This week on FEW Members' Corner, we would like to introduce you to Yvonne Lo, Managing Partner at ONANOFF and co-founder of BuddyPhones, a safe audio electronic company dedicated to offering a premium listening experience while protecting the listener's hearing.
Hello Yvonne, we would love to learn more about your journey.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong and went to the United States for university. I stayed there to work in the hospitality industry and started my first business before moving back to develop my current role. My strengths have always been in sales, marketing and brand-building roles and being entrepreneurial runs in my family- I love brainstorming about business ideas and watching them materialise. Being in consumer electronics is a refreshing yet challenging change from hospitality. Now that I am a mother of two girls, living in Hong Kong with a busy travelling schedule, I value the freedom as an entrepreneur to allow me to achieve my preferred work-life balance.
What inspired you to start your company?
My partner, Petur started ONANOFF to develop audio products and accessories for adults. When we met, I was a new parent searching for safe and durable headphones for kids. We travelled often as a family to visit relatives but there were no quality headphones dedicated to kids that protected their hearing. We identified that children are a growing age group dominating electronic usage, so we launched a line of headphones called BuddyPhones which are now changing how kids engage safely with technology.
So far, what's the most challenging part of your journey?
Being an electronic company exclusively dedicated to kids, we often face larger adult brands that come into our space with an average product but a bigger budget. Due to their brand power, we often have to fight our way to gain retail space even though ours is a superior product. Additionally, we found that from a business operations standpoint, it’s always challenging to keep up with fast-paced growth to meet new demand.
Can you share a bit about your fundraising journey so far -- mistakes to avoid and best practices?
We already completed our seed funding process. When seeking funding, it’s important to find like-minded investors who will trust you with a high level of autonomy but aren’t completely removed and still offer advice and expertise to grow the business. Look for smart money, not just big pockets.
A FEW WORDS OF ADVICE
On growing teams
Don’t be afraid to hire people smarter than you especially in areas you are not an expert. If you are not good with the books, outsource it even though it will cost. You do not want to waste your time on figuring out how to do bookkeeping when you could be being creative or focusing on something you’re better at. Also, choose a partner with different expertise than you so you complement each other instead of having the same strengths and weaknesses.
On running a business
Do not do it alone- you need support, you need people to help you grow. There’s the temptation in starting a business to keep it as a one-person operation, but if you don’t learn to delegate or bring people on, it will stay a one-person operation. You can’t be a chef in the kitchen and handle front of house at the same time and be great at both.
On building credibility and trust
Communicate realistic expectations, point out your competitive advantage and always be flexible with customers but maintain integrity, find your strength and let it shine. Petur and I balance out each other in skills and personality. I think that is a very important quality as a business partner. It is okay to disagree with your partner, but at the end of the day, any conflict should produce a productive resolution.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
You should consider where you will secure funding, how committed will you be for the long-haul and when things get really tough, and how you will outplay your competitors.