On the up · 15 July 2015

Norrom: Bringing Scandinavian design to aquariums is going swimmingly

Charles Dalton-Moore decided to switch up his career path – leaving his job as COO at a global games publisher in Singapore, to create a business where he could utilise skills in ecommerce, product design and development. Paired alongside a desire to wake up a stagnant sector, Dalton-Moore decided to move into the aquarium market with Norrom.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

I am Charles Dalton-Moore, the founder of Norrom – makers of the Norrom aquarium, a Swedish-designed, British-made home aquarium. It’s the first ever 3D-print compatible aquarium, and combines Scandinavian design, usability and functionality, with world-class British manufacturing skill.

(2) How long have you been around for?

We have spent the last two years designing and developing the Norrom aquarium. This summer we went into full production after successfully raising £19,000 from investors on the Funding Tree crowdfunding platform.

(3) How will you make money?

As well as designing and developing our own products, we sell them directly to customers via our website.

(4) What makes you different and why should someone take notice?

As a Swedish-designed product, the Norrom aquarium is of course beautiful and simple, but it is also the most customisable fish tank in the world. It is the first ever home aquarium to feature interchangeable lids and bases which are handcrafted in the UK and made in a range of different wood finishes. Customers can also 3D-print their own lid and base using the downloadable template, or even order a paint-ready lid and base if they wish to choose an exact colour to match their home decor.

Under the hood, we identified some fundamental design flaws that exist in all other aquariums on the market and designed them out – to create a product that’s as perfect as possible. For example, the Norrom aquarium is the first ever fish tank to be lit by a submersible light diffuser powered from inside the base. Amongst other things this completely eliminates the need for a power cable to be connected to the aquarium lid.

The Norrom aquarium is a completely different approach to fish tanks, and our mission is to fundamentally redesign products in sectors that have stagnated, and put an end to mediocre design.

Charles Dalton-Moore

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

Creating a new vision for the future of home aquariums and having our partners and suppliers buy in to it. Once everyone fell in love with the Norrom aquarium concept and bought into our plan for the future, progress became much faster and more predictable. Funding was crucial too. We set out to borrow £15,000 on Funding Tree, but our pitch proved very popular – and in the end we beat our target by £4,000.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Right from the beginning we wanted to differentiate our aquarium by offering a range of interchangeable lids and bases in natural materials. Most other products on the market come with a limited range of vacuum-formed plastics in often tacky colours.

But producing a wide range of product variations made from natural materials created a massive design and manufacturing challenge for us. The fact that we have been able to achieve this viably, where no other fish tank brand has managed to, is a commendable design and manufacturing achievement.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

When you are developing and prototyping any product, you are faced with constant design setbacks. These are invariably exacerbated by commercial issues, although we have also had a lot of luck along the way as well. Our most upsetting setback was the sudden closure of one of our key suppliers when the owner was sadly diagnosed with cancer.

It is often underestimated how important a relationship with a supplier is, on both a personal and commercial level, especially when you have been through an extensive period of prototyping and development together.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

Continuing to grow Norrom as a disruptive brand and increasing the number of consumer products we sell. Ditto in ten, 15 and 20 years’ time too!

(9) What one tip would you give to those starting out?

Continue to believe in yourself even when nobody else does, because you are the only one who will make your dream come true.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

Elon Musk and the late Steve Jobs are inspirations because of their ability to make such profound changes for consumers around the world in such short periods of time. I see this as being a result of a deep passion for their products, an unwavering self-belief, and sheer hard work.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

Business development