It’s not every day that we hear from one of our Licensed Partners that they’re about to appear on Dragon’s Den, pitching their map product to the panel. But David Overton of SplashMaps did just that, and we caught up with him last week, ahead of the broadcast. David couldn’t tell us the outcome at the time, but if you watched last night you’ll know that he put in a strong pitch, but sadly didn’t receive any funding. Find out more about SplashMaps and our Partner programme from David…
If you haven’t come across us before, SplashMaps makes wearable, washable, all-weather printed maps that can be customised for any part of Britain, and beyond. We set up in December 2012 with a Kickstarter campaign to fund the idea and used OS OpenData to print the first wearable maps of Britain’s National Parks.
If you’re wondering where the idea for fabric-printed maps comes from, it’s not a new idea, it’s been around for decades (including by OS) and has even been used by the military. I was more than aware of this as my love of maps went back to being 13, buying my first bike and an OS map and exploring the countryside, finding castles and other hidden places. Later on, I worked at OS for a time, and it was around then, being a mountain-biker who didn’t like stopping and getting a paper map out, knowing about OS OpenData products, that the idea started to take root.
After SplashMaps launched, it quickly became clear that our customers really wanted their wearable maps to look like the paper maps that they were used to carrying around the countryside. And people also wanted their maps to be personalised and cover an area of their choosing. I started to look into using OS’ 1:25,000 Scale Colour Raster, recognised by many as OS Explorer maps. This made perfect sense for creating the personalised maps, but involved a huge amount of effort to get the right print definition on our weatherproof fabric.
Using the 1:25,000 data meant becoming a Licensed Partner with OS, something I was aware of from my time in the business. From small start-ups to leading multinationals, the Partner Programme supports businesses in reselling OS data and providing solutions to customers with OS data. It’s worked well for SplashMaps so far as a start-up, with support from my account manager around ideas and commercial offerings. The Programme also includes access to a market development fund from OS; I applied last year for help towards my stand costs at a large outdoors festival and was successful, which was a great help.
As a start-up, I’ve also joined the Geovation Hub, making use of the flexible workspace in Clerkenwell and fantastic advice from the Geovation team, including Alex Wrottesley. It’s ideal for start-ups and the wealth of knowledge and support there lead to me thinking of SplashMaps beyond a fabric map product. I began thinking about SplashMaps as a business that provided fine print on fabric and this lead to a recent collaboration with Lush cosmetics. Their knot-wraps are scarfs that can be reusable wrapping to carry their products and give as gifts, or beautiful scarfs to wear.
SplashMaps have provided Lush with a series of European city map scarfs to join the knot-wraps family. It’s a completely different market, away from the outdoors enthusiasts we’ve targeted before. It’s also been fantastic to build the relationship with Lush and refreshing to examined our own working practices and supply chains as we ensure we meet their ethical standards. It’s the first time we’ve printed on material recycled from plastic bottle for example.
This doesn’t mean we’re moving away from our roots at SplashMaps. We know that 70% of our customers are walkers and we have a huge range of wearable map products from around the world featuring OS data, A-Z, OpenStreetMap and more. As well as scarves we have neck-gaiters and map wraps – take a look in our shop to see the full range.
Following the nerve-racking appearance on Dragon’s Den, the most terrifying experience of my life, I’ll be focusing on the retail Autumn Fair and working to bring SplashMaps to an even larger audience. Watch this space!