Startup story: Halto
Posted February 10th, 17:00
4 min read
Sisters Lucy Cox and Lerryn Clare’s idea is simple, effective, and completely original. Halto is a small plastic strap that women can add to halterneck bikinis to relieve back and neck pain, and it’s the first invention of its kind on the market.
The pair, both from Cornwall, came up with the idea back in 2012. Four years – and a few children – later, Halto is now stocked in Bravissimo and sold across the world.
We chat to Lucy about developing their innovation from a bit of old boot into a real product.
Can you explain what Halto is and what it does?
Halto stops neck pain caused by halter neck swimwear. It has two holes on each end, and you simply feed the straps of your tie-strap bikini through a hole and tie as normal. The harder top layer protects the wearers’ spine from the rock-hard knot, and the softer underside, offers salvation from those cheese-wire straps. It means that women can choose and wear halter neck swimwear, and wear the garments for much longer.
How did you get the idea for Halto?
Lerryn was about to go on her honeymoon and was shopping for a nice bikini to take with her. She found a beautiful one, in the sale and in her size, but it was a halter neck. She um’d and ah’d for a while, before deciding to go for it and just try to find a product that would solve the problem. When she found nothing, she fashioned something from a bit of old boot sole and a neoprene wetsuit glove. It was far from pretty, but it was incredibly effective. Thus the Halto was born!
How did you go through the process of researching and developing Halto?
It was a very long process, which maybe shouldn’t have taken as long as it did, but with two kids under five and no prior experience in taking a product to market, much of it was trial and error (and mostly centred around soft play opening hours!)
Initially, after we first had the idea, we designed a short online survey to gauge the scale of the problem we were seeking to address. We thought it might be niche as we both have 34GG boobs so assumed it was mainly a weight-related issue. In two weeks, the survey had travelled around social media nicely and we had just over 300 responses from women nationally. This gave us not only a great sample but also some surprising results.
Now it was ‘simply’ designing such a product, manufacturing it and getting it to market. How hard could that be?
In all seriousness, it was mostly about finding the right team to put around us. We found a great mentor who not only offered us professional (and emotional) guidance but also introduced us to a cracking product developer, who in turn knew a great manufacturer. We already knew of a brilliant packaging design company here in Cornwall, HUSH Creative, and working together, Halto happened.
We decided to crowdfund in February 2016 to test the market and check we had got it right before we committed fully to it, and get hold of the much-needed funds to actually bring Halto to life. We raised just over £11,000 in 28 days, making Halto a reality. Shortly after, it was listed nationally at Bravissimo.
Have you got funding for Halto? If yes can you explain a bit about the process and how did you found it.
We are so lucky to live in Cornwall which (until Brexit) has benefitted from £millions in European funding for the business startup and business growth sectors.
Consequently, we could leverage support from universities for prototyping and business startup training, as well as have a lump sum injected into our crowdfunding campaign. Most of our startup costs have come from credit cards, a startup loan, overdrafts and borrowing from family and friends.
What have your highs and lows been so far?
Highs have been hitting our target with crowdfunding and a close second would be successfully pitching to Bravissimo, who have been so supportive. We can’t fault the support they have given us.
Lows would be probably the point before we found a mentor. We had lost a lot of faith in ourselves and got totally overwhelmed by the scale of what we were trying to do (not to mention the cost). We very nearly packed it all in!
What have been your biggest challenges in building the product and launching the business? What are your biggest challenges going forward?
Bringing a brand new concept and brand to market with very little budget or expertise has probably been our biggest challenge to date. It has taken us a long time to get this far and we want to inject some cash to fast track our marketing.
Our biggest challenges will probably remain the same, however; marketing this genius little solution with very small budgets.
What do you wish you’d known when you started the business and what advice would you give to people starting now?
To trust our gut instincts more. We have gone around in circles too many times trying to disprove our guts, but always coming back to the same place having wasted time and money in the process. We are getting better at it now though. The viewpoint of our guts are much higher on the priority list these days!
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