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Name: Richard Yu
Title: Founder and CEO
Company: YUYU Bottle
STEM Career Lesson: Entrepreneur
Course: Intro to Computer Science Applications
Discover the world’s first long hot water bottle! Explore a career as an Entrepreneur with Richard Yu of YUYU Bottle. Richard not only created a brand new product, but also built a company that is now featured in luxury hotels, spas, and even the British royal family.
Katie: We’re taking My STEM Career international! I’m so excited to share my conversation with an entrepreneur based out of Helsinki, Finland. But first, some background. How many of you in the United States are familiar with hot water bottles? For those of you that aren’t, they are containers that you fill with boiling water to help you keep warm during winter. The problem, though? Hot water bottles are usually pretty small – you have to move them around to keep your entire body warm. And that’s where today’s interview comes in.
You’re about to hear my conversation with an entrepreneur who completely reinvented the hot water bottle. Richard Yu is Founder and CEO of YUYU bottle. Welcome to My STEM Career, inspiring the next generation of leaders. This show is brought to you by Codelicious Computer Science Curriculum; I’m Katie Baird. In this first section of the episode, we’re diving into questions from our Entrepreneur STEM Career Lesson from Intro to Computer Science Applications, built for grade 6. Then, we’ll transition and learn more about Richard’s life, career, and advice.
Katie: Hi! Thank you so much, Richard. for joining us on My STEM Career today.
Richard: It’s a real pleasure to be here, Katie thank you for having me.
Katie: So we’re going to start out with some questions from our Entrepreneur lesson for grade 6. This lesson is in our Intro to Computer Science Applications course. So if anyone listening right now is interested in learning more about the course, you can find more information and the description box, or in the show notes of the podcast So, Richard, I love for you to start by introducing yourself. Can you tell us what’s your name, what’s your job title, and where do you work??
Richard: Thank you, Katie. So my name is Richard Yu, and that’s spelled Y-U, and my job title is the CEO and Founder of YUYU Designs Limited. The company is shortened to YUYU Bottle which is Y-U Y-U Bottle, and I actually live in Helsinki in Finland.
Katie: We’re taking this series international. You’re a global entrepreneur! Finally, this is awesome, this is fun to hear about.
Richard: Santa Claus is just up the road, just up there!
Katie: So tell us a little bit more about your business.
Richard: Well, so YUYU is a is an odd company because we created a new product that’s never been invented before. It was a take on an existing product. In America, I don’t think everybody’s that familiar with hot water bottles. You tend to use electric blankets. But our, we have these things in England called hot water bottles, which are these small square bottles And what I did was I just extended it, and I made it really really long. And what you do is you put hot water in it and you you stay warm, and it’s very, very comfortable. It means you can carry the warmth with you and if you can’t afford to heat your entire home. It’s a nice ecological way to keep your body warm.
So, so the product, in essence is something that keeps you warm like a like a wearable heater that you can walk around with. But the cool thing is, you can also freeze it. So if you’re very hot in the summer, you can take this to bed, as my sons do, and cuddle this kind of long icicle in bed, and it keeps you nice and cool.
Katie: Good deal. Yeah. and I know in England, and maybe in Finland too, AC and heating isn’t as common, right? So that becomes more of a more of a necessity.
Richard: Yeah, AC is not common, no, and and then heating is common, but the houses are very, very old in England, where I came up with this, and the, the insulation, there’s a lot of gaps between the doors and the walls. So, even though your heating is is on and your house is getting hot, a lot of cold air comes in in the wintertime. So there’s always cold patches.
Katie: Gotcha. So you mentioned that this is a new product to the market, which makes you an entrepreneur. So I would love for you to explain, what is an entrepreneur?
Richard: You know it’s a fairly familiar term to me, I, I had to Google it actually before the call. But it means that someone takes financial risks, and I don’t know from my perspective, and first of all, this is not that new anymore. It’s about 10 years old, but it was new when I entered the market 10 years ago. And so it’s quite a nice story, where I came up with it, and walked into Herod’s, which is a big department store, and I suppose that’s linked to being an entrepreneur. It’s living the best and worst days of your life at the same time. It’s going to sleep very scared about the next day and waking up excited, and the following day going to sleep excited, and we waking up scared. You, um, you never really know what the day is going to bring, because, of course, you are where the buck stops.
You’re the final decision maker, you know? Every single problem and every single decision has to come from you. And I I think, being an entrepreneur is someone who is willing to believe so much in their project or their task or their product or their service that they’re willing to risk everything to to try to make it work.
Katie: Yeah. So you got into it a little bit there, this is a nice transition. What are some of your responsibilities as an entrepreneur or a founder of a business?
