Futliit light up backpacks business plan

How we turned the idea of a light up school bag into an LED backpack – Part 2

I’ve been asked a few times why and how we designed our LED backpacks – what made us come up with the idea of a light up backpack, how we actually designed and sourced the backpacks and how we set up Futliit.

This is the second blog about how we got started – you can read Part 1 here.  

So if you want to know how Futliit got started or are wondering if you could set up your own business, read on!

The idea of a light up backpack first came about when my elder daughter started secondary school, and I realised that in her navy uniform she was basically invisible to traffic. Dangerous in a rural village with no pavement and no streetlights. I couldn’t find a backpack with lights that would meet both her and my requirements so I started to wonder if I could design and produce a product myself. Initially, I did loads of research with kids to find out what they wanted from a light up backpack – you can read about the research and chocolate bar bribes in part 1!

Child wearing light up backpack at dusk

Photo: My daughter wearing a light up backpack at dusk

After getting all my ideas together, via the amazing power of Google, I found a firm run by Rick, a Brit based in China, who was willing to help me translate my idea into a reality and oversee the production in a small family-run factory. Rick turned my rough sketches into a technical drawing and then worked with the factory to work out how to insert the LED lights to make the backpack actually light up. It was starting to look possible!

How do you turn an idea into an actual product?

Now my light up backpack idea was suddenly taking on a life of its own. All advice seemed to involve writing a business plan and a cash flow but that was a bit daunting. So, I started with a massive board (having peeled my daughter’s primary school history project off it!) and stuck loads of post-it notes on it describing all the different parts of the business. I moved them around until I was happy I’d thought of everything and then painstakingly started turning the board into a word document that I was happy to show to people.  

Futliit business planning board
Photo: the 'build a business' post it note board

Across the winter of 2020-21, during the lockdowns, I work like crazy. I choose a company name and work with an amazing company called Zut Alors to finalise a logo and branding.

Once I have a company name, I register the company with Companies House, open a business bank account and put in a trademark application. Having refined the technical drawings, I start the sampling process in China. Everything is happening and it’s all very exciting: we could have light up backpacks ready for the summer holiday in time for the Back to School purchasing rush.

And then…

…Covid makes everything complicated again.

Covid strikes again

The UK moves into a third Covid lockdown which doesn’t fully lift until July. China moves in and out of lockdowns which have a serious effect on the factory’s ability to operate and Rick’s ability to travel to the factory. Our first sample eventually arrives in June 2021 but doesn’t have the LED lights in which isn’t ideal. It’s also bright orange…not what we were anticipating!  

Futliit light up backpack sample in orange
Photo: sample number one - it was SO orange!

We suffer a further blow in August when China enters a total lockdown.

By September 2021, the factory is up and running again but has a massive backlog. My second sample is stuck somewhere at the bottom of an enormous pile of work. Rick is powerless to move things along; he is still unable to travel. The factory assures him that they will get to my sample…eventually. By October, the Covid situation is improving in China but the factory is now hit by serious power outages which are affecting large parts of the country and has to close.

By December, Rick and I have a serious discussion about what to do. He describes the situation in China as ‘a world of pain’ and I seriously consider giving up.

After a lot of agonising, I decide to give it until after Christmas and keep my fingers crossed.

Hope arrives for my light up backpacks

The crunch point arrives and suddenly, I get an excited message from Rick. The Covid situation in China is improving massively, the factory has worked at full tilt over Christmas and New Year and my light up backpack sample is not only finished, it's not orange, it's complete with LED lights and on its way to the UK! The relief is enormous.

By March, I have made my alterations to the second sample and placed an order for my initial stock. I start grappling with Shopify to build Futliit’s website. After approving the production sample, my first order of light up backpacks arrives in August. Half arrives the day before we are due to go on holiday and the other half arrives after we have left. Thank goodness for lovely neighbours and friendly delivery guys who stash it in the garage for me!  

Boxes of light up backpacks
Photo: the first delivery of light up backpacks finally arrive

So, two years after coming up with the idea of a light up backpack and wondering if I could turn it into a reality, the answer had finally arrived. It had been a long time in the making, but my idea of creating a light up backpack to keep kids safe on their way to school had become a reality.

If you are looking for a light up backpack to make you or your kids safer on the way to school, have a look at our Futliit LED backpack. Our light up backpack has 2 bright white LED light strips giving you loads of lighting options plus reflective panels to add that extra layer of visibility.

Sign up to our mailing list and get a £10 welcome voucher!

Be safe, be seen, #BeFutliit!

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