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Eyes on the prize – how research is delivering growth for specialist Huddersfield business

The Body Doctor was recently named the fastest growing small business in Ward Hadaway’s 2022 Yorkshire Fastest 50 published in partnership with The Yorkshire Post. Here, we speak to managing director, Sue Grant who explains how vital research and development (R&D) has been to the growth of the business.

“When I pass a Boots or Superdrug store and see our eye care range, it does feel a little surreal but the most rewarding part of it all is knowing how many people our products are helping,” says Sue Grant, managing director of The Body Doctor, manufacturers of the highly acclaimed Eye Doctor range. “Innovation, driven by research and development, has been our unique selling point. We’ve developed some very technical, medically led products and made them retail-friendly to engage with consumers and educate them around eye health. Specifically, we’ve encouraged them to take ownership of their own eyelid hygiene.”

And the company hasn’t done things by halves. The Body Doctor, which Sue runs alongside her two sons, Adam Wymer, the company’s operations director, and sales and marketing director, Sam Wymer, has just won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the innovation category. The awards are for British businesses that excel at international trade, innovation, sustainable development or promoting opportunity. They are amongst the highest accolades a British business can achieve.

Sue continues: “We’ve won the award before in 2016 for our Eye Doctor compress and its ability to effectively melt the oils in the eyelids to protect the tear film and treat Dry Eye Disease (DED), currently affecting around 20 per cent of the world’s population. This area of eye health has long been neglected but we were determined, and still are, to dedicate the research and development investment needed to create genuinely innovative products that help to enable better eye care. We were the first to create, sell and distribute a hot compress to treat DED, blepharitis and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), traditionally only sold by opticians, to high street pharmacy retail chains.

“There’s a real health risk we’re responding to – bacteria can cause blindness. One in four people in the UK suffer with DED and, if left untreated, symptoms can get worse and may cause permanent eye damage. That was our inspiration behind developing an antibacterial shield applied to our fabrics to reduce bacteria by 99.9%,” explains Sue. “Through laser-focused research and development, we first established the problem of bacteria on masks, gathered the clinical data supporting that bacteria is detrimental to eye health and then researched a solution.”

That solution was Sterileyes, which is used to treat bacterial eyelid conditions. A patent was granted for Sterileyes in 2021, following five years of research and development. R&D continues to play an instrumental role in the business and it is currently funding a PhD at Aston University to specifically look at the effects of bacteria on the eye.

Sue explains: “Working with universities and clinical professionals around the world – Dr Hilary Jones is one of our medical advisors – allows us to have a greater understanding of the challenges faced by ophthalmologists and assess where we can help our consumers in managing a variety of conditions.”

The Body Doctor’s approach is clearly paying off. Revenue has grown by over 600% since 2018 and its portfolio has widened from one product in 2012, when the business launched, to in excess of 15 products in its Eye Doctor range. The company is also an exclusive distributor for other worldwide eye care brands.

Bill Goodwin, Head of IP at Ward Hadaway in Leeds, said: “The Body Doctor exemplifies how R&D plays a fundamental role in the development of innovative, industry-changing products that enable businesses to set themselves apart from competitors. The business sells a patented product that’s medically proven and has the endorsement from optometrists and ophthalmologists from across the world. In doing so, The Body Doctor has realised the value of intellectual property (IP) as a critical strategic tool for business growth which is now reaping rewards for not just the company but for the people it’s helping too. Huge congratulations to Sue, Adam, Sam and the team for becoming Yorkshire’s fastest-growing small business this year – a remarkable achievement for a company that’s just celebrated its first decade in business.”

The business is set for continued growth, with the Eye Doctor brand turnover expected to increase by 93 per cent in the next two years alongside team expansion and continued new product development.

Sue adds: “I hope that our family business provides inspiration to others, especially those born and bred in Yorkshire, to lead the way in their field, continually knocking down preconceived ideas and beliefs and to keep at it. If I had any advice for other businesses, it would be to keep raising that bar, keep driving those standards you set yourself – and don’t ever become complacent.”

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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