Susi Lennox and Sarah Brooks came up with the idea for The Yes Yes Company Ltd in 2003. Both women had worked at Pfizer, the research-based pharmaceutical company which launched Viagra, and saw a gap in the market for an entirely new concept – a range of certified organic, plant-based and natural intimacy products for women.
Before they could launch, however, a process of intensive R&D took place, Sarah explains: “We spent three years researching, planning and formulating, with the aim of making our products totally natural and side-effect free.”
“We set ourselves very ambitious targets,” adds Susi. “It was dismaying to see the chemical nature of existing products in the market and we wanted to completely revolutionise this category in formulation and in dignity. We took charge of everything, from formulation to packaging, messaging and brand values.”
The Yes Yes Company began trading in 2006 and is certainly achieving its aims – doing something no company has done before and doing it profitably – at a growth rate of more than 50% each year. The business has also established a firm foothold in the international marketplace, trading via its website all over the world. “The whole point of trading online is that you have a global outreach,” adds Sarah. “When we first started, we simply couldn’t afford to take on our competitors on the shelf of major retailers, so we needed to base our business strategy online.”
Susi and Sarah picked up their first distributor in New Zealand in 2007 and at this point Yes Yes products began to go on shelves. “This happened in the UK at the same time, in smaller retailers such as wholefood and healthcare stores and pharmacies,” Sarah explains. “We initially targeted English-speaking markets, which have been great for us. Then we looked for distributors in countries such as Lithuania and Hungary.”
“Scandinavian countries have also been important for us,” adds Susi. “We have sold very well in Denmark and are growing in Sweden. We also now have distributors in Finland and Iceland.”
Because the range of products are so natural, customers have reported other medical benefits from use which Susi and Sarah are feeding in to their overseas marketing.
One of the major challenges The Yes Yes Company has encountered in trading overseas is coming up against competitors which claim to offer ‘organic’ products when in fact they have not been certified. Susi outlines: “These products might have half of one percent of one ingredient which is organic, for instance, yet they can claim to be wholly organic. This is illegal for food, but not yet for cosmetics and personal care products. With our range, you can trace each ingredient back to the field it came from. Our whole production, storage and filling process is also certified.”
Protection in the USA
Protecting IP in the US is also an issue, she says. “There are three companies in the US which have copied our formulation and we are yet to receive our US patent, whereas we have this in the UK and Europe. As a small company, we don’t have the resources to throw money at US patent lawyers and there is currently no support for companies like us to manage this process.
“Coming up with something entirely innovative, paying for the patent protection, maintaining it, growing out of cashflow and being a small business competing in a wide field, plus obtaining all the accreditations we desire in validating the purity of our product – we’ve met all of these challenges and more.”
When seeking advice in expanding overseas, Susi and Sarah have found the UKTI extremely helpful in making links and funding overseas visits. The company also took part in Santander’s Breakthrough Trade Mission to New York last year. “We found this enormously useful,” Sarah enthuses. “It was very strategically structured to help us look at the reception our product would have in the US. Santander arranged introductions to relevant people who were all very encouraging and, although our ability to maximise the benefits does rely on our obtaining FDA approval, the visit gave us an inspiring sense of the scope of what we could achieve.”
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