Laura Seago of Futliit LED Backpacks

Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me

This is an abbreviated version of an interview in Authority Magazine in January 2024, "Laura Seago of Futliit: Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Launched My Business or Startup".

Laura Seago of Futliit: Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Launched My Business or Startup

Where did the idea for an LED backpack come from?

The Futliit LED backpack story began when our eldest daughter started secondary school and had to walk to and from the school bus. We lived in rural Warwickshire in the middle of the UK and our village had no streetlights nor pavement. As the nights drew in, it soon became clear that walking in the road in her navy school uniform, she was practically invisible to drivers.

Research showed that the prime time for accidents involving pedestrians is 3-6pm, just when the majority of us are walking home. Although we wanted her to have her independence, we also didn't want her to get run over! We tried to make her more visible but couldn’t find a light up backpack that would look stylish in the day time but still had the required visibility features at night. So the seeds of Futliit were born.

Was it easy setting up Futliit LED backpacks?
No! Starting the business was daunting, but also quite exciting. One of our biggest issues was trying to work out how to incorporate the LED lights into the backpack so that they were unobtrusive during the day but gave out max visibility at night.

Like everyone else, we were taken completely by surprise by Covid. We were a good way into the LED backpack sampling process when our manufacturing partner in China was hit by a total lockdown which was then followed by a series of major power outages that affected the entire country. When the factory was finally able to open again, we had lost months and our LED backpack sample was at the bottom of an enormous backlog. Plus shipping costs had sky-rocketed. I seriously considered giving up.

Did you make any mistakes in the early days of Futliit?
Early on I set up a series of Facebook adverts to try to get a buzz going. It was very complicated and I clearly didn’t set it up correctly. I remember the terrible sinking feeling when I realised that I had spent way more than anticipated and didn’t really get much in the way of results. I think you have to be philosophical though and not beat yourself up - how else are you going to learn if not through your mistakes?

Less a mistake, but certainly very funny was running focus groups with some of my friends’ children to find out what they wanted from an LED backpack. One of the younger kids was insistent that he didn’t want branding on his backpack and after explaining why I needed to put a logo on the backpack, his face fell and the tears started. He thought I was making a bespoke backpack for him and was giving me instructions for what he wanted! One of the older teens was adamant that he never wore or purchased any clothing or accessories with overt branding on. He showed me his current school backpack which had a massive logo emblazoned across it – cue much hilarity and one very red faced teen.

What makes Futliit stand out?
It’s not an exaggeration to say that we are one of a kind. Futliit came about because I couldn’t find the product that I wanted, so I set about making it. There are lots of luminous products out there in bright colours but I wanted a smart, highly spec’d light up backpack in neutral colours where the visibility features could be turned on when you needed them but were unobtrusive in the day time. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved in getting Futliit to this point and it’s such a buzz seeing people using our LED backpacks.

What are your "5 things I wish someone told me when I first launched my business," and why?

1 . Setting up a business will take longer than you think, cost more than you think and you will hit setbacks that you won’t see coming. Covid and lockdowns were major issues for me and they were not things I could have planned for. I just had to adjust my plans and my expectations and steadily try to move forwards.

2 . If you’re starting a business on a shoe-string as I was, you will spend a lot of time on YouTube watching tutorials! From building a website, basic coding and setting up SEO to taking product photos and making reels, I needed to learn how to do it myself and YouTube was invaluable. You don’t need to be an expert in everything to build a business. Determination, curiosity and self-reliance will get you a long way.

3 . Having said that, it is good to know when to call in the experts. Although I taught myself how to do most things, there are some things that are best left to the experts. Branding and trademarking are good examples. Although I have a background in marketing, I have no experience at creating a visual identity or logo, so outsourced that to the experts who had experience of launching start-ups. Similarly with trademarking, I had no clue where to start so found a specialist who sorted it all out for me at very reasonable rates.

4 . People buy from people but that means you as the owner of the business will have to open up. I was happy to share our story on our website and in interviews, but hadn’t realised that customers expect to actually see you as the face of the company. I have had to gradually get over my reluctance to appear on our social media and get in front of the camera. Don’t overthink it: sometimes you just have to be brave and go for it.

5 . You will get a lot of advice but you do not need to pay heed to all of it. Some of the advice will be excellent from people who know what they are talking about. Some of it will be nonsense from people who have never set up their own business but are happy to point out to you where you are going wrong and how much better everything would have been if they had been in charge. Everyone will always have an opinion but you’re in charge and only you get to decide what sort of company you want to set up. You will have to develop Teflon shoulders and let it go!


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