Squid London: From Students to Female Founders of a Globally Recognized Innovative Brand.
The NextWomen Start-up Interview series looks at women that are founding and leading online businesses across a number of technological markets. We showcase the businesses of diverse female innovators, making them notable and quotable.
Whilst Emma-Jayne and Viviane Jaeger worked on a joint project at The London College of Fashion, they were inspired by the artist Jackson Pollock. It became the basis for their startup Squid London, of which they are co-founders and directors; their main product is a Magic umbrella. In only a year they managed to sell thousands of them worldwide. Tate Britain keeps coming back to Squid London for orders.
What’s next? – To grow into a globally recognized innovative brand.
The NextWomen talks with the female entrepreneurs about their entrepreneurial journey so far, the funding process, how to get a foot in the door, and the mentors along the way.
"SquidLondon is a creative think-tank. The cauldron of ideas is simmering! The goal is bringing industries together: fashion, science and marketing."
1. Magic Umbrellas... How did you come up with the idea of your start-up?
Imagine it starts to rains and your ordinary black umbrella changes colour into a walking piece of art….
We thought: “How cool would it be, if you walked down the street, its starts to rain and your clothes changed colour”. So they got to work: researching, developing, liaising, sourcing and designing!
2. From Design Student to Female Entrepreneur and Co-founders? Tell us how you work?
We met at The London College of Fashion whilst studying their BA (Hons) in Product Design and Development. Our first project as a team we designed the costumes for the London Olympics Handover Ceremony in Beijing. With this experience of studying together we consider ourselves an excellent team to manage all areas of our startup.
And we believe that two heads are better than one.
With the two of us we are managing: Design, Research and Development, IP, Website, Marketing/PR, Blog/SEO, Production. Accountancy, Quotes, Sales. Its a lot, but that's what a startup is all about.
3. How did you fund it, with how much money, and what is the business model?
SquidLondon is a product design and development company, we design and produce and market and sell. So we are in the whole sales chain. We have not yet licensed out our products to a thid party.
Our initial funding came in our final year of University, we won the runners up prize of The Business Plan Deutsche Bank Award. From thereon we were introduced to an investor. Competitions are also important for building the brand and credibility: We recently won the People's Choice award and were the Creative Entreprise Winner 2010 of NACUE national Varsity Pitch having been judged by Lloyds TSB.
Currently, the bread and butter line is the colour changing Squidarella collection. Tate Museums was the first client to commissioned Squid to design an umbrella for the colour chart exhibition, initially ordering 600; since ordered a further 3’800 units.
We have further products in the pipeline that are ready to break into the market.
Additionally, Squid collaborates with sport brands, fashion designers, and architects to create designs using smart materials and enhance SquidLondon as a brand.
4. Can you tell a bit about your current funding process? Did you kiss a lot of frogs?
SquidLondon sold 10’000 Squidarella’s in 2009 and can proudly announce that this target has been reached in the first quarter of 2010 – proving the demand and business viability.
In terms of investor process – we have seen a couple of interesting proposals on the table. When it comes to kissing frogs – lets put it this way: a trial phase has so far pointed Squid in the right direction, without making rushed decisions.
5. Do you have a mentor or coach?
Founding the company at the age of 23, we were fortunate to seek advice from different specialists in IP, Accountancy, Production and Business and gather a few mentors along the way…!
6. What makes you different from other players in your sector?
We think Squid is unique. We are two energetic creative people with a passion and belief in setting trends not following them. The unique selling point is our patented colour change process, which we use in the umbrella. It has huge potential and growth...you can’t find similar products or ideas anywhere else...!
7. What was your biggest challenge during the development process and how can other start-ups learn from that?
Getting a foot in the door was the biggest challenge. From R&D phase in the laboratories, to the minimum factory quantities to the first article in Sunday Times to the first client; Tate – all needed diligence, patience and the overall: belief.
What we would say to other starting entrepreneurs: If you have a vision believe in yourself, after that you can convince anyone else. Sometimes you will find it is more talk than action - if you think it is a good idea – just do it, do not hold back
7. Are you profitable?
In the first quarter of this year, Squid has already achieved the same sales target as of last year. The hard work of building up trust in clients has paid off – the re-orders have been rolling in…
8. Where is the company in 1 year?
SquidLondon is a creative think-tank. The cauldron of ideas is simmering! The goal is bringing industries together: fashion, science and marketing.
We will focus on producing ideas and products that exceed the expectation of a seasonal focus, regurgitating past ideas and designs.
So far Squid has expanded to London, New York, Paris, Tokyo and Moscow. What’s next – to grow into a globally recognized innovative brand.
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