Richard: Yeah, that’s a good question, you know, I don’t often think about it too much. But you know, I suppose it’s almost the same as asking like, How do you run a business? Or how do you run your house? Or how, you know, how do you operate everything?
You know. So if you’re fortunate enough to have employees, then you have to think about the people that are in those roles, and you have to hope that they’re doing a good job, and if you’re not fortunate enough to have the employees, then you have to sort of look around the clock, and every hand that you come to is a is a department or a task. So you have to have enough money to buy, things and to pay people, and to buy your materials, and you have to be careful how you invest that money.
You have to have sales, you know, you have to make sure that you’re doing the right amount of marketing. You need a great website these days, and you need to negotiate who your website people are, and whether they’re you know, on your side, hidden, and whether you’re you know, search engine optimization, and whether you’re you know everybody’s working for you, and you know you have to make sure that you above all you have a great product.
So I spend a lot of my time thinking about my product, you know, and trying to get the best materials and trying to invest in the best fabrics. I’m always on the phone trying to talk to people about whether there’s a better ecological fabric I can use. Is there something that’s better for the world that I can use that maybe stays hotter than the previous product? You know, will a certain type of rubber may maintain its heat for longer than my current rubber that I’m using?
Crazy things, you know. I have to buy the fabric on the outside. I have to buy the fabric on the inside. I have to buy that draw string. I have to design. I have to decide what kind of stitching goes in. What color should it be what should it be made of and it’s everything. So there’s a lot of things to think about a lot of different tasks.
Katie: For sure that’s a lot of responsibility. So working off of that: what traits do you think founders must have to be successful entrepreneurs?
Richard: Yeah, I mean you know. I don’t know. I, I think there are people that are much, much more, you know – As far as i’m concerned, I’m a good, I think i’m a good salesperson, you know, and and there’s gonna be something that you’re really good at, and and that should be your your you know something that you you really know that you can trust yourself to to handle very well and i’m a I think my my best asset is that I have a good entrepreneurial mindset, and I’m very big picture kind of guy I look far away you know i’m over there right my weakness is that i’m not always here right i’m kind of looking out of the window.
So think you, to be an entrepreneur, you have to first of all, have a great product that you really believe in, but you have to make sure that all of the different facets of running all of the different departments of the business – department is is a big word isn’t it – the you have to make sure that all of the things I mentioned earlier, like the money and the sales of the advertising and the website are being controlled by someone that is capable of managing that task.
Quite a long answer.
Katie: Yeah, it’s almost like knowing your own strengths. and then kind of giving other projects away to people –
Richard: that much better than saying it. Yeah, that is their strengths. It’s a really great way. know your own strengths and trust in your own strengths and and try to find good people to to manage the other areas of the business.
Katie: Those questions drew from our Entrepreneur STEM Career Lesson, part of Codelicious Intro to Computer Science Applications for grade 6. You can find more information about the course in the show notes.
Now, on to the second part of our show. Join me as Richard shares stories about his company – including how he got YUYU Bottle in luxury hotels, the Tokyo Olympics, and even British royal households.
Katie: So those questions were related to our Stem Career Lesson, Entrepreneur, for grade 6. And now we’re going to transition into the second part of this interview, which are specific questions about your career. So I’d love to take a back a little bit and start out, have you tell us, What is the origin of YUYU Bottle? How did you start your company? What gave you the idea?
Richard: So I was working for a big a company called Wikia, which was founded by the founder of Wikipedia in the back in 2010 and I was very excited about this new job. You never know when when the idea is going to come.
But one January evening, when I was with my girlfriend at the time and my Australian friend, I had an idea to invent the world’s first long hot water bottle. It came It came to me when I had a traditional bottle, and I was literally moving it around my body constantly, because my whole body was cold, and I couldn’t believe that this was such a perfect product. Well, it was such a helpful product. But why was it so small?
So I looked on the Internet, I couldn’t find anything like it, and I decided that I wanted to create the world’s first long hot water bottle and then I really went to work. I drew you know I made a drawing, I spoke to some friends, and I tried to find out the material that it’s that’s needed for it, and slowly but surely I put the building blocks together until I was ready to visit my first supplier, which was in Sri Lanka.
Should I keep going?
Katie: Oh, sure, Well, actually I want to ask specifically about the patent that you got on the product because you said it was the world’s first long hot water bottle. So what was the process that you had to go through to receive that patent?
Richard: Right? Okay, So there are 2 types of way to protect your product. I think mainly there’s a patent and a registered design. I couldn’t actually get a patent because it wasn’t a unique product. It was a embellishment of an existing product. Right? So. it was a development of something that already existed so I could only get what’s called a registered design.
