Rotolight is a British technology company based at Pinewood Studios.
Rotolight specialise in the creation of British-made pioneering LED lighting products for use in the creative industries. Designed for both photographers and filmmakers alike, Rotolight’s products offer a completely unique design philosophy unmatched in the industry; delivering the functionality of two products in one robust but compact package.
In 2009 Rotolight launched its first ever product: the RL48. Two years later it was being used on the set of the James Bond film – Skyfall.
Rotolight didn’t stop innovating there, in November 2017 they developed and launched one of their latest products, Anova PRO 2. Just a few months later, the tenth season of ITV’s Dancing on Ice aired. Over thirty Anova PRO 2s are used to light the stars’ glamour shots.
We caught up with Rod Aaron Gammons, the CEO of Rotolight. So how did this British company startup and make a beeline for the top of its industry?
Ed – How did you start up your company and products that you now make?
Rod – Rotolight started life as a true family business. Initially my dad had the first idea for the first product concept.
This came about as he spotted back in 2007/8 the emerging trend of stills cameras that were starting to shoot HD video.
There was a need for a product that could be utilized for both applications That could be mounted simply and quickly to the camera.
I had the idea for the company, and indeed already had a distribution company setup with existing dealers on board. This later became the distribution vehicle for the product.
I could see very clearly the marketing and strategic vision of the business. My mum helped us with the finances, so it really is a true family business.
We started at our kitchen table, with us literally hand assembling the products at home.
our ‘office’ was the garden shed, and a daily FedEx van would pick up the products, which shipped worldwide.
We’ve now grown into a business that turned over £5 million last year, with a growing team of currently 20 full-time staff. We’ve now sold over 100,000 products across 41 countries around the world.
Ed – What were your biggest challenges and setbacks when you first set out?
Rod – The biggest challenge has always been finance, as I imagine it is for many SMEs – particularly in our case as an R&D intensive technology company with a constant requirement to invest for future returns.
We were a small business and had very little assistance from bank loans. So we invested all of our personal savings into creating the first run of units, and got by on a shoestring with personal credit cards and anything we could to get from A to B.
We started the company in the peak of the financial crisis in 2008/9 and it was an extremely difficult climate; banks were not interested or able to help.
I honestly think that it forced us to operate rather lean. Because we didn’t have the option to outspend our competitors in marketing because of how expensive R&D was. It certainly made us adapt and develop a marketing strategy that focused on organic growth.
Rotolight’s products have become the favourite for some of the World’s most talented creatives.
Ed- How did you get the backing of companies who maybe used other products and companies to switch to you?
Rod – We developed a highly effective marketing strategy that focused on organic growth by identifying talented creatives who were already using the lights, and then brought them on as ambassadors. These individuals would often have thousands of followers and were a great way to reach our target audience. It’s a very cost-effective way of spreading our message.
Our marketing strength is something that we’re definitely known for; we’ve created an aspirational brand and we focus in our advertising on showing ‘best of the best’ content that can be created with the products, in order to inspire and show people what they’re capable of achieving with our technology.
Ed -Did you have any moments where you wondered if you had made the right decision?
Rod – I think it’s absolutely normal – and even healthy – to regularly question yourself about key decisions and overall strategy & direction. These conversations need to happen often and particularly with a strong board around you to improve governance. The board should provide a strategic sounding board and ultimately help ensure the business is on the right track.
We have also worked hard to foster an open culture, and ensure we tap into our wider team to encourage their input and ownership of the strategy which is important ultimately for the ongoing success.
Ed – What were your highlights of all your years so far in business?
Rod – Successful new product launches and watching customers’ reactions to them are always some of the most satisfying moments for us.
NEO 2 was particularly satisfying because it was a truly disruptive technology in the photography market: the world’s first on-camera LED with High Speed Sync flash.
For the first time, photographers can have all of the benefits of LED, but the extra power of flash when you need it, without the traditional drawbacks of poor recycle time or poor battery life. Seeing the reaction to the product and subsequent success has been particularly gratifying; and indeed it just won a landmark award for ‘Best On-Camera Flash’ from Photography News.
The completion of the investment is definitely up there, as it’s confirmation that others buy in to the vision and ambition you have. Getting that agreement that there is very exciting potential ahead, which we now have the funds to realise.
Ed – How will you innovate to remain the multi-award-winning company that you are now?
Rod – Innovation has always been at the heart of what we do at Rotolight – we never want to stand still and even as a small company we have over 22 granted patents.
With both upcoming and existing products, we’re always tinkering with them behind the scenes to make improvements and continue to improve the customer experience, and I think it shows; we’ve received over 30 awards for product innovation.
But it’s important that the innovation has a goal and purpose in mind. This should ultimately be based upon fundamentally improving the customer experience.
Whether it’s simplifying an existing way of doing things, saving them time and money, or bringing features which continue to add creative options to the way they work we light.
We start with this as a goal, and with this in mind we are very excited about upcoming innovations we have in the pipeline for later this year… so watch this space!
You can visit the Rotolight website here to find out more information – www.Rotolight.com
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