A start up story: the ups & downs, how-tos and entrepreneur advice



Startup

By Loren Webb

CEO and Founder, Luke Dutton, of new product COAT shares his startup story. 

A lot of the time new businesses are founded out of the realisation of a gap in the market from either a personal or professional perspective. 

Luke Dutton’s businesses is no exception and COAT was founded when there was no product solving his own problem. COAT is a portable coat hook for stowing garments while on the go.

Pick up tips from Luke in our interview – his product pitch, the challenges and how he overcame them as well as his words of advice for other startups hoping to grow in the coming years.

Dynamic Business:When was Coat launched/founded?

Luke: The initial light bulb moment for a portable coat hook occurred in Feb / March 2016. COAT was conceived out of pure necessity, as many things are. At the time I’d recently resumed working in the city after taking six months off work to be a ‘stay at home dad’. I get the train to and from work, it was hot and I was adjusting to being back in a suit. The train home was hot one afternoon and I’d taken my jacket off and was holding it. I had my phone in one hand, jacket in another and was mildly annoyed there was nowhere I could hang my jacket to free up a hand.

I looked around and noticed a lot of other people doing the same. The first seed for COAT was planted. The second was being out with friends one afternoon not long afterwards and myself and a friend were holding not only our jackets but our wives jackets too. We were at a bar and were reminiscing how in London most bars have hooks under the bar for your jacket… that always resonated with me as being very convenient.

The combination of these experiences led me to search on line for a portable hook of some sort, a similar concept in theory to hand bag hooks for women when they don’t want their bag to go on the floor. To my surprise there was nothing online that was portable in nature, plenty of hooks of various styles, shapes and uses but nothing truly portable that could go with you in your pocket. It was then the idea dawned on me that in order to obtain what I wanted, I may have to develop the idea and potentially the product myself. So I did.

Dynamic Business: How has Coat grown since it was founded?

Luke:  COAT has grown from an initial idea or concept to a merchantable product and more importantly a ‘brand’, albeit a very young one. The journey from initial idea, to concept, development and now to production has been one with many ups and downs, of challenges and frustrations but also very satisfying. Being a perfectionist by nature I can push hard at times where I don’t see compromise as an option. That has served me well during product development and particularly as we entered initial production.

Dynamic Business: What is your pitch?

Luke: Convenience, Comfort and Confidence.

COAT is there to hang your jacket when you need it, hence the first two C’s. The last C is for confidence, confidence in the fact that as opposed to the inappropriately shaped chair or bar stool, COAT gets your jacket out of the way and hung safely and securely.

Dynamic Business: What makes your business unique/sets you apart from your competitors?

Luke: I’d say the product itself and the talented people (I should say ‘expert technical consultants’) dedicated to bringing COAT to market. A start up bringing a new product to market is a well-trodden path however I have come to realise there’s a reason a lot of people either choose not to pursue something or don’t necessarily succeed in effectively getting to market. Corporate RND budgets are big for a reason, nothing is cheap hence we’re pleased to hit that milestone in getting to market and having a unique product to talk about and offer.

Dynamic Business: What are some of the challenges you faced when you initially established your business and how did you overcome them?

Luke: The first challenge was literally who to speak to in order to help develop my idea. There were a few consulting firms offering an ‘end to end’ product development / commercialisation service however I was struggling with who to trust as I didn’t want to broadcast my idea to unknown consultants. Cost was another key challenge in terms of knowing how to minimise cost, or at least drive value from consultants.

I ultimately adopted a ‘step by step’ or incremental approach with my product developer (4Design). The strategy solved the challenges, in that I could sample their work (and quality) gradually and establish trust in their professionalism and engineering ability.

Dynamic Business: Where do you see Coat in 5-10 years?

Luke: In 5-10 years’ time we’d love COAT to be a part of people’s everyday lives as a portable hanging solution. We have big aspirations for how far and wide we’d like COAT to be as a product and a brand, but the first step is educating people to the benefit of COAT as a viable ‘add on’ product when acquiring clothing and bags. There’s enormous scope in terms of the product itself in terms of evolution and enhancement. The opportunity in terms of market depth and breadth is also very attractive which can be somewhat blinding at times, however our focus for now is establishing our brand and building awareness.

What strategies do you use to market your business?

Luke: We’re using social media and traditional PR. We see huge value in strategic partnerships and are always looking for partners that COAT will align with. Being new to the market with a new product we’re engaging with experienced market insiders who are helping with our marketing strategy and key messaging to ensure COAT as a new product is understood.

What tips and advice would you give to other startups?

Luke: It’s tough so it’s important to remember that if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Its cliche’ but very true. If you’re starting up a business, you need to ensure that you’re doing it for the right reasons too, of course. Hang in there and be prepared to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. If you really believe in your idea back yourself to navigate through some hard times. Seek out advice yet remember that it’s ultimately your call and don’t delegate the tough calls… and try to enjoy the ride too!

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