Conor Walsh: keeping it reel
Electrician turns inventor to prevent wasting cable
Electrician turns inventor to prevent wasting cable
Sitting in his office, facing Paul White, Conor Walsh recounted his memories of high school, which weren’t particularly fond ones.
“I was terrible in high school. I was really badly behaved in school,” he said. “I was getting excluded, [put in] isolation, report cards, like I was a genuinely bad pupil.”
It’s not those years that have defined his career. The past 10 months, on the other hand, have formed quite a future for the Lancastrian.
In the first half of last year, Walsh gave up his job as an electrician, instead becoming an entrepreneur and creating Reel Help, a device that connects to an electrician’s tool-belt and allows them to measure out the correct length of wiring needed, therefore reducing waste. But it wasn’t straightforward from the start, with the then 23 year old in unfamiliar territory and having to learn from the ground up.
“I couldn’t even use a laptop properly, that was the crazy thing,” he explained. “I’d gone from being an electrician and just working with tools all day, writing certificates by hand and signing them off and stuff like that.
“To buy a MacBook and download all my Word documents that I’ve not touched for years and years and years since being in school was a huge thing. Even structuring an email properly was a nightmare.”
When Walsh was struggling was where his new business partner White stepped in to help.
White has had a wealth of experience as an entrepreneur. He was a councillor in Pendle before founding the Modern Milkman, which aimed to provide a sustainable way to return and reuse dairy packaging.
Now a business consultant and mentor – which is how his partnership with Walsh began – White helped him grow in a new environment.
“I’ve been learning,” said Walsh. “I’ve worked with Paul and I’d ask him which ‘there’ to use, or which ‘where’ to use – it’s been absolutely ridiculous.
“But it was baby steps. It was me just breaking into a new thing that I’ve not done before, like retraining my mind. I’m heavily dyslexic, so that was a massive challenge when we first started off.
“Just using the right software, asking for help around me, using Paul, using an assistant – that was a challenge.”
Walsh aims to have Reel Help on the shelves and being sold by wholesalers this year. The design helped him place third in the Lancashire Innovation Challenge in June 2022, and he took home the Young Innovator Award from Innovate UK earlier this year.
Since creating Reel Help, the 24 year old and White have gone on to form more businesses, including the Patch App, which aims to connect homes with local window cleaning services.
With the UK’s current economic crisis, Walsh said gathering a suitable amount of investment was a significant obstacle to overcome.
“A big challenge was definitely just what’s going on with everything right now,” he said. “We met a number of different angel investors, who laughed at us over the Zoom meetings and basically said you will never raise money in this current climate, especially because we’re a pre-revenue company in Patch App.”
But after raising over £200,000 through private investors, Walsh said being laughed at was the fuel the pair needed to go off and achieve their mission.
“I think it just goes to prove that these big fish investors are really just the same as you and me at the end of the day,” he said. “Everyone’s playing the game and they’re just genuinely bluffing at the end of the day, so you’ve just got to go for it.”
WW Enterprises launched Patch App at the beginning of January, with 25,000 homes now able to use the service.
“And I’m literally today just writing down all the new postcodes that we’re going to move into. So today I’m going to choose 100,000 new houses that I’m ready to set off leaflet dropping and marketing, Facebook marketing and stuff like that.”
There’s a plan for growth that could even take Walsh worldwide. He says he has meetings coming up about opening Patch in the US, and one of their investors is based in New York.
But with the private investment that’s been secured from friends and family, there’s a lot of pressure to make it work.
“The background of the people who have invested their money into us are people who we see on an everyday basis and that we socialise with. We use their pubs or restaurants, we use their business network. There’s a lot riding on it. This has to work, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.
“This isn’t some big angel’s money who just made an investment and if it doesn’t work that’s his fault for making the wrong investment. This is people who have put their trust in us and we’ve told them that we are going to put our blood, sweat and tears into something to make it happen.”
Now Walsh is also keen to help the next generation of entrepreneurs like himself, by setting up a new group to provide support for anyone with a business idea.
“We’re setting up a new site called letsgetit.uk because we want to facilitate a community for people of any age, any background, people with no business or those who already do,” he said.
“We want to help people be successful entrepreneurs and it’s a group for people to communicate with experts and help grow their own ideas.”