Meet Elspeth of Yummikeys
I’m originally a graduate in environmental science, after which I was a chartered accountant for 10 years. I set up Yummikeys just over three years ago and have been running it and juggling a young family ever since.
1. Can you explain to us how the idea for your business came to you and how the whole process kicked off?
I started designing and producing baby toys while I was on maternity leave with our second child. My husband had managed to drop our car keys down a drain in Pisa airport, never to be seen again – keys not husband, although at the time……..
A few weeks later, back home in Scotland, the remaining set with house keys on the same fob, mysteriously vanished, resulting in a house turned upside down and some costly replacements. The chief suspect was Hamish, then 8 months old, who was fixated with shiny, jingly keys, just as his sister had been.
I knew it wasn’t safe to let babies play with keys as they can contain lead, carry an impaction risk into the soft palate and are often quite dirty, but Hamish must have gotten hold of them, perhaps with some aiding and abetting from big sister, Rebecca. As he is also an apprentice postman, the pedal bin was their most likely destination.
I tried to channel Hamish’s key love into the plastic keys aimed at his age range, but like his sister had previously done, he soon lost interest in them. Having searched and found metal toy keys were not available in the UK market, the seed was sown and Yummikeys was born.
These were the first stainless steel and silicone baby toys designed globally and also the first stainless steel teething rings worldwide, so naturally all designs have been protected.
2.What were the biggest challenges you faced when bringing the idea to market?
My biggest challenge was finding a manufacturer. I called over 100 in the UK and was laughed at constantly; the only manufacturer I found who was even vaguely willing, sadly went out of business. In the end, having spent a huge amount of time researching and coming up short at every turn, I eventually had to resign myself to overseas production, but honestly, the quality is outstanding and I couldn’t be prouder of the end product.
However much I would have preferred to make them in the UK, the steel industry here just isn’t producing high end luxury small parts, so you just have to make it work whatever way you can.
3.Where do you think good ideas come from and what inspires you?
I think good ideas come from observing life around you, but also allowing yourself to be creative and to think a little differently. In the beginning I was inspired by my family to produce toys that I knew my babies would adore and now as we grow, I want to contribute to their world and their future being greener, in whatever way I can.
4.What are your company’s values and why are these important to the business?
As a company we believe passionately in creating green, waste-free products and being carbon-neutral. We also believe in supporting working mums to re-enter the workforce and in giving them flexibility to work remotely and around their family responsibilities.
I know many, hugely talented, intelligent, and experienced women who have not returned to work after having a baby, because for many of us that flexibility was / is just not offered by our workplace. I believe this means businesses are losing a valuable resource and that women are losing the right to both work and parent as they personally chose to in many cases. Hiring only other flexible mums has boosted my business no end; we are an untapped resource!
5.What is next for your brand?
We’re in discussions with a Canadian distributor and will be launching in the US soon, too. We also have two new products launching next year which I’m very excited about. Watch this space!
6.What one piece of advice would you have for someone just starting out on their business journey or currently going through a setback?
It will be hard, but it will be worth it. I think starting a business and getting it to a point of profitability is incredibly difficult and you will of course have low days, but keep your focus on the final goal and it will be so worth it once you get it established.
You also need to find your passion, that thing that keeps you going. For me, a constant willingness and drive to learn and improve my products has always kept me motivated. Hard work is key, and I think people underestimate the massive efforts that go into launching and establishing a business. I worked for 2 years for 70 hours plus a week, mostly around a baby, and two toddlers and so I barely slept and had zero free time, all for zero salary! I know this story isn’t uncommon, but I do think the amount of work required to set up a successful business shouldn’t be underestimated.
7. What resources and tools do you use to remain productive or up-to-date on industry trends etc.?
I rely very heavily on Trello for myself personally and for the team too. It helps us organise ourselves and communicate as we all work virtually and flexibly, so we can’t guarantee that we’ll be sitting in a room together at any point! I am also an ardent Instagram user and love connecting with my customers on there, hearing about how much they and their babies love Yummikeys!
More info on Elspeth
Facebook handle: yummikeys
Instagram handle: yummikeys