Yull: Sarah Watkinson-Yull
Ladies' shoe designer/seller
Company name: Yull ltd Website:www.yull.co.uk Founders: Sarah Watkinson-Yull Age: 21 Based: Charlbury, Oxfordshire Staff Numbers: Myself Date started: March 2011
Tell us what your business does:Sells ladies’ shoes of my design online and through one stockist at the moment.
Where did the idea for your business come from? Ever since being at school it was always my dream to set up in business. I was interested in fashion and had toyed with the idea to setting up boutiques or dress companies. However after leaving school I had decided I wanted to start my business in the shoe industry. I always loved classic designs and I love how wearing the right shoes can make you feel so different about yourself.
What were you doing before starting up?I studied at the Fashion Retail Academy for a year. I also did a short course at the London College of Fashion on starting a fashion business. After studying there I went back home to Oxfordshire where I worked for the family business trading aroma chemicals. There I was extremely fortunate to learn a variety of skills dealing with importing and exporting and also dealing with customers and suppliers.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? Yes I have. While people at school dreamed of being dolphin trainers and actresses, all I ever wanted was to be an entrepreneur, working for myself, stuck in an office! I even had to persuade the educational board at school to let me do business studies and economics for A-level! The thing that appealed to me the most about being my own boss is that you may stay up until 2am working but at least you know that you are the final beneficiary and not anyone else.
What planning did you do before you started up?As I had the idea for the business over two years before I started, I was constantly telling people what I wanted to do. I always listened to their ideas and took many of them on board. Putting a business plan together was the most vital starting point. I still in the process of getting more advice from the Prince’s Trust.
How did you raise the money? I self-financed the whole business through a year and a half of work. I didn’t pay any rent (luckily) so all the money that would have otherwise been spent on that went into my ISA account. I managed to save just over £10,000. I sacrificed a lot of good food in that period along with many new items of clothing.
How did you find suppliers? I found suppliers through Alibaba. Getting the good quality and manageable minimum order quantities was a struggle. However after many samples from all around the world I settled on my current supplier. I have been to visit the factory and we now have a very good relationship. It’s hard knowing who to trust but I just had to go with my gut instinct. If they answer emails in good time and seem very on the ball then it’s easier to start a good relationship and that’s what I experienced with my supplier.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them? My biggest struggle is getting the shoes into shops and the PR side. So many rejections has a big impact on your ego. The retail economy is not great at the moment and shop budgets are filled up quickly for the year. On the PR side, as I have limited funds, I cannot afford huge advertising costs.
Where is your business based? My business is based at home. I have grown up in a home/work related environment so to tell you truth I don’t know any different. Working the business around university work is my hardest struggle and not knowing which to prioritise on occasions.
How have you promoted your business? I have done advertising on Facebook, which proved very successful. I wrote to many weekly and monthly magazines, I heard back from three and managed to get into one. I wrote to local newspapers and this was the most successful. I had quarter page articles in three different newspapers. Writing to bloggers is always a good strategy along with Facebook and Twitter. I am currently handing out flyers outside Kurt Geiger once a week and I have done that in Oxford city centre before. I also sent out flyers to over 20 boarding schools in the country and to local flats and houses. I have also given some out to local businesses. However, the best promotion is just talking about the business to people you meet.
What about staff? It’s just me!
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? In 5 years’ time, I would like to have my degree and have learnt a lot. I’d like a larger range of shoes and hopefully be able to walk down the street or be on the tube and see someone wearing Yull shoes. I would love to open up a shop and start doing accessories too.