Rick Youmans’ stylish presentation cases have been steadily gaining traction in markets both here and overseas. But the road to export hasn’t exactly been an overnight journey.
So you’re pitching a product or off to a conference and you want to look the quintessential professional? A Kiwi-crafted high-grade anodised aluminium Youmans Capsule should provide that little added extra to help seal the deal.
With three sizes, A2, A3 and A4, customisable inserts and optional engraving, a Youmans Capsule certainly looks the part – that’s because it’s the brainchild of a Kiwi who has been fixated on design his entire working career.
Rick Youmans has had a full-on career in advertising and design – as an art and creative director and later with his own design company.
He has illustrated 31 different stamp issues for different countries, painted as an artist on and off, dabbled in architecture, and “thoroughly enjoyed” creating and designing things his entire life.
So how exactly did the Youmans Capsule come about?
“It originally came from an enquiry made to me at my design office by a print rep who wanted to be successful and for whom image and professionalism was very important,” recalls Rick. “I was asked to design something that looked stylish, kept all her print samples organised, and could be carried into any meeting or presentation scenario.
“That was 20 years ago. Five years ago, while in Sydney, I was getting the same sort of enquiries from internationally renowned photographers.
“For the second time I had to consider ‘Why are you asking me?’ And I got the same reply; ‘you look like someone who can do it!’”
So Rick retrieved his drawings and prototype from his earlier attempts, examined the market, realised there still wasn’t a product out there that would do the job and had design as its mantra, and set out to produce “the most pure, honest, and functional design I could. With an inside that could be adapted to the owner's personal use”.
“This was before iPads and iPhones were on the scene and it took a further four years to develop the design, do prototyping, and source manufacturers,” says Rick.
“The latter was the hardest part. Unbeknown to me, the design would prove very hard to make with only one company, Stainless Design in Hamilton, saying yes.”
Another 24 months would go by before tooling was perfected and a Capsule could be produced. The complicated plastic moulding was handled by Axiam in Wanganui and the anodising perfected by FINEX in Hamilton.
Rick says the final product is the result of his absolute focus on a perfect design and an initial lack of knowledge about manufacturing in aluminium and plastic. “Though helped by an ability to understand basic engineering, we managed to accomplish a product that pushed every boundary that could be pushed,” he says.
“Getting support and buy-in from our key suppliers was absolutely critical. I’ve been called ‘absolutely mad’ by other global case manufacturers for even thinking I could make a case like ours. I took that as a compliment.
“Our market may be small but it won't be a fad,” says Rick. “And because of its pure and honest design the Capsule will continue to accommodate new technology. This was one of our biggest fears, but now I see it as one of our biggest advantages.”
Rick says it’s still early days, but clients' feedback on how the capsules have changed the way they present and how they feel has been very encouraging. “It makes presenting fun and gives them huge confidence going into a presentation because they know how they will be perceived and that they will stand out.”
He believes the Capsule delivers a positive effect on sales and efficiency for any business.
“You design something that you hope will reflect your goal and to get that continuous feedback is very rewarding. We continually get rave comments on the Capsule's design, manufacturing detail and looks everywhere we go.”
Rick says the future’s looking exciting for Youmans with the launch of two new products – one a folio made from recycled sugar cane pulp.
Around half of the Capsules produced end up in the hands of off-shore customers, but Rick’s prediction is that this will increase to around 90 percent in the future. This year international trade shows in Singapore, Sydney and Paris are his main marketing focus. “At the same time we are endeavouring to set up agents or distributors in those regions,” says Rick.
There have been some stand-out export sales so far. One in particular for the Australian branch of Mafi timber flooring and decking systems. These Capsules featured a complicated internal bracket system.
The Singapore branch of Waldmann Lighting ordered A2 capsules for a new desk-light for the Asia Pacific region, and Rick has received some big enquiries from advertising agencies and medical companies in both the UK and Australia.
There have been other successes too. “We managed to set up a couple of distributors in Australia to sell the Capsules, plus another on-seller for our new product,” reports Rick. “We also have two companies in Australia that can manufacture the customised foam inserts. We’ve done the same in Singapore and hope to set up similar arrangements in Europe while we’re there.”
Rick has also been pursuing opportunities in South Korea, which he says could prove to be an excellent market. “Koreans want the best, and place great importance on appearance and quality products.”
The toughest aspects of the business journey so far has been surviving the start-up phase and managing cashflow, he says.
“Also, because the Capsules are fairly unique in what they can do, it has been a challenge to find the right sales channels and marketing to access targeted buyers and markets,” says Rick.
He says contacts supplied by NZTE in Germany, France and Singapore have proved to be very useful. But mostly business development is handled by Rick, and considering the global opportunities for the Capsules, that in itself is a major challenge.