Young Innovators Success Stories: Ella Merriman, MERRI Intimates, London
Creating organic cotton underwear that supports intimate health
Ella Merriman founded MERRI Intimates to create comfortable, sustainable cotton underwear that helps to prevent common infections such as UTIs, thrush and skin conditions.
Following a successful crowdfund on Kickstarter, she applied to the Young Innovators Awards.
“When I joined the Young Innovators programme, my business was at a really interesting stage – we had just closed a successful crowdfunding campaign to produce our first range,” she says.
“Winning the Award helped us to launch our first Shopify website, implement product feedback from our crowdfunding campaign and complete two more production runs.”
Getting the logistics right
Ella describes the input from her Innovation Champion at Innovate UK EDGE as “invaluable” in helping to manage logistics and streamline operations.
“Meeting my mentor Richard has had a huge impact on my business. His knowledge of the fashion industry, production methods and how to create forecasts has been invaluable. He has helped me to set up ordering systems, logs and forecasts that have made business operations so much easier,” she explains.
“As a small business trying to meet minimums and manage all suppliers, I have to keep track of several different fabrics, trims and packaging simultaneously. This has become far easier and more streamlined, and I feel much more capable dealing with manufacturers.”
Improving logistics has given Ella time to develop skills in sales to drive the business forward.
“My confidence in sales has grown dramatically. Running through different customer interactions with Richard has helped me hone my in-person sales techniques and also gain confidence when talking to customers,” she says.
Reaching new audiences
Since winning the Young Innovators