Lisa Joyce is a designer and co-founder of children’s clothing brand Kidunk. With a 20-year career behind her working for some of the UK’s best known and loved baby and kids brands, she is also one of the industry’s leading Baby Sleep Product design experts previously sitting on British and European safety steering committees. So, what made her set up an outdoor clothing brand for kids and what tips and advice might she have for anyone looking to start a business in this sector?
‘Throughout most of my career I have worked for entrepreneurs and have been fortunate to have had incredible mentors along the way. From the guy that started Cosatto as a 17 year on a sewing machine, to the couple who created The Gro Company, what they shared was first-hand experience of ‘why hasn’t someone else done this’ but more importantly, passion and absolute, incredible determination. I was shown how it really is possible to change the way people do something, for the better. The Gro Company created Baby Sleeping Bags and now 95% of parents do not put baby to bed in anything else.
In 2013, I set up a design and product consultancy after having my first child. I loved the industry and wanted to ‘keep my hand in’, but I also had a burning desire to set up my own brand.
The thing was the baby sleep market is crowded and having achieved so much with Gro, I wanted to do something different. The category is very specialist and parents want brands they know and trust, it’s not that people will not try something new, but in a very safety driven arena the investment in safety testing alone will wipe out any initial investment! Also, experience taught me taking ordinary product and ‘colouring it in’ just does not work anymore. Instagram is filled with so many niche brands offering beautiful looking product but mostly, commercially it doesn’t add up. I did not want a lifestyle business; I wanted to innovate and create a new way of doing things. I wanted to create a Brand.
In 2015, I was approached by a couple who have run their own nursery schools for almost 30 years and were looking for help to bring an idea to life;- ‘better’ clothing for nursery and forest School environments. For outdoor play, the Michelin snow suit or thin sweaty puddle suits (that mostly rip during active play) are just not good enough. For water and paint play normal clothing gets saturated in minutes and again, is not comfortable for a child. They wanted something the practitioners could easily remove either for toileting or ready for home.
And that was the ‘thing’. I was toilet training my two-year-old at the time and as a family we spent our weekends out and about on the fells or in the park and his clothing frustrated the life out of me! I chatted to other parents, organised focus groups, went into nursery settings, sense checked my thinking. I was not the only one surely? Why hadn’t someone come up with a better way of dressing kids for play? A conversation sparked an idea and another conversation lead me to come up with the Kidunk concept where the trouser and top zipped together at the waist – creating a fully protective suit. Simple! We had our patent granted last year.
Developing the fabric was the biggest challenge but I was able to work with factories from my time at Gro. Since our launch in 2017, we have won over 8 awards – including the GOLD European Design Award. Our range is sold in Japan, Norway and China and you can find us at National Park and Forestry England sites as well as leading kids outdoor clothing retailers.
This year we launched our partnership with Caudwell Lyme Co, a charity dedicated to raising awareness about Lyme’s disease. We recognise that young families are spending more time than ever outdoors before so wanted to ensure they were tick prepared. The idea of our Tick Detective Campaign was to create an engaging resource for youngsters so, as if to come full circle, the two-year-old that inspired the Kidunk suit is my now 7 year old creative assistant! I knew if he understood the concept, then other young children across the UK would get it too! This year we have focused on distribution digitally, but we hope to create flyers and distribute to schools, outdoor and visitor centres and every nursery and forest school across the UK.
Lisa’s top tips for creating a Brand
- Create a way of doing something not a something.
- Use personal experience as a start point, but make sure it is an experience that others share. Be prepared that other people will not think there is a problem with the same things as you!
- Ask people to be honest. It will save you money you could have better invested in something else.
- Talk to as many people as you can about your idea.
- Do you have passion for your idea? Passion is 80% of the sell and people will invest in that passion.
- Surround yourself with BRILLIANT people that you trust.
- Be prepared to work harder than you have ever worked for the least you have ever been paid!
For more about the Tick Detective Campaign visit – @Caudwelllyme.com