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Runaway success for firm's refreshing design

THE Glasgow-based entrepreneurs who created a hydration armband for runners have secured distributors for the product in Scandinavia and France, two of its biggest markets.

ON TRACK: Hi-tech armband FitSip can carry up to 200ml of liquid, which the runner can drink by biting on a one-way valve.
ON TRACK: Hi-tech armband FitSip can carry up to 200ml of liquid, which the runner can drink by biting on a one-way valve.

Belinda Goldsmith and Christine Manson are ramping up efforts to establish export markets for FitSip, having sold several thousand products in the UK and overseas since bringing it to market just over a year ago.

The distribution deals come with the duo busy fulfilling orders generated on the company's website from running enthusiasts around the world.

As well as France and Scandinavia, the US and Brazil are growing markets, with interest also being shown in the product in London, India and Mexico. A fourth batch was recently sent to China.

Ms Manson said: "Having distributors now in France and Scandinavia, and hopefully South Africa soon, has certainly given us new challenges and we're really looking forward to seeing how things progress with them over the next year. Setting us distributor agreements and all the supply logistics has kept us very busy."

FitSip, which was developed with input from the University of Glasgow's School of Engineering, allows runners to stay hydrated by biting into a one-way valve set into an armband.

The valve is attached to a refillable water pod within the armband, which can carry 200ml of liquid.

The product is now in its third iteration, with the latest, Pro-Lite, designed to be lighter, more breathable and slimmer than the previous model. It now comes in a range of six colours.

FitSip, which typically retails for £23.99, is currently listed by about 20 specialist running shops around the UK, including long-term supporter Achilles Heel, in Glasgow.

Efforts to boost that customer base will begin in earnest within the next 12 months.

Noting that FitSip is also promoted at race events throughout Scotland, Ms ­Goldsmith said: "This summer is very much about proving the concept with the new valve. But this time next year we will really be scaling up and starting to talk to UK distributors as well, to be part of their offering going round to all the running shops.

"We need to get into shops and we are starting to do that here."

The FitSip owners elected to have the product manufactured in China after exhausting attempts to find a company which could make it locally. Ms Goldsmith admits finding a manufacturer in China, eventually sourced through online marketplace Alibaba, had been a painstaking process.

Ms Goldsmith, who hopes the product will be made in Scotland in the long term, said: "Most people think you go there [China] for price, but it was actually just [because] there was no-one interested here a year and a half ago. It was disappointing."

While the product is made overseas, its three components - the breathable armband, refillable water pod and the ­silicon, one-way bite valve - are put together in Glasgow, where the packaging is also designed.

With the device able to hold 200ml of water, Ms Goldsmith had expected it to be popular with 10k runners. However, it has also become popular with "ultra-marathon trail runner types, who would like to be able to re-fill it more quickly than the 25 seconds it takes for experienced users".

Ms Goldsmith said: "That's the next phase we are trying to do. It's amazing how difficult that must have been 10 or 15 years ago. Now we have bloggers who write about running and are very passionate about [it].

"They see a little article about us and they say they can test it. And you get pages and pages of feedback, which is brilliant. I don't know why running and writing go together, but they seem to."

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