Sir James Dyson created a cleaning empire based on a simple concept: "I just think things should work properly."
Made famous for creating the first bagless vacuum cleaner more than a decade ago, Dyson has also revolutionized hand dryers, desk fans, space heaters and even the wheelbarrow or, as Dyson calls it, the Ballbarrow.
"Nightline" spent time with Dyson as he was debuting his latest vacuum model, the Dyson Hard, which adds a mop feature to his vacuum's signature sleek and efficient design. During the interview, the British inventor talked about his struggles in the beginning, how he got his invention off the ground and what's next for him.
"I'm all about suction, powerful suction with a small, light motor, most importantly -- a very, very fast motor," Dyson told "Nightline."
Here are some of the few things you might not know about Sir James Dyson.
|Dyson Had More than 5,000 Failed Prototypes Before Finding Success|
Long before Dyson's DC-07 vacuum cleaner appeared on the U.S. market in 2002, Dyson said he went through 5,127 failed prototypes before he got the bagless, cyclonic system to work properly.
"You learn from failures. You don't learn from successes," Dyson said. "You've got to go through that failure to learn how to succeed. So although I had 5,126 failures, I don't regret any of them because I learned so much from them and it got me to the final solution."
Today, Dyson's empire is worth an estimated $4 billion, ranking him among the 300 richest people in the world.
|It Took Years to Develop the First Dyson Vacuum, and Its Technology Yielded New Inventions|
The motor in the Dyson vacuum cleaner is very fast, generating more than 100,000 G's of force -- three times the force of a bullet after being shot from a gun.
But it took years to get there. Dyson said he poured his own money into his first several prototypes.
"It was really worrying; it was something that I had to solve," Dyson said. "It was mooring away at me and I really wanted to get it right. I believed I could get it right and make it work, but I didn't know how to."
After tinkering with his vacuum design for years, the inventor worked with a team of engineers to help him develop his company's vacuum cleaner. Dyson said their work even led to new products.
"Our motors took us 15 years to develop, and it was 10 years before there was one on the market," Dyson said. "We've been developing robotics, but we haven't launched one yet."
|Dyson's Daughter, Son-in-Law Help Create His Looks|
Aside from being an inventor, artist, designer, engineer and pitchman, Dyson was also his own guinea pig, and tested his prototypes on the kitchen floor at his family's home in England.
Dyson credits his wife for giving him support while he searched for a better vacuum solution.
"I was going out into a shed every day on my own doing it, working on it," Dyson said. "It's very important to have someone who can listen to you and give encouragement and bounce ideas off."
His daughter and son-in-law are both fashion designers and help him craft his outfits.
"I went to art and design school, and so I dress and behave as I did as I was in art and design school with all the artists and designers around me," Dyson said. "My daughter is a fashion designer. My son-in-law is a fashion designer, I'm wearing his clothes. ... I don't have to dress down and wear boring colored clothes and make boring vacuum cleaners because I'm an engineer, because I am part designer, as well, so that's me."
|Dyson Frequently Wears a Belt in French Royal Red|
Over the years, Dyson has often been seen in public and in interviews -- including our "Nightline" interview -- sporting a red leather belt.
Turns out, Dyson has been wearing that specific color of red belt for the last 10 years and it has a special meaning.
"It's a particular red, and in France, only royalty were allowed to wear this sort of red," he said. "I'm not pretending I'm royalty. I'm just saying it is a very unusual and particular red, which had a tremendous meaning in France in the 18th century."
So if not for historical royal reasons, then why the red belt?
"I just liked the color," Dyson said.
|Dyson Was Knighted in 2006|
Although he is known as the King of Suction, Dyson has actually been knighted by British royalty.
In 2006, Dyson, shown here with his wife, went to Buckingham Palace, where he was knighted by Prince Charles. Dyson admitted that he was nervous about the ceremony.
"I was pretty worried actually because this sharp blade comes down and it's pretty close to you," he said. "The sword goes down on both shoulders and then they leave it on your shoulder while they talk to you. And, by the way, it's very heavy."
"You have to kneel down, very low on the floor, 'Hello, Prince Charles,' and then you have to get up afterwards, which was quite a struggle," Dyson added. "He was very nice afterwards. We had quite a chat. It was great."
|Rod Stewart Was at Buckingham Palace the Same Day Dyson Was Knighted|
On the same day Dyson was knighted, another famous Brit was also receiving an award at Buckingham Palace.
Singer Rod Stewart, who has not been knighted, was awarded the CBE -- which stands for Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire -- for his services to music.
But Dyson said that doesn't trump receiving the honor of knighthood.
"In the pecking order, his award was below [mine], I'm afraid," he said.
|Dyson Thinks His Vacuum Makes a Great Gift for Men and Women|
At the time the Dyson vacuum hit the American market, the average vacuum cleaner cost around $100. But Dyson's angle was to convince the American public that they wanted and needed his model, which cost three times the price.
So instead of using a housewife to market his vacuum cleaner, Dyson put himself in the commercials.
"I thought that was a good thing to do," he said. "We were a name that no one had ever heard of. So it had a lot to do with giving the company's character."
Dyson said "the world has changed," meaning that housework is no longer just for women but now a shared responsibility for the men, too. Even during the recession, the vacuum industry thrived because, he said, people started to focus more on improving their home with what they had instead of on more exotic things.
"People give vacuum cleaners as presents now, and Mother's Day and Father's Day are big vacuum cleaner giving days," he said. "That certainly didn't happen 10 years ago. Quite a new phenomenon."