What does your company do?
We manufacture and distribute yoomi, a unique self-warming baby bottle that warms milk from fridge temperature to perfect breastmilk temperature in 60 seconds, at the press of a button.
Yoomi has no batteries or wires and can be recharged by simply placing in boiling water or in the microwave.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
My eldest son, Danial, was born 6 weeks early and when he finally arrived home we were feeding every two to three hours. My job was to stumble down the stairs in the early hours and warm the expressed breastmilk that we kept in the fridge. Being new parents and conscious of the safety issues with using the microwave, we followed the guidelines and used a bowl of hot water to warm the milk. This would take an age and I often fell asleep which meant that the bottle was too hot so I would need to run it under the cold tap, but would have to time this perfectly to correct the temperature. All the while, of course, both mother and baby would be quite distressed. So being an engineer I decided that there must be a better way (!) and sometime later, with help from friends and colleagues, the concept of yoomi was born.
When did you start up, and what support were you given?
Danial was born in December 2002 and so I worked on the idea on my own at home until I filed a patent in 2005. I then spent a year researching and writing a business plan and a further year raising the start-up funds. We actually started the business properly in 2007.
We were initially supported by a DTI Research Award and a London SME Innovation Award. Both required match funding which I raised from Angel Investors.
I used the British Library extensively at this stage, for my business plan research, learning about Intellectual Property and patents, and I also used it as an office for meetings as I was still working full-time.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
My biggest achievement has been launching the business and keeping it moving and growing so that we will be profitable this year.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Dealing with large UK competitors and the UK national retailers has been our biggest challenge. Large competitors use their cheque books and existing relationships with retailers to push out and block new products and companies. And, from our experience, large retailers can have limited interest in fostering UK brands and sometimes focus on using new products as leverage to drive better deals with the incumbents.
How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
Yoomi is unique, we are the only rechargeable self-warming baby bottle in the world and, to top this off, we do a lot of our manufacturing in the UK.
What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
To continue to invest in R&D even through the tough times. We have changed the design of every component over the past few years which has lead to significant increases in margin and product quality.
Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
We will have broken even, with in excess of £1m turnover. We also aim to increase the number of staff by 30 per cent. It’s an exciting year ahead!
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
My advice would be to aim to develop a profitable business from the start and don’t be afraid to ask your customers to help you to develop your product. In fact, don’t be afraid to ask for help in general, this is why we are now supporters of the Business is GREAT Britain campaign which highlights the help and advice available from the Government for small businesses and start ups like ourselves.
What do you find most satisfying about running a business?
Being able to pay wages at the end of each month. This one simple idea now directly supports 15 families. Also, I find it satisfying showing that the UK can become a major player designing and manufacturing unique and innovative products.