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Michael Omotosho. I’m an Industrial designer and maker. I have always wanted to be a designer/ inventor of some sort for as long as I can remember. When I was younger I loved drawing and creating. I also liked to take things apart to see how they worked and put them back together again.
In 2019, I felt passionate enough about this to quit my job as a design engineer and focus on my business (at least part-time). Recently I took the plunge again and quit my part-time job to give my all to my business.
When I’m not designing and creating I enjoy spending time with my family – my wife and three young boys.
Tell us about your business
Tosho and Co. is a Yorkshire based design-led consumer goods company founded in 2019. It’s a two part set up company, one part focuses on project collaborations with companies and the other focuses on in-house design-led projects and collaborations.
The first (main) product for Tosho and Co. is Plugull. Plugull plug pull is a solution for removing stiff and fiddly plugs with limited or no grip from sockets to make everyday chores easier. It is very simple to use and aids in removing plugs with limited or no grip from sockets. It also does this without breaking electrical connections with devices, is very easy to attach and use and is great for cable management with a glow in the dark option for nighttime visibility.
Plugull solves an obvious but overlooked problem of pulling out stiff or fiddly plugs from sockets. This problem is common (but not exclusive) to those who have arthritis, loss of dexterity, long nails or sweaty hands.
Our main areas of focus are on designing thoughtful, sustainable and inclusive products, and encouraging independence and better living. This is achieved by designing “with” rather than “for” people, trusting their knowledge, listening to their experiences, and seeing things from their perspective. This is what sets us apart, making us competitive and innovative – having a product that not only addresses but also meets and impacts social issues.
What inspired you to start your business?
I started my company with the aim of making products that find clever and practical solutions to everyday problems.
This is something I have always been passionate about from a young age – using empathy to understand and solve problems, designing products for inclusivity, championing independence, and speaking for the majority of people.
I felt inspired to fix problems around me as well as making a social impact where I could. I also wanted to put forward purposeful solutions and put out products that I wanted to see for myself. We can sometimes be content with managing our problems rather than tackling them head-on and engaging in actual problem-solving.
What has changed for you since starting the business?
As a business what we realised in our journey, is that we are constantly evolving and reactive to things around us regardless of how well we plan at times. From launching a business at the start of the pandemic, to changing the business platform to an online presence and having to rethink how else to create a community and generate sales, we are still refining and changing little by little while staying true to our core values.
Even recently, we changed our brand and image from Plugull to Tosho and Co. This will help create an outlet for further inclusive products without limitations, meaning we will be solving problems in various environments from indoors to outdoors, living room to bathrooms etc.
Personally, what has changed for me is realising that there is no one way of doing things in business. There are various opportunities that can lead you to where you hope to be. I now understand it takes a trial of different methods and going down various avenues to achieve something. I have become more open-minded on my entrepreneurial journey and I believe it’s best to make mistakes early and learn from them now rather than later.
What did the process of developing the product look like?
The design solution for Plugull came about by recreating and understanding the plug pulling problems. Having done research into what exists in the market, it became obvious that most solutions did not have much thought given to simplicity, empathy, ease of use, and how users should interact with products in living space/environment and had no aesthetic appeal.
After my research, I proceeded to sketch my ideal plug pull and went on to design this using 3D modelling CAD software. I then rendered this on the computer to see the conceptual design and shared these images with friends and family to get their feedback on the potential product. Once I received this, I prototyped (3D printed) the design to see how functional and feasible it would be.
Once I got to this point, I began to look for a local manufacturer and source material for the product that would be recyclable, safe and compliant with safety standards. I finally found one I was happy to work with and that met my requirements. They were able to create a mould for my product and send samples of this.
However, I faced a setback with this first product sample batch and had to go back to my design board and alter the product, making it thinner to ensure it met the electrical safety standard. This then meant going to the manufacturer and having a new mould made which cost more money.
I worked on Plugull and went from design to market in a little over a year.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I think it’s the idea that there are no limits. It usually appears there are but I love that if you stay the course you usually discover that there’s a way around every problem. Being an entrepreneur and working for myself means I get to discover these and understand myself better through the challenges that come with running a business.
If you were to give yourself some advice before starting your business, what would it be?
Keep pushing and don’t give up on yourself. I was close to giving up on my idea when I had issues along the way, but what kept me going was that my ideas are valid and if others can do so can I.
Are you an entrepreneur in the chronic pain space?
Reach out to us if you are a business owner with products and solutions dedicated to people experiencing pain. Supporting the chronic pain community is one of the pillars of our mission and we will be happy to tell the story of your business on our platform. You can contact us by sending an email to [email protected].