Tell us about yourself and how KYT Bags came about?
The KYT story begins with my diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes ten years ago at age 20. It came fairly out of the blue – I didn’t know anyone else with it, or what diabetes really meant. I found it difficult to manage diabetes alongside a young adult lifestyle. My friends were wild and carefree, and I had to be measured and consistent in caring for myself. Taking my massive bag of equipment around – especially to social events where others would make awkward comments when I pulled my diabetes things out – made me really self-conscious. I wanted a discreet, streamlined and less awkward way of managing my diabetes and equipment day-to-day. Plus I was itching to ditch the battered nylon medical case I was using in favour of something much more fashionable!
I looked for a bag that fit the bill, but nothing existed. Later, after studying fashion technology, I decided to take matters into my own hands. After many attempts, refinements and insights gained from hundreds of conversations with diabetics around the world, we (my partner, JP and I) landed on KYT Crossbody – our first product which we launched in mid-2018
What has been the most useful resources for you that helped KYT Bags achieve growth?
Our business journey has been guided and supported by many people and in many ways – lucky, because we may not have been able to get off the ground otherwise!
We were able to find a lot of early advice through a start-up incubator (Creative HQ Wellington), which was a helpful hub for us to learn basic business ins–and–outs, and to foster critical relationships early. It was there that we were able to strike up a relationship with another Kiwi start-up who became our first production partner.
Now that we’re a bit further along the way, we’re after targeted, specialised advice which Kea has helped us to find. All of these inputs contribute to business growth as it helps us to upskill as KYT develops. We’ve found that most people we talk to know someone with diabetes (a potential customer or collaborator) or a helpful hand that they can put us in touch with. We’ll continue to leverage this as much as we can.
Are there any particularly learnings or mistakes that sticks out for you in terms of taking KYT into offshore markets?
KYT was a global proposition from the beginning because of the global nature of diabetes, and the niche that our bags live in. We quickly learned the importance of connecting widely with the international diabetes community and were delighted by the amount of support that KYT received from the start. I’ve had design conversations with diabetics from all over the world to understand their needs and translate them into bag features.
I was able to sense-check ideas and make design decisions based on what we knew the community really wanted and loved. This ensured that we had an internationally-relevant product, and established a ‘word of mouth army’ early on. Our collaborators have marketed KYT within their own communities and diabetes networks and helped grow our reach to a largely invisible audience. This was no better demonstrated than by our first customer in Japan, who helped several other women with diabetes navigate our English-speaking website and get bags of their own, after they saw her post a picture of KYT Crossbody online.
Tell us about your experience with Kea Connect since reaching out in 2019
We were introduced to Kea through a friend, and were quick to accept the invitation! Given the stage of our business – having sold out of our first designs, moved to a larger production partner, and now focused on expanding our product range – we valued advice from Kea about who might be best to talk to first. We were able to meet with someone very experienced in the accessories world, as well as talk about IP with people who have a global perspective on protecting products.
Each conversation has shed light on questions we weren’t sure how to answer and given direction as to next steps. It’s reassuring to have access to a network of experts, knowing that we can pose a problem, question or idea and be put in touch with someone who might be able to help. As I said at the beginning, these conversations really matter!
Tell us about your exciting new launch!
Following the sellout of our first design, KYT Crossbody, we’ve been working furiously to expand the KYT range with three brand-sparkling-new designs. They’re based on lots of feedback and collaboration with the diabetes community about what they want to see next (can anyone say men’s design?). We’re getting close to pressing ‘go’, but understandably 2020 brought some unexpected delays with launch, and our priority is to make sure that everyone we work with stays safe. We’ll be able release all three designs in 2021 through a Kickstarter campaign, so that we can reach as much of the global diabetes community as we can. There’ll be some sneak peeks over social media, as well as details about the launch to come. Please follow along to hear the latest!
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