From Dissatisfaction to Forbes: The Story of Dyson

Have you ever had challenges with some of your home appliances? Have you bought a piece of equipment that didn’t perform up to your expectation? That was the experience of James Dyson when in 1978, he was dissatisfied with his Hoover vacuum cleaner because whenever the dust bag was filled with dust, its pores became clogged and the suction reduced. Other people may moan and groan about the problem or simply get a replacement for the device if available. But Dyson started to think of an invention that would solve the problem.

The 30-foot-high conical centrifuge of a local sawmill that made use of cyclonic separation inspired him. Dyson imagined that if the technology could be scaled down, it would be possible to create a vacuum cleaner without a dust bag and that wouldn’t lose suction. For a man who spent only a year at the Byam Shaw School of Art and then proceeded to study furniture and interior design at the Royal College of Art, it was quite an audacious dream. He went on to work on 5,127 prototypes within five years. Recounting the experience, Dyson noted that by his 2,627th attempt, he and his wife were counting their pennies; and by his 3,727th attempt, his wife had to start giving art lessons to make some money.

Finally, he created a successful model. And that was the end of the joyful story? Certainly not! Next came the challenge of sales. After he launched his revolutionary “G-Force” vacuum cleaner in 1983, no manufacturer or distributor in the United Kingdom was interested. The existing industry built its profit around the sale of dust bags and filters, but Dyson eliminated both in his design. His experience in the United States was also disastrous. For three years, he travelled the world trying to sell his product without success.

Eventually, Dyson was able to launch the vacuum cleaner in Japan using catalogue sales. G-Force, which was manufactured in bright pink and was only available in Japan, sold for £2,000 equivalent and soon became a status symbol. The product went on to win the 1991 International Design Fair Prize in Japan. In 1993, fifteen years after Dyson set out to invent a vacuum cleaner, he established his company, Dyson Ltd, in the same United Kingdom where it was initially rejected. According to Forbes, as of 2019, his real-time net worth was $5.7 billion. His company also employed more than 5,800 engineers, has about 60 consumer products and is reported to spend $10 million a week on product development. Say, how far are you willing to take your business idea? As far as it takes?