At a time when most young people are just thinking about their career options, 21-year-old entrepreneur Sarah Watkinson-Yull has already launched a successful shoe company in her first year at Westminster Business School.
“I‘ve always been really interested in business as a career and wanted my own business, but I wasn’t sure what that business would be. Then, as I developed an interest in fashion and in particular shoes, I started thinking about creating my own shoe brand,” she says.
Sarah, who’s originally from Oxfordshire, studied fashion for a year at the Philip Green Retail Academy and worked in her family’s business learning the import and export business while saving money to launch her own start-up.
Soon after, she started the BA Business Management course at Westminster Business School. “I chose Westminster Business School because the course content sounded great, the campus is in a fantastic location in Central London, and the degree enables you to specialise in a particular topic in the second and third years,” she says. “This really attracted me as one of the specialism options is entrepreneurship which was just perfect for me and what I want to pursue in the future.
Sarah developed a business plan Yull Shoes during her first year at Westminster, putting her new knowledge into practice and getting practical help and advice from her lecturers.
“The most useful thing I have learnt on the course so far was the work on online retail and I was able to implement the ideas into my own work with Yull Shoes,” says Sarah, who recently launched a company website and has set up an online store for customers. “I’m really looking forward to the entrepreneurship modules, which concentrate on how to make business start ups a success using real life examples, plus you get to interview an entrepreneur as part of the course, so that will be really useful for me.”
Learning to balance working while studying full time has been a challenge at times for high achieving Sarah, but she has found motivation in the support from fellow students and staff at the business school and the continuing growth of Yull Shoes. She has been busy setting up agreements with various boutique stockists in the UK and is seeing the business grow, adding new product lines to her range and increasing sales.
“I’m having meetings all the time to find new stockists and spend a lot of time talking to boutiques and buyers about stocking Yull Shoes,” says Sarah.
Sarah knows that her distinctive classic designs will “appeal to women of all ages”. “I would say that the Yull customer is someone who is driven by style and not by fashion,” she says.
“I thought there was a gap in the market for classic style shoes, like court shoes. I really like classic styles with a twist and I found that most brands change their shoe styles all the time due to changing fashions. I wanted to keep a classic style and shape but keep them fashionable and creative by using new designs and bright colours. “Yull stands out because buying a Yull shoe means that you are buying into an independent British brand. Some have said that purchasing Yull shoes is like buying piece of Britain. Every shoe comes with a Union Jack on the sole and comes with an inspirational story behind the shoend what it is named after.” Though the business is growing steadily, Sarah has big plans for Yull Shoes when she finishes university. “In the future I’d like to launch more product designs and maybe extend the range into new products, such as handbags. I’d also love to be able to open my own shop, either in Oxfordshire or in London.”
She advises any potential entrepreneurs to take a good look at what their potential competitors are doing before starting their own business and canvassing as many people’s opinions as possible:
“I’d recommend they talk to lots of different people about the idea before starting the business, to
see what people thought and what advice they can give. I have found doing some public relations work has helped me too, I have been in contact with a number of local newspapers to get some publicity for the business,” she says. “I’m also getting help and funding from The Prince’s Trust along with a mentor to help with my business.” www.yull.co.uk