So what I what I did there was I made a mistake because I took a picture of the product, and I sent it to a law firm to register. It. It was a picture which showed the color of the product which means that in the future, if someone wanted to copy you, they could just potentially change the color. I’ve learned a lesson now so if any of you guys want to come up with entrepreneurial ideas for a patent or a registered design. You must be as vague as possible. Okay, and and do a line drawing. Take that to a IP patent firm and send that to them and and be as vague as possible. But basically that’s what I did I I made a few errors at the beginning, but I have got it registered.
Katie: So it comes in lots of different colors and patterns and designs. I would love for you to talk about how you go about sourcing materials, because in researching for this conversation, it was really clear that the materials and sustainability is important to you as a social entrepreneur. So i’d love to hear more about that.
Richard: Yeah, thanks, Katie. So there are different layers of searching. So you know, you’ve start off asking the people you know. You ask your mother: “What’s the softest fabric you know, Mom? You know, what do you think of this? What do you think of that?” And then you ask friends and you go broader and broad. And then you discover that there’s these things called trade shows right, and these trade shows are really great, because and there’s a trade show for pretty much everything, because they’re very financially rewarding for the people that organize them.
So you can go to a packaging trade show or a fabric trait, or a rubber trade show, or, you know, financial trade show or a travel trade show – whatever. So. So I went to a trade show in France, in Paris called Premier Vision, and they had fabulous fabrics like what, like, you know, a huge room full of small businesses that specifically so different types of fabric from all over the world. You go get really dizzy walking around there, so you take your time. Drink some water, go with some friends, and slowly go and choose, and touch and smell, and write about. How much is this, and you know. That’s how I chose my, that’s how I, that’s that’s one of the way I chose my fabrics.
Katie: Very nice. So kind of coming to present day, now YUYU Bottle is in department stores. It’s an exercise centers, hotels, and actually, it’s also in royal households. So, tell us about how you new battle got into High Grove House.
Richard: Okay, so the day I walked into Herod’s. This is kind of an interesting story, because I, when I had this idea, a lot of people in set, you know, a lot of people tell you that you have to make an appointment with the company that you want to go in there, and you got to send them an email and send them a presentation. Well, I I had an amazing product. I was so confident about my product, and it was such a long winded, it seems so such a difficult task to get an appointment. I thought i’ll just walk into the store right so I walked into Herod’s in 2012, with this product under my arm, at a long 90 cm gift box.
I walk straight to the department store, where the department where they sold hot water bottles, and I showed the manager on the floor, and he loved it. 2 weeks later we were in Herod’s. The same day I crossed the road and went into a hotel called the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Show them the product on, you know, on the floor, and very very soon later we were in there as well.
So I discovered that the best way to sort of you know, get your product into into places is to just show people.
So again. This time I went to a trade show, and I was the exhibitor, and I was very lucky because someone quite close to the Royal family. Someone related to Camilla, whose Prince Charles’s wife, had come to this show, and I was very fortunate that she walked past my stand, and she fell in love with our brand and our product. It’s because of this I think I was introduced to High Grove, and very soon later we were producing some lovely products for them.
Katie: That’s phenomenal. I mean it goes back to your answer earlier that you talked about knowing that your strength is sales, and when you are good at sales and have a fantastic product, things just happen. You just have to bring it, and put it in front of people with that entrepreneurial spirit, and things happen.
Richard: Exactly, you know, and you you sell yourself out of trouble. One of the good things about being confident about sales is if you have some financial problems, you know someone who, whose strength would be in the finance area would probably get very worried about my business on many occasions. This is not sustainable we’ve got no money. but because i’m not very good in that area, and i’m just a sales guy. I kind of just keep selling and sort of tend to just try and sell myself out of trouble.
Katie: For sure. So so that’s more of the product side. I’d love to hear more about your involvement with the chronic pain community and some of the initiatives you’re working on with them.
Richard: I love that you ask that question because it’s probably – it’s something that had a huge influence on our brand.
When I first started, many people told me that I should be in the supermarkets in the Walmarts, and you know, in the in the big discount shows, you know, shops. I should be producing millions of these and try to sell them as cheap as possible. But, one of the things about hot water bottles is in in England, especially because it’s there’s a lot of hot water bottle users, is people use them for chronic pain. Heat is is really good for aches and pains. It helps your blood flow, and you know a lot of people who have chronic pain, who go through pain every day, are well aware. They often use heat to ease their pain sometimes to even take less painkillers than they might ordinarily take. So I I I realized at a very early stage that my product was going to be hugged by lots of chronic pain sufferers.
