Stevie Watts, an avid adventurer and founder of Uprise MED, joins many entrepreneurs across the UK facing the difficulties of the pandemic, but through dramatic changes, he’s managed to find new ways of working while providing in-demand products to businesses everywhere. Having travelled the world, Stevie returned to the UK to setup his business, with a mission to offer naturally inspired, wellbeing environments to professional spaces.
Since the launch of his company, Uprise MED offers a range of products through its growing e-commerce website from digital LED strips to decorative lights. But since COVID, he’s expanded the business offering, and started selling face shield visors, disposable masks and copper infused face masks for organisations big and small as well as individuals working in medical fields.
Stevie Watts sits down with us to share how he’s adapted his company in the post-pandemic world, his inspirations and guidance for those that want to create a better working environment for themselves and their employees.
In discussion with Stevie Watts
What is your professional background?
My expertise historically is in LED lighting, supplying copper based LED strips. Our professional grade digital LED strips have been used on well known sets for Lana Del Rey, The Prodigy and even Harry Potter’s ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, and within spin studios for health brand Fitness First (UK and Australia) amongst others. I’ve always been a creative person for as long as I can remember and so I always need a way to express myself in some way. For me now I love building and working on our business and website, finding value in new innovative products and anticipating what I think will be the next shift. Change happens whether we like it or not.
How did you get your start in the world of business?
When I was little my mum would give me and my brothers £5 pocket money, which I’m grateful for but it didn’t go very far. It was a choice between sweets or two packs of Pokemon cards! I mainly chose the later, each week rushing to the shops with my brother Louis, cousin Jack or mate Dale to get two packs for £5 with the hope of getting a shiny Charizard or Blastoise. But then that was it, no money left. So at the age of 11, I knew I had to find ways of making money. I took two shifts at the local Leicester mercury paper shop, morning and evening and would grab any extra rounds if someone didn’t turn up. Dale and I would work together on each other’s rounds.
But that was just the beginning. Some of the hair brain schemes I came up with to make money were ridiculous. We’d knock on all our neighbours’ doors and collect people’s toys and then sell them back to the neighbourhood or at school on “The Block”, it was a concrete block that served no real purpose apart from as a mini bazaar. At least in our eyes. We’d wash cars, rake leaves, run games, go carol singing, sell cakes. One time my grandma, who was a talented painter, painted these rocks with beautiful flower patterns. I thought, hmm I could sell those. So I went around the neighbourhood selling painted rocks, my grandma wasn’t so impressed when I secured so many orders! I was 11-12 years old. As for the Pokemon cards, I traded them over and over and built a mini Pokemon card empire!
If there’s a lesson in what you should focus on in life it’s remembering what you were naturally good at as a kid. For me that was connecting with people, providing value in some way and re-inventing the way things should be done.
What does Uprise MED want to achieve?
We want to help inspire people to be all they can be and what better way of doing that than aligning our mission with nature? That includes providing products relating to health & wellbeing, plants, smart lighting and traditional decor. We love the design contrasts between traditional woods, coppers and greens. So that’s what we’ll be focussing on developing in the future as we organically develop our brand. It’s time to bring the outside in.
How did you deal with the impact of the pandemic?
When the pandemic hit and because I’d sensed something big was coming we reacted quickly and pivoted towards doing everything we could to help provide people with face visors, 3 ply masks and even pioneered a new reusable copper infused face mask to the market. I remember one time it was like mission impossible to get some 3 ply masks out the same day to a hospital that was critically low on supplies. When that order got there early the next day that felt really good.
If you could summarise what you’ve learnt travelling around the world in one word for each country what would it be?
Iceland: Time – Prepare and stick to a schedule, timing is everything so don’t be late.
Italy: Direction – There’s times when you’re going to feel lost or out of your depth, re-orientate yourself and move forward.
Macedonia: Heart – Following your heart can be dangerously risky but you’ll never be the same after. Life moves on.
France: Courage – Sometimes the unexpected happens or things don’t go to plan, react quickly and stand your ground.
Australia: Vision – Pay attention, stay aware and keep an eye on what’s coming next.
Vietnam: Happiness – Living a simple life brings joy and the greatest gifts to us are free.
Thailand: Life – Overcoming yourself and realising life’s worth living to the fullest.
Sri Lanka: Spirit – To be true to yourself and conquer the things you set out to do.
Bali: Balance – Life is about balance and harmony, through positive actions balance is achieved.
China: Opportunity – Everything has a structure, work out what works and capitalise on opportunity.
England: Family – Your immediate, outer and outer outer family is more important than you can imagine. Treat them well, help them learn. Act morally for long term success.
What are you working on now?
Right now we’ve seen a demand for temperature scanning kiosks and have positioned ourselves to bring value to environments with a professional end-to-end solution. The benefit is a contactless, automated face scan within 1 second and reports are immediately sent to the easy-to-use backend application. Should a temperature be too high an email gets sent to the admin. The result? Improved safety for everyone within the space. Our service includes offering guidance in setup, kiosk positioning, professional advice during this time along with providing a reliable, stylish and easy-to-use system with excellent lifetime support.
What one piece of guidance would you give to people wanting to create a better work space?
I’d say buy a Bonsai tree, put it on your desk and care for it. Why? Because there’s something about having a piece of nature within your line of vision that gives a sense of wellbeing and freedom. Especially for creative people, creative people work best when they have a clear vision, are focussed and free to make it happen. They are “Creative”, you can’t think your way out of complex problems constantly being pressured.
In the words of Mr Miyagi from ‘The Karate Kid’ when Daniel asks how he will know which leaves to cut? He says, “If it comes from inside you, always right one”. This means if it comes from within you, it’s always the best call.
What’s one last piece of advice you would give to people?
Be crazy. Most people are trying to fit in because they are afraid of what people will think. Forget how other people remember you, when you look back at yourself in years to come do you want to remember yourself as someone who didn’t take chances in life?
I’d say that the most epic moments in my life have been when I did something that people could never have even imagined. One time I set off a fire lantern for the woman in my life in the middle of a marina. People were coming up to me congratulating us, thinking we were getting married. I just did it because I wanted to show her I loved her. You should have seen the look in that woman’s eye, it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
Another time me and a couple of friends were driving up the West Coast of Australia in a two wheel drive Nissan Pulsar after my friend Dom’s car engine blew up. We needed a new car and managed to pick the pulsar up for $300. It had a damaged boot and Playboy Bunny seat coverings and we were advised it would make it to Darwin if we followed the sealed roads. What did I do instead? I decided along with my Italian and German friends Enrico and Benny the support team to take the 700km unsealed road and there was just one problem apart from all the other glaringly obvious problems. At the end of this juggernaut of jagged rocks, potholes and broken river beds was a massive river crossing. The Pentecost River Crossing. Now this thing is a challenge for 4 wheel drive cars, in fact the whole 700km stretch is.
With the help of German engineering, Italian spirit and English eccentricity we made it through. In fact we drove the 700km road passing over 5 broken down 4 wheel drive cars, some had popped tyres others broken fans and we made it with just one popped tyre. I knew that if we made a single big mistake whilst navigating that road it’s game over, so we respected the terrain avoiding all rocks unlike others who got over confident. It was like a rally driving track, it was insane. I’ve never been covered from head to toe in so much dust in my life.