Words by Lucy Cornes
Could Cornwall be the best place in the world to run a business? We find out why the Duchy is attracting more talent than ever before.
Those of us who call Cornwall home count our blessings on a regular basis. And one of those blessings is the fact that we share this beautiful part of the country with a band of aspirational entrepreneurs, keen to make their mark. This little peninsula is known globally as a rural centre for innovation, sustainability, and creativity; every year the ranks of pioneering people and businesses based in Cornwall swell - drawn to these shores by the pull of coastal living, but lots of other factors besides.
One entrepreneur who recently joined ‘brand Cornwall’ is David Trotter, Inventor and Founder of muggi. This colourful range of plastic drinks trays, dubbed ‘the world’s most versatile drinks carriers’, are deceptively simple in appearance but have won multiple awards for intelligent design. Manufactured in the UK, muggi are sold to a huge variety of end-users across the world, including people with mobility issues for whom they can literally be life changing.
David explains: “The muggi is incredibly durable and has non-slip feet, so will remain stationary on any surface. It’s great for preventing spillages and so is popular in all manner of work environments where spills frequently cause serious accidents.”
For elderly people or those with reduced mobility, using a muggi can improve quality of life. “People can carry drinks on their lap while in a wheelchair or have a spare hand to help negotiate the stairs,” says David. “It’s these little things which provide an important sense of independence. Using a muggi to prevent coffee spilling on the deck of your yacht is one thing, but inventing something which an elderly care home resident, or a young person with cerebral palsy, uses every day to give them a sense of self-empowerment – that’s what I’m most proud of.”
David moved his home and muggi HQ to Porth Kea near Truro in early 2020, after a long association with the region. In fact, the design was originally conceived on a sailing trip from France back to Cornwall, when avid inventor David set out to solve the problem of safely holding and carrying drinks in challenging environments; his invention would go on to be embraced by sailors and other outdoor enthusiasts worldwide for its lightness, durability and practicality.
“It feels like muggi has come home,” says David, who is renting a property and office convenient for both Truro and Falmouth whilst he searches for a permanent base. “I am really excited to see what the future holds for muggi, and we have all sorts of ambitions for growth and diversification.” David joins other internationally respected leaders and organisations based in Cornwall, as the region continues to forge its worldwide reputation. “Cornwall is known as a region where creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability all thrive – that’s why we want to be here above all else,” says David.
Since David moved his HQ to Cornwall, production of the entire muggi range has moved to 100% recycled plastic – including recovered marine plastic and discarded fishing nets. David explains: “We’ve been rapidly incorporating recycled plastic into our production systems for the last few years, keeping pace with advances in technology. We use a mixture of post-industrial plastic, household plastic, and – most recently – marine plastic. In this I’ve been particularly inspired by getting to know a charitable organisation called Clean Ocean Sailing, who are based at Gweek.” David reuses the ghost fishing nets and other plastic Clean Ocean Sailing recover off the Cornish coast, incorporating it into muggi production. “As muggi was inspired by a journey on the ocean, this is a satisfying closing of the loop,” says David.
He also has big ambitions for Cornwall to become a centre for the processing of this marine plastic. “At the moment we have to send it away to be cleaned and prepared for reprocessing into other products,” David explains. “I’m working with various other local organisations and businesses to try and set up a processing plant here in the region, so that Cornwall will truly become a pioneer in recovering and recycling ocean plastic.”
One of the founding principles of muggi is to drive this kind of positive environmental and social change – something it has in common with lots of new and growing businesses based in Cornwall. According to HR expert Sue Hook, Founder and Director of Client Development at Sapience HR, environmental stewardship is an intrinsic part of running a business in Cornwall. “Whether you’re running a farm, a restaurant or designing the next generation of solar panels, there’s an overriding sense of responsibility,” says Sue. “Brands with a strong environmental ethos will benefit from being based in Cornwall, where they will find many kindred spirits.”
However, there are many other great reasons for new and growing businesses to base themselves in Cornwall. “There is a lot of business support available, including help for start-ups, rental space at innovation centres, networking platforms and growth hubs,” Sue explains. Generally, Cornwall has great connectivity thanks to the roll out of Superfast broadband. There are also exciting developments taking place at Goonhilly, where a new green data centre uses immersion cooling and takes advantage of Cornwall’s location at the junction of global subsea cables, satellite feeds and fibre. Designed to meet the needs of automotive, life sciences and space/aerospace marketplaces, developments like this could see Cornwall becoming a hub for cutting-edge industries.
Cornwall has long been home to a fierce creative spirit, which these days manifests itself in everything from filmmaking to web design, photography to branding. “There can be few rural areas with such a concentration of creative talent,” says Sue, who herself lived abroad and in other UK areas before being drawn irresistibly back to Cornwall to start her HR company. “Business owners will find world-class professional and creative services on their doorstep here in Cornwall,” Sue confirms. From design agencies to copywriting services, PR agencies to production companies, the peninsula is one of the big magnets for talent outside of London.
However, one of the major pull factors is undoubtedly the Cornish lifestyle. For David, this was a big attraction. “I love to sail, kayak, walk etc – all of those things fuel my working life. The product I designed is great for the outdoors – wild camping, gardening, campervan trips, beach barbeques, post-surf hot chocolates – in fact it’s the ultimate Cornish lifestyle hack!”
David continues: “I think Cornwall gives you a great incentive to achieve lots in your working life, because your down-time is so rewarding. Sue agrees: “A high quality of life is one of the things we believe is behind the success stories of many Cornish businesses. A good work-life balance helps optimise productivity and, if you’re looking to build a world-class team, persuading the best people to come and work for you in Cornwall shouldn’t be a problem!” However, Sue sounds an important warning too. “People in Cornwall work incredibly hard to stay visible in their respective industries. To be successful from the periphery requires relentless proactivity!”
Finally, for David one of the big benefits of moving his business to Cornwall has been the supportive and collaborative business community. “There’s an infectious sense of achievement – people genuinely spur each other on to pursue ideas and push the boundaries. The businesses and organisations I’ve met with have been open to projects and collaborations – and with much more than profit in mind. For any business driven by innovation, sustainability and creativity, I can’t think of anywhere better!”