Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Danielle Richeson, who goes by “Dani”, is the 26 year old Founder & Product Designer at FYB® London, and is currently based in Ogden, UT (when not on an airplane or travelling!). Dani came from humble beginnings, growing up in a town in Southern Utah with a population of just 200 people. Despite a lack of opportunity in the ways of entrepreneurialism, she had ambition and a desire to create, and was determined to be her own boss.
In the summer of 2014 while working at an outdoor expo in Salt Lake City, Dani met Jason Lowe, who was promoting his UK brand of anti-theft travel backpacks. Having met a kindred soul who had a similar mind set for creativity and entrepreneurialism, Dani was hired on as the US Account Manager. The job involved frequent travel, which gave her the opportunity to identify common inconveniences that would often hinder her in her pursuits. From running out of phone power, having to carry multiple bags to accommodate her work and personal items, no way of keeping her items secure, and the panics of not being able to quickly locate her passport and boarding pass, she decided she wanted to create something that would eliminate these problems for herself and other people. From this, the FYB® SMART handbags were born. With Jason; having experience in tech and innovation, and Dani; bringing forth the design element and practicality, two minds came together to produce handbags that would be timeless, classy, and compliment women who are running from meeting to meeting.
When creating the brand, Dani reflected on what had taken her this far, from her humble beginnings to now creating innovative products that help people do more and go further in pursuit of their goals, she knew that her early adopted mantra of “Follow Your Bliss” was a message worth sharing. The brand aims to inspire people to get out into the world to do what makes them happy, because in alignment with Dani’s personal story, the right opportunities and people will arrive.
What is the idea behind FYB® SMART handbags and how did you come up with it?
I wanted to create a product that would help women achieve more, and look good at the same time. Previous work involved frequent travel, from running through airports to running around different cities for meetings. I would frequently run into issues that hindered my efforts; my phone was constantly running out of power, I was carrying multiple bags to accommodate my work and personal items, never knew where important items were (passport, business cards, etc.) inside my bags, and had no way of keeping valuable possessions secure. I figured that if I am running into issues that are ‘knocking me off my game’, other women were likely running into them as well. I wanted to eliminate these issues for myself and other women, from this FYB handbags were born.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
FYB has been going for about 7 months. My other team member is Jason Lowe, who is Co-Founder and the “techy” guy. He also has a background in wearable tech from a previous company in which he designed backpacks and luggage with tech.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
I started working on the designs about a year ago, but from sampling etc. to now it has been about 7 months. For me, it is crazy to think that it even took that long as it feels like I blinked and here we are! But it comes with the territory, when you want to build a brand/company quickly your days seem to come and go fast as you are so busy each day.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Given that the bag has so many elements to it, product development was quite arduous. We uniquely designed each part; from the bag itself to the biometric lock, wireless charger, etc. It took a lot of hard work brining all of that together to create a well integrated bag. And there is also getting the brand out there, with so many products/ brands being born each day it takes a lot hard work to familiarise everyone with your brand.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
To date, FYB is certainly my biggest achievement. We have worked against so many odds to bring this brand to life within such a short time span, but my favourite part, and what I feel is the greatest achievement, is in having created the brand itself.
FYB is all about inspiring women in their aspirations and in pursuit of their dreams. FYB is for “Follow Your Bliss”, which means ‘do what makes you happy and the rest will follow’. I have always been a big believer in this, it is very much in alignment with my story. From growing up in a small town in Southern Utah, with a population of just 200, to now having the opportunity to create innovative products, partner with my colleagues in the UK, travel, and meet so many amazing people along the way, my story is a proof to how life expands when one follows their bliss.
I felt that this message was worth sharing, hence the branding. I hope to inspire and infuse the idea into other people, to give them that little nudge to get out into the world to what it is they really want to be doing. And hey, we have created a product that will help them do just that.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
One of the challenges of being an entrepreneur within this niche is the fact that we are introducing something that is very new, and it involves a lot of explanation. You have to find the right way to get across what it is you have created.
In regards to the challenges I face as a female entrepreneur; it is certainly confidence in making big decisions. This is an issue for all founders/ entrepreneurs, both male or female. I understand that women still face a lot of challenges within the workplace, and especially within the world of tech, but I am very grateful to be living in this day and age, more and more the female entrepreneur is being embraced and encouraged.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
It is very important to me, women have so many amazing ideas, from new tech to managing businesses. They are changing the world with their ideas, not just by bringing forth innovation, but by truly empowering, inspiring, and helping. That is most important to me, the positive impact.
So many of the female leaders in tech are using technology to help others, that is their go-to. No matter what women do, they tend to bring that ‘altruistic’ element to every creation and idea. Their inspiration for all this innovation often comes from a desire to help.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Go for it, right now, not later. There is never going to be a “perfect time” or a “perfect circumstance”. And honestly, self-doubt will always be a player in this game, no matter what stage you are at.- but don’t let that stop you. And if you don’t know where to start, begin by asking questions, and work to get around the kind of people that are doing what you want to do. I started working ‘hired help’ gigs at expos in order to get around people who were creating companies and products, that is how I met my colleague, Jason.
Whatever it is you want to do or create, start now and you will be astounded at the way the right people and opportunities will come your way.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I believe that tech + fashion will head in a more “usability” based direction; it can be fun to have a few lights on your outfit, etc. But I believe people will see the value in wearables that help them do more. Consumers are changing the way they purchase, they want value for their money. In a world where it seems everyone is onto the trend of achieving more, people are beginning to go for products that assist them and brands that stand for something of substance.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech and fashion tech?
I am relatively new to the world of wearable tech, so I am just familiarising myself with all of these amazing women. But throughout my journey of becoming an entrepreneur, three women who have inspired me have been Oprah, Cheryl Strayed, & of course, my Mom. I am inspired by women with courage, tenacity, and resilience. These three women taught me the power of believing in yourself and the power of perseverance.
LinkedIn: FYB® London
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.