Two years on, what the success of their online store My1stYears.com has shown is that even in a tough financial climate, there are niche markets, in this case the personalised gift sector, that will continue to attract consumer spend.
It was back in 2009, both aged just 21 and studying at Leeds Business School, when the pair came up with the concept. Although neither had any experience of parenthood they felt certain there was a gap in the market for fashionable but affordable personalised gifts for newborns.
“The market was polarised between low quality 'cheap' products and the unaffordable 'designer' end of the market. There was nothing unique out there,” explains Daniel.
“Having researched the market thoroughly, we recognised a consumer demand for a more affordable, personal gift,” he added. Funded entirely by themselves, they tracked down an embroiderer who could work on the tiniest of shoes, designed their website and fittingly, nine months after its inception, they launched their online business.
However, Daniel admits that it wasn’t all plain sailing.
He said: “Early on our plans hit a few brick walls. For example, we discovered that a lot of companies were unwilling to embroider on baby shoes as they’re so tiny, but fortunately we found someone who was able to do it and thanks to him, we were able to get things up and running, starting with the sheepskin boots and trainers.”
Over the first 12 months of trading they were able to expand their product range to include blankets, clothing and teddy bears and upgrade the website. By the end of the first year the business was entering a period of rapid growth with sales increasing 12 fold on the previous year.
Moving into the next phase of growth, over 80% of the brand’s new range that is currently being introduced is manufactured in the UK; the Made in Britain label proving a hit with customers, and likely to boost overseas sales when the business launches in the US.
My1stYears.com has also attracted the attention of some celebrity fans, including Sir Elton and partner David Furnish who were presented with a personalised gift pack following the arrival of son Zachary, Dannii Minogue, and most recently Beyonce and husband Jay-Z.
The founders are now planning to expand their gift range to include a new fashionable line of baby clothing and footwear, as well as introducing a new range for mums.
Daniel said: “The business has grown at an incredible rate, and we want to maintain that momentum while retaining the brand’s core values. We are on target to turn over a £1million this year and ultimately we have our sights set on becoming the first place that people will visit when they’re looking for something special for a new baby, a christening gift, or something for a new mum.”