Norfolk Network stories

This is a story about a dream. And a light bulb.

Louella Schooley

Emma Watson was on holiday in Portugal with her family. It wasn’t going well.

It was hot. Mosquitos were plaguing the family, stress levels were rising, and all the sun hats Emma had for her little girl were too small and too pink. It wasn’t quite the dream holiday they had hoped it would be.

But in her darkest hour a light bulb flicked on in Emma’s head, and her metaphorical child number two, Little Hotdog Watson was born.

With extensive experience in retail, manufacturing, and procurement, the idea of designing, sourcing and manufacturing a range of UV protective, mosquito repellant and  temperature regulated sun hats seemed the most obvious thing in the world to do.

Fashion & Tech not Fashion v Tech

Little Hotdog Watson is a kids wear brand specialising in sun hats and sunglasses for children. With sales of more than 16,000 hats in seven countries, it is a brand that steers away from the twee – you won’t find any gender specific boats, unicorns or flowers here. The designs are tech led and are there to actively solve problems for parents around the world. Over and above everything, the brief is to work with technology, but not at the cost of fashion.

Dare to ask

When you’re a small start up, there isn’t the money in the bank to work with the very best in the world. But if there is one lesson to take away from Little Hotdog Watson, it is to ask big questions. Emma approached the best brand designers and manufacturers she knew and asked them to work with her. They all said yes!

Scale, scale, scale

With her experience working as a buyer for Charles Tyrwhitt and then Marks and Spencer, the business plan was always to scale up. Necessity dictated that the business would only become profitable when volumes kicked in, and this would only ever be possible if Little Hotdog Watson had an international market. From the beginning all the products were tested to meet safety standards in multiple countries and the care labels are printed in 17 languages.

Research, Sample, Test, Listen

The necessity to scale up resulted in some smart planning. Everything was researched to ensure that Little Hotdog Watson solved problems that parents genuine had. Samples were charmed out of the fabric mills even when order numbers paled into insignificance compared to the big boys. Original prints were commissioned to ensure the uniqueness of each design, and hats were then sent out to 100 families worldwide to gather their thoughts.

Little Hotdog Watson then sat back and listened…

Feedback stated that they needed larger sized hats. Tick. That straps were great, but only when they’re under 3. Tick. Comfort elastic was added and the descriptors were tweaked. All amazing feedback from the very people they were trying to target. Feedback that now results in an almost zero return rate.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Shifting 16,000 hats, gaining high profile social media influencers, and a nod from The Guardian helped propel Little Hotdog Watson forward, but it was growth in China and South Korea that positively changed the business. This market loves the uniqueness of the product and appreciates the quality that it offers. Future growth isn’t going to be left to chance (or a mirror) as Little Hotdog Watson will continue to expand into China whilst padding out the team out in the UK so that a balance for Emma (and her lightbulb) can be achieved.

Take away pointers:

  1. Pace yourself – If you’re a Jack of all trades you’ll be master of none.
  2. When one door closes another opens – be ready to take those leaps.
  3. Listen to your customers and respond – it will save you money in the long term.
  4. Ask big questions from the best in the world, they may well say yes.

If you’d like to know more about Little Hotdog Watson please visit their website and if you’d like to join us at the next Norfolk Network event you can sign up here.