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Pioneers of the Week: Sarah Jordan and Lily Chong from Y.O.U underwear

Community Manager

Pioneers of the Week: Sarah Jordan and Lily Chong from Y.O.U underwear

Meet social entrepreneurs Sarah @sarahjordan and Lily, these two long distance runners are now founders of a brand new ethical fashion brand called Y.O.U underwear. They share their startup experience and want to know if you can help.

 

Introduce you and your business in one sentence. 

You Underwear.pngWe’re Sarah Jordan and Lily Chong, co-founders of Y.O.U underwear. Y.O.U is Your Own Underwear – an ethical business producing 100% organic cotton underwear for men and women where every purchase provides underwear to people in need.

 

Tell us 2 interesting facts about you.

  • Lily learned to scuba dive a few years ago to overcome her fear of deep water.
  • Sarah loves learning and seems to collect random qualifications – apart from the day job, she’s a qualified ski instructor, sports massage therapist, teacher, rescue diver, NLP practitioner and wine & spirit master. One day she’ll put them to good use!

How did you start your business?

It kind of just happened! A few things conspired to bring us together in Uganda, at a start-up camping weekend, and some networking events. We kept coming back to the question ‘why don’t we just do something about this?’.

 

In the end we followed our own JFDI approach and momentum built fairly quickly. Less than a year later we’re about to launch our first range of organic cotton underwear – and help solve the problem that first inspired us. It’s surreal but also incredibly exciting!

 

What made you start your business?

Lily and I met in 2016 when we both took part in the Uganda International Marathon. Whilst we were volunteering in the local communities we met women and children who didn't have any access to underwear. Underwear is something that most of us take for granted every day; not having it has a huge impact on quality of life. It affects your health, hygiene, and often safety, causes children to be excluded from school, which can lead to months of education being missed each year, and women to be excluded from work - particularly during their periods. We wanted to do something about this, so we created Y.O.U – Your Own Underwear – as we believe that everyone should have exactly that.

 

What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?

The ability to do something we love and to make a difference to other people. We also love the flexibility and freedom it brings – we’re in control of everything, how we work, every element of the business – and ultimately the success – or failure – of that business is down to us.

 

What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?

Doing everything ourselves, especially on top of day jobs to start with. We’re really lucky that there’s two of us, but we’re still learning so much so quickly – about fashion, design, manufacturing, distribution, packaging, importing …. everything!

 

We have to ensure that we make the right decisions, quickly, that enable us to act and take advantage of opportunities that come up, but also keeps us on the right track for our long-term vision for the business. We love it but it’s certainly busy, especially at the moment with the crowdfunding!

 

Can you share an experience that really helped you take your business forward?

Getting onto the FFWD (FastForward) accelerator in London this summer. That was an amazing opportunity to really step back and think about every aspect of the business, from the problem we were solving, our customers, the financial model, our vision and growth plans, to brand and marketing. It was hard work but brilliant, we made amazing friends and connections, and even pitched to potential investors at the end. Those three months moved us forwards more than anything else.

 

Where do you work from?

We both work from our homes and various coffee shops and co-working spaces between Oxford and London.

 

What do you wish you knew when you first started in business?

To have had the confidence to trust our instincts more, to get our products out there as soon as possible because customers are the best critic, and to have asked for help more.

 

What are your three top tips for your industry?

  • Think more sustainably
  • Fast and cheap fashion comes at a huge cost to people and the environment
  • Listen to your customers and what they want, and work together to come up with better solutions.

Latest news?

We’ve just started a Kickstarter campaign to help launch our first range of products and start having the positive impact we want to. You can find out more about it here.

 

What would you like to ask the Voom Pioneers community?

  • Can you help us get our Kickstarter campaign seen by as many people as possible?
  • We’d also like some broader advice about the best way to launch and get visibility for a new ethical fashion brand in a very crowded market.