Interview with Elspeth Fawcett, founder of Yummikeys

Find out how an expensive lesson in letting her son play with her car keys inspired Elspeth Fawcett to launch Yummikeys, Europe’s first stainless steel baby toys.

What’s your career background?

I’m a chartered accountant and worked for a FTSE 100 company in Edinburgh, specialising as a technical life insurance accountant. 

How did your career change after having children?

When I was pregnant with my first baby I thought I’d want to go back at least four4 days a week when my baby was six months. 

In reality I did not feel in any way like this!! I took as long off as I possibly could, taking a month of parental leave and holiday too. I was still breastfeeding and just did not want to commute and leave my baby for long days. 

I did go back but found the inflexibility and lack of home working incompatible with parenting how I wanted to. Instead I went back 3 days and had to go on secondment to another team, where I enjoyed the work a lot less, because my first team couldn’t support 3 day a week working. 

Where did the idea for your business come from?

My first and middle child both absolutely adored car keys. My middle son had got hold of our last car key (I know this is not ideal… real keys contain lead, sharp edges, dirt and button batteries!) and lost it.

We spent two weeks searching everywhere for them and in the end I had to get the car towed and recalibrated. This cost me £400 and it was then that I decided to buy my son some metal toy keys so he had a toy version that he loved (the plastic toy ones never had any appeal). I couldn’t find anything like I wanted in Europe so I set about making my own. 

How did you move from idea to actual business?

I spent a year sketching ideas and making prototypes. I made these with the help of a welder friend and access to a 3D printer in my local library. From here I had a final drawing put onto CAD and started talking with a large number of manufacturers and safety consultants. 

What’s your USP?

Europe’s first stainless steel baby toys; jingly, cool and soothing for babies. 

Who’s your target audience?

Parents and those searching for baby gifting. Generally these are higher income, more environmentally conscious parents too. 

How do you spread the word about what you do?

Primarily through very active social media accounts and Facebook advertising. Happy customers have also been fantastic at spreading the word about Yummikeys. 

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

Facebook marketing has been hugely successive and using a great PR agency. 

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Getting a manufacturer! I contacted hundreds and almost none took me seriously. I had desperately wanted the manufacturing to be in the UK and worked hard  to try to make this happen but sadly I realised this wasn’t at all possible after the first batch. 

And your proudest moment so far?

As a chartered accountant I’m a member of the ICAEW which is The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and has over 150,000 members.

They recently featured me in their monthly magazine and made me a fellow in honour of my efforts at building a business and growing the profile of the ICAEW. This was a huge moment. 

Why is work so important to you?

To be a good parent and a happy person I feel I need to be fulfilled intellectually. I need to feel I have achieved something and have something in my life as well as my 3 young children. Yummikeys is exciting, full of new challenges and things for me to learn and is constantly evolving. I love this about it! 

Who inspires you?

My friends and old neighbours Brie Read and Polly Letson. They encouraged me to believe I could set up a business and make it a success and have always been on hand with advice and encouragement. They also set up a hosiery company two years ago called Snag Tights and it already has turnover of £2m a month. 

How do you balance your work with your family?

I have support from my mother with a few hours of childcare, but to a large degree my family come first and I work late into almost every night while my three children sleep. I also am building an incredible team which allows me to spread the load a little. 

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

  1. There’s never going to be a good or easy time to set up a business. Just go for it and follow your heart. 
  2. You will need to work harder than you ever believed to set up a successful business but it’s worth it. 
  3. Embrace social media and allow your customers to get to know you and what you and your company represent 

Find out more about Yummikeys.