This summer our Founder James Robbins caught up with Flybe Flight Time Magazine, discussing how Drysure is helping to revolutionise foot care for people who enjoy an active lifestyle.
Read the full interview below and click here to read the e-edition.
5 MINUTES WITH . . . James Robbins
James Robbins, 38 is the Founder of Drysure – an innovative eco-friendly shoe and boot drying product for outdoor sports enthusiasts.
What’s your business background?
I studied business at Durham University in the early 2000’s and worked for a clothing start-up at the same time – which gave me a taste for entrepreneurialism.
Having left university, I entered a graduate scheme at Barclays Wealth, before leaving the corporate world to take on the challenge of running a hotel in Morocco and turning it around. I helped to established Tigmi, Marrakech as one of the leading Yoga hotels in Morocco before returning to the UK as a business consultant; helping start-ups and SME’s develop and grow their business and reconnecting with my entrepreneurial spirit.
If you had told me 10 years ago I would now be running a footwear drying business, I would never have believed you!
Where did the idea for Drysure come from?
I love all sports, but my biggest passion is skiing. Whilst on a family ski holiday in Austria, my ski boots became wet and the thought of putting on soggy boots the next day wasn’t very appealing. My hotel didn’t have boot dryers and I thought there must be a way to solve the problem with a mobile boot dryer but couldn’t find one anywhere. I had the same problem at home when I would go to the gym or go for a run – soggy and sweaty running shoes. It was a common problem my friends seemed to experience too; so the idea of a boot and shoe dryer you could take anywhere developed naturally and out of necessity. If I couldn’t find the product I wanted, I’d make it!
How did you get started?
After having the initial idea, I checked it wasn’t already out there and got the product patented right away. Then I brought in a design team and had some prototypes made. I repeated that process a few times until the design was just right and we had a great looking, practical product that could dry footwear twelve times faster than air drying.
After struggling to find a manufacturer in the UK, I jumped on a plane to China and found a company that could create the product we needed. The first batch then went to market in spring 2016 as a test, before we officially launched at the Ski and Snowboard Show in London later that year. By the end of 2016 we had completely sold out.
Today, we have expanded internationally and ship products all over the world.
How long did it take from initial idea to production?
The overall process took two years. Now we are supplying skiers, runners, cyclists, farmers, ice hockey players and every other type of outdoor enthusiast you can image – all over the world!
What were the main challenges along the way?
Initially it was tricky to make the idea work. The design must allow enough air to flow through the footwear to dry effectively, whilst at the same time being easy to insert. Once we solved that problem, finding a manufacturer was the next task. The product design is very unique, so we needed to find someone with the right tooling capability and who could produce products at the right price. The final challenge, as I’m sure any start-up will understand, is funding. Drysure was totally self-funded before securing a loan from the Start Up Loans Company – which helped us kick on to the next stage – increasing our product range to more colours.
How do you market Drysure?
We primarily use eCommerce, Amazon and a few key retailers. We also have some celebrity fans which has helped us a lot, including Winter Paralympians Millie Knight and Brett Wild, and Olympic Skier Peter Speight. Promoting the brand online and generating PR helps us greatly too.
Are sales where you anticipated they would be at this point?
Yes and no! We are very happy with sales considering the difficultly we have had in raising capital. We hardly spend anything on marketing and therefore we rely on word of mouth. If we had funding and the ability to invest in Drysure then sales would be much higher. As it happens we have to re-invest our profits to increase stock to grow.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?
Wow the best is hard…I have three:
- Keep an eye on the pennies …. start-ups are costly and if you are not careful they will consume the cash too quickly.
- Make the relationship with your factory as strong as possible. They are part of your start up.
- Listen to others but also listen to your gut, you are the entrepreneur.
Is there anything you would have done differently, with hindsight?
Mistakes are a natural part of business but it’s important to learn from them. There’s nothing I would do differently as the steps we’ve taken have ultimately led to Drysure now being sold in North America, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Europe - which may not have happened without learning from the odd stumble.
What are your plans for the future?
We’re keen to grow by creating jobs and hiring great people, expanding our product range to incorporate a wider variety of footwear dryers and accessories, and we are hungry to enter new markets globally. As more and more people are enjoying active lifestyle’s it’s an exciting time to be involved in the action sports industry.