Now, if your products going to be hugged and taken to bed and and cuddled for hours on end, don’t you want it to be beautiful, you know? Don’t you want it to be made with the best fabrics? So that was a massive turning point for me. I think now where there have been brands that have copied me, and I haven’t taken them to court, because it’s so expensive, I think, what keeps me, you know, stands me out from all of my potential competitors, is that we’re still a really beautiful product and all of the others are very, very low-end. We focused heavily on the chronic pain community, and we still do. And we have done from the very beginning and they’ve really become our core fans. If anyone bullies us on the Internet, they stand up for us.
Katie: Yeah, I love on your website, and i’ll include a link in the show notes to this in this episode, to your stories section on your website that include all of the blog posts. For anyone listening right now. It’s really phenomenal to read and to show really how this product has impacted a lot of people.
Richard: Really touching stories, yeah, you’re right.
Katie: Another thing I wanted to ask you about was working with Team Great Britain for the Tokyo Summer Olympics. You mentioned that hot water bottles are good for pain, and you know, chronic pain. People with chronic pain are one audience, athletes are another audience. So please tell us that story.
Richard: This is again another great sales story, right? I mean we’ve taken a product that’s really ever. Only really been hugged for you know hugged in a bedroom or in a house, and and and where we’re proving that actually it’s a it’s a key that’s opening so many different doors. We’ve gone from department stores to hotels, to chronic pain to the chronic pain community, and now into sport.
I had a really really good friend of mine who’s working with YUYU now, and she was the reason, really, that we got into the the Team GB, we did the team GB deal. And she’s an ex-runner for Great Britain, and she introduced us to someone there. And really, you know, the product is the thing that made them want to work with us, and it’s pretty cool that we this is the first time we sort of made our hot water bottle cold. We d doubled it up as a cold water bottle, because this was for the Tokyo Olympics in the Japanese summer, just a few months ago, and it was boiling. So Team GB athletes were able to freeze the product and wear it and stay cool. Stay calm, stay anxious-free. And you know, yeah. Yeah.
It was pretty sticky that the Tokyo Olympics, especially having to wear a mask due to the pandemic. So I think our bottle was a nice, refreshing thing to carry around.
Katie: For sure. So I have one last question for you here, and that is what advice would you give to students who are interested in becoming an entrepreneur?
Richard: So advice is a really tricky thing right because you know you shouldn’t – I always listen to lots of people.
I’m, you know, i’m a monkey see, monkey do. I see something that I like, and I try and copy it. I was always very inquisitive when I was a kid. I think that’s the best thing you know, just try to be inquisitive, and try and learn. Life is long as as much as it’s short, but you know, there’s a lot of years ahead of you and try to learn as many tricks as you can. Make mistakes It’s okay, if if part of this snowball that you’re rolling down trying to make it bigger, it’s okay, if a bit falls off. Usually when you pat it back, and you know you can make the snowball even stronger and bigger.
Don’t try and roll too many snowballs down the hill at the same time, you know. Focus on one on one snowball, and I don’t know, you know. Just learn. Just try and just try and be empathetic. Be a, you know, to keep your feet on the ground, and try and learn as much as you can.
It’s difficult to give advice because everyone’s so different. No one, really… I don’t know. Sometimes you get the wrong advice right? You get terrible advice. I was told some really bad advice like Don’t do this trade show, which was eventually really really important to me, or I was actually told not to do this. Idea at all at the beginning, like, “You’re crazy! you’re leaving a great job. Don’t do it!” but I believed in it now. i’m i’m here, so I don’t know if I gave any advice. there did, I?
Katie: I think well, those are all great things to keep in mind right because like you said advice is so individual, but being lifelong learners and being curious and inquisitive that that can apply to all types of entrepreneurship.
Richard: And if there’s something that’s really specific about about business, entrepreneurial, we’re i’m really happy for someone to reach out and get in touch and ask something specific. But you know, generally speaking, it’s not for everyone, this road. It like, I said. Sometimes you’re very scared and sometimes you can get very excited, and you need good people around you. But ultimately, I think you need a good idea right and and then, you’ll just sort of figure it out, I guess.
Katie: Well, that’s a great thing to keep in mind Thanks so much, Richard, for taking time and talking with me today.
Richard: It was a pleasure. Yeah, it was really nice to meet you, Katie, and thanks for having me.
Katie: Thank you Richard Yu, Founder and CEO at YUYU Bottle, for coming on the show today. Listen to every episode of My STEM Career at ellipsiseducation.com or wherever you get your podcasts. See you soon!
Teachers and students: explore STEM careers and discover the ways computer science knowledge can help regardless of your path. In this show, we speak with industry experts that share information about their careers, describe their professional experiences, and offer advice to students. This show is hosted by Codelicious Computer Science Curriculum.