Product idea #14: Harry & Jacks

Founder Emma Williams discusses growing one backpack idea into a multi-product business and overcoming manufacturing challenges to create an imagination-invoking product

Founders: Emma and Stuart Williams
Location: Gloucestershire
Date launched: December 2014
The product: Adventure backpacks for kids
Website: www.harryandjacks.co.uk

What child wouldn’t love the opportunity to arrive at school on their first day looking like Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear? Well, Harry & Jacks founders Emma and Stuart Williams have made that possible – creating a product that works for parents as much as it appeals to children’s love for creativity, imagination and adventure.

After their five year-old son made a request for a jetpack, the two – who had always longed to open their own business – realised that there was a gap in the market for backpacks that were both functional and fun.

And so the wife and husband team decided that this was the perfect opening for them to follow their dream and launch a business together, going on to design and create the prototypes without any market research or funding – except for their savings and experience as parents.

The risk is proving successful to the adventurous team so far, as their recently launched jetpacks are already causing a stir – winning and getting shortlisted for numerous awards in travel, product and design fields; as well as garnering US interest.

In fact, the jetpacks have gotten such a positive reaction from the market that the team have decided to create other backpack designs under an umbrella company, Adventure Packs.

The team talk us through the journey from initial idea to creating their product that is “more than just a practical bag – it is an experience and a means to transport little minds to space and beyond”.

Can you briefly describe yours and Stuart’s backgrounds?

Stuart is a business consultant working in supply chains in the pharmaceutical sector and I was a stay at home mum of three small children until now.

Stuart and I have always had dreams of running our own business and before kids we always discussed a restaurant or something like that. But once the kids came along life got busy and we moved on until we had the idea for Harry & Jacks!

Where did the idea for Harry & Jack’s backpacks come from?

The company and idea were born out of a simple request for a birthday present from our eldest son. After several failed internet searches to buy him a jetpack online, we decided to design our own. Initially we were going to make it ourselves but as we started to sketch out ideas we thought we may be onto something really special.

Our three young children have been our inspiration. They love to carry their toys and gear everywhere they go and we wanted to design something that allowed for that but also embodied their imaginative spirit. With our JETPACK, not only can they take all their gear and treasures with them but at any moment they can pretend to be transported into space or fly across the sky.

JETPACK resizedDescribe how your backpacks are disrupting the marketplace?

Our JETPACK has all the classic elements of a children’s bag but boasts a unique 3D design and construction, with two rocket tanks on the back that open to reveal space for hiding all manner of toys and treasures. The main compartment offers a full size space to store lunch boxes, clothes etc. It also has a drinks compartment and snack pouch.

The backpack has several reflective elements on the adjustable straps and 3D jet tanks for extra visibility and safety, and it comes with a wrist strap to enhance the jetpack experience.

The design was born out of a child’s desire to be imaginative and to carry their toys and gear everywhere they go. Our JETPACK is more than just a practical bag – it is an experience and a means to transport little minds to space and beyond.

What market research did you conduct to learn more about the kids’ luggage sector?

The idea for our Adventure Packs came about as a request from our kids and we pursued the idea up to prototype stage based on instinct.

What have you done to protect the IP of your products?

We took legal advice at the concept development and product design stages as we were quite sure our idea was unique and innovative and after doing so filed patents and trademarks as appropriate.

How did you finance Harry & Jacks?

Harry & Jacks has been entirely self-funded and a labour of love!

Describe your business journey to date, from having the idea for your backpacks to bringing them to the market.

From initial sketches, to pursuing it as a business idea, to eventually getting it to market took a total of 14 months.

The first thing we had to do was identify a company able to deliver a prototype to take to a manufacturer. For us this was the most difficult stage, as we had spent a lot of time sketching out our designs and envisioning our brand and the time it took to create a prototype was surprising to us. It was a steep learning curve.

Once we had a prototype we were happy with, we then had to identify a manufacturer we were happy with. Again this proved challenging as we were unable to identify a manufacturer in the UK and were forced to look overseas. After a month we were able to identify someone we could work with and welcomed to the UK our first batch of products.

Once we landed our first shipment of JETPACKS in the UK, we created the umbrella brand of Adventure Packs as we had several designs in the pipeline and were gaining some interest – and each backpack would represent another adventure to be transported on.

At this point we went live and were able to sell to the market. In retrospect we have chosen potentially a very challenging path but we intend to establish ourselves as an innovative brand in the child product marketplace.

How do you distribute Harry & Jacks products– is it exclusively online or is it currently stocked elsewhere?

We are available online via Amazon, Familytraveller.com, notonthehighstreet.com and direct at our website. We are also stocked in several local children’s apparel and toy boutiques.

Do you have plans to take Harry & Jacks overseas?

This will be our main focus next year as we strongly believe in our concept and believe the appeal is not restricted to the UK – we have already secured a Preferred Choice Award in the US.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs considering launching their own children’s luggage business?

Do it but be clear on your vision and your brand. Little steps and little goals are important to keep you motivated and clear on where you are going. Most importantly, enjoy the ride and make sure you are having fun otherwise what is the point.

What are Harry & Jacks’ future plans?

We are hoping to continue to build our brand and add to our product range in 2015.

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