We talked to Chris Turner on how Breathe Tech Ltd is a companion to tell you what’s in your air, anywhere you are and he said the following about it:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Chris Turner: Overall, I have managed to stay positive through a challenging year. We were very fortunate to have plenty of space and a garden to spend lockdown in, so while I lost my supply chain and had to put a pause on the business, I gained some great extra time with my family. I was always optimistic that things would eventually get back to normal and used the time to ensure my business came back stronger when the opportunity arose.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Breathe Tech Ltd.
Chris Turner: My background is in product sourcing, and I have spent the last 15 years frequently traveling to China to put products together. After taking a year out after my first child was born to travel with my family, I needed a new business opportunity. During that time, I became increasingly aware of air pollution’s negative health impacts and started researching the market for air quality monitoring products. When I saw what was available and that demand was increasing with awareness, I saw a market gap, so I decided to develop my own product. Although I had not worked in consumer electronics before, my previous experience enabled me to build a new supply chain to get it produced.
How does Breathe Tech Ltd innovate?
Chris Turner: Air pollution is a hyper-local issue, levels can be different from one side of the street to the other, yet most products that measure it are far too bulky to actually be portable, or if they are, require a connected app to see any data. So you are required to constantly look at an app on your phone to monitor the air you are breathing. Our product, BREATHE|Smart, is genuinely portable, and you can see at a glance the levels of toxic PM2.5 particulate pollution in the air you are breathing. It works just as well in the home (where air pollution can be as much as 5x worse than outside) when clipped to your stroller, bike, or bag.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Chris Turner: Initially, the impact was huge as we had just sold out of stock after starting sales in July 2019 and having a great holiday season. We were due to manufacture and ship our new updated model in January 2020, but factories starting closing and didn’t reopen for several months. I also noticed that demand for these products declined as people were either saving for an uncertain future or spending on products to keep children entertained. So we had no stock and no customers for around 6 months. We had to postpone launches in the USA and the Middle East. I used this time to work on NPD and ensuring that we would be in the best shape when we could resume trading.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Chris Turner: The hardest thing was deciding when to resume shipping stock. Our factories in China recovered just as our economies were under full lockdown, so while I wanted to help them by shipping stock we had committed to months earlier, all the data I had shown that demand was still low, and I risked having large liabilities for freight and duty, as well as the stock without knowing what my sales would be. This meant taking on more debt and the risk that entails. To minimize this, I started taking heavily discounted pre-orders so I could get a feel for real demand, as well as monitoring freight rates, keyword search volumes, and other market data. In August, I made the call to ship more stock, and September 2020 was our best sales month. Not a lesson as such, but by supporting my manufacturers, they returned the favor by extending payment terms so we could all get back on our feet.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Chris Turner: I try to put all problems in perspective and work from a worst-case scenario back and seek ways to minimize the issues. Most things can be managed and are not as bad as they initially seem.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Chris Turner: My competitors are all much larger companies with far more resources for R&D, marketing, production, etc. We will survive and grow by using the advantage of being smaller and more nimble and always designing products from a customers’ perspective. This sounds very simple, but so many companies seem to forget this as they grow. We also focus on offering exceptional customer service, which again can be hard to find with larger companies.
Your final thoughts?
Chris Turner: I believe that if you make something people want, and do it well, you can succeed whatever life throws at us.
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