Spotting a gap in the market for a colourful, durable and portable solution to entertaining children on the move in a protective way, ex-colleagues and mumpreneurs Gill Hayward and Kellie Forbes founded kid’s activity backpack brand YUU in 2010.
Aimed at children aged seven to 12, YUU backpacks are mainly sold online. Some 75,000 sales have been made via the startup’s website, with the brand also achieving international success. The mumpreneurs have sold bags to clients in Australia and New Zealand, Russia, the Benelux countries and Scandinavia.
In 2012, Hayward and Forbes appeared on Dragon’s Den, securing investment from Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden following a highly successful pitch which left all five Dragons craving equity in YUU.
(1) Who are you and what’s your business?
Gill and I are the co-founders and directors of YUU. We sell the YUU bag, which is a fun activity backpack for kids which are ergonomically designed. They have multiple pockets, a pack of games and a fold down desk, for travel, play and every day.
(2) How long have you been around for?
We started our business seven years ago and knew then that we were onto a good idea. On 9 July 2010 we put our first advert out at 6.58am and sold our first YUU bag at 7.12am.
During the 7 weeks that followed, we sold out of our first container load. We brought out a second line to our range a year later due to customer demand, and expanded into Australia in our third year.
(3) How do you make money?
We only sold online for the first six years in the UK, Scandinavia, Mexico and Australia. In the last year we’ve been expanding into retail and into other international territories.
We have also got a shoe in August on QVC. We have various profit margins depending on the revenue stream, but our website sales give us the greatest profit.
(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?
We are different because we have created a product with dual appeal. Children love YUU because it is fun and a much loved toy in their eyes. Parents enjoy YUU because it is built to last, and is healthy for their children’s backs.
It is an entirely unique proposition and there is no other product out there like it. With the dual appeal and a product which covers three uses – school, travel and every day use – we could be a leading global brand.
(5) What was key in terms of getting started?
What was key for us was to stay focused and positive. Everything is possible if you plan, research and execute with passion and confidence. Being friends as well as business partners and mumrepreneurs could have given us further challenges, but we have been able to balance and manage both successfully.
(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?
We have had quite a few, but I guess the pinnacle moment in our business was our pitch on Dragons’ Den. To have all five investors give offers, plus give huge credit to us as individuals and as business owners, was extraordinary recognition.
The experience have us the exposure that we needed, plus personally we gained an even deeper knowledge of how to run a growing business.
(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?
I suppose the biggest problem we have encountered is stock-out. To forecast required stock numbers for a growing brand with a growing range is extremely difficult. We have quite often had to sell on a pre-order basis.
Another challenge is cash flow. We currently have a seasonal product, with Christmas being our biggest spike and as we are an online company with sales up until this point being direct to customer, managing stock costs has been very challenging.
(8) In five years’ time, I will be…
I would hope to have sold to a bigger company who can take YUU to the next level. There are of course times when you think about it being a lifestyle business and never letting go, but there is a whole world out there, and new experiences to be had. You never know, I may end up sitting in one of those chairs in the Den helping others as I was helped!
(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?
To be focused, and not to panic. Don’t worry about making mistakes, as these are the times during which you grow the most as an entrepreneur.
(10) Who are your business heroes and why?
From a very young age I was always inspired by my father, whose entrepreneurial spirit I’ve inherited. Later in life, it has always been Richard Branson. He’s a man with unique and great business acumen, but for me it is his manor – his path to success has been decorated with passion and kindness.
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