Meet the co-founder of Yogiyo
Hi Sue, hope you’ve had a lovely day so far, please tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi Nadine, I've a lovely day so far. Well, I'm Sue, co –founder of Yogiyo. I’m from South Korea, but I’ve been living in London since we moved over in 2013. I’m a mother of one lovely daughter and have one more on the way soon. My two passions are cooking and travelling and luckily I’m able to indulge in both of these all year round thanks to Yogiyo.
As Korean food has been such a big influence in your life, what spurred on the idea to turn your passion into a business?
I met my husband, Ben, in Korea and when we decided move back to the UK, we started talking about setting up a new business together inspired by my heritage; the idea of Korean food came up instantly, it was so obvious. We were sitting in my mum’s restaurant and from the moment we had the idea, it excited us both so much. We made the choice that evening to somehow bring the Korean cuisine that I’ve grown up with, and which we both love, back to the UK and we’ve never looked back since.
Congratulations on Dragons Den, I remember watching that episode, how was that entire experience for you both?
Thank you, it was an unforgettable day. It’s quite an early start; you get there at 6:30am and unfortunately we’d been up all night with our baby daughter who just couldn’t get to sleep in the hotel room we were staying at. So we arrived quite tired but the adrenaline soon kicked in. Luckily we were first up, it can be a very long day for some of the hopefuls.
The actual pitch was a very tense situation, trying to read the Dragons was like playing a game of poker and we were very aware that we were in their environment. When Deborah Meadon declared herself out my heart sank a little and the nerves crept up a notch. Luckily we actually received a really positive response from everyone, even Deborah, and we were definitely relieved not to get torn to pieces, like some of the Dragons’ Den hopefuls I’d seen on the TV in the past. When received the offers and eventually made the deal with Peter we were so happy and truly excited for what it meant for the business.
With so many sauces on the shelves, what makes Yogiyo stand out from the crowd?
There’s actually nothing like them in the supermarkets at the moment but the appetite for Korean food in restaurants and food markets is really on the rise. Two of our sauces are made with one of the most import ingredients in Korean cuisine ‘Gochujang’ which is a versatile chilli paste with a distinctive favour.
As well as offering people unique flavours, our products are also incredibly versatile. You can use our sauces for so many things, in marinades, stir-fries, stews, soups and as a glaze for meats such as Korean fried chicken. I really hope that the people that buy our sauces try our recipes and get the most out of them.
Marketing is such an important aspect of any business, what is your biggest tip?
Marketing is such a broad area. I think business-to-business marketing was our biggest challenge as a food product start-up. We had a nice local following for our street food but knocking on the doors of large businesses was hard at first. Our main focus as two people starting out was to make sure we that presented ourselves as the company that we wanted to be rather than the inexperienced pair we actually were!
For us, this meant a combination of two things, professionalism and creativity, and we focused on bringing this across in all our collateral from documents, brochures and photos to our branding and labels. We wanted to ensure that the people we were selling to bought into our brand and this meant investing in those visual aspects of the business.
Korean cuisine is becoming incredibly popular, how does it feel to add a big stamp to the growth?
It’s an interesting question, I really hope that we’re helping people to try Korean food for the first time, that’s the reason we started this business. If our launch helps more people around the UK experience and enjoy Korean cooking, for me that’s the most amazing part of this whole journey.
What advice would you give to other foodies wanting to turn their passion into a lucrative business?
I’d say visualise where you want to get to and plot your way back step-by-step. Then just push and work really hard to make the things happen. Starting off it felt very daunting and like every door that we needed to open was firmly shut but every little progression opens up new business opportunities and we embraced the ones we were given.
Sainsbury’s is a massive supermarket in the UK, how did the partnership come about and are you looking forward to the launch this month?
We were given the opportunity to pitch to a Sainsbury’s buyer after Dragons’ Den, they liked our products, the brand and they knew that Korean food was gaining popularity, so saw the gap we were trying to fill. I’m sure they appreciated the exposure that comes with being on TV too. I still couldn’t quite believe it when they offered us the listing. It’s a lot of work to get a product into the supermarkets, so its been a very full on few months but to actually see Yogiyo sauces on the shelves In a couple of weeks will be a dream come true.
How did you fund the first leg of the business?
Once we decided to start Yogiyo, we spent some time working full time jobs and then running a little English academy in the evenings in Korea. We saved up our start-up capital after two years. As soon as we got back to the UK, we spent that on a shiny trailer and luckily found a pitch for it pretty quickly. Everything between then and Dragons’ Den had been funded from the profits of the street food business.
What is the best business lesson you learnt so far?
Be adaptable, always look for what can be better or done differently and don’t be afraid to make major changes immediately if needs be.
And what is the worst?
I think just work with the right people. I think its always worth putting in that extra bit of effort to ensure your choosing the right person for every aspect of business, whether its a supplier, hired skill or any kind of partnership. Vetting people, checking references or taking time to compare the market are all essentials. We’ve learnt that the right partnerships can really be the key to the success of the business but the wrong ones can be the biggest source of frustration and stress.
With the amazing support from Peter Jones, how important do you believe having the right mentor is?
Having the support of Peter has been incredible for us. It has lifted our sauce company from two people with essentially an idea to a fully operational business. There are so many positives about having the right mentor that I would advise anyone starting out in business to seek those individuals that have had success in your industry. At our stage in business, learning is the most important part and working with the right mentor opens up a lot of possibilities.
What does Yogiyo have in store for the future?
We’re full of big ideas but I think firstly we just want to see people cooking with our sauces. We want to see people enjoying them and creating delicious meals. That’s our sole challenge right now and for our short-term future. Longer term I think there’s a lot more to come from us but we’re taking it one step at a time.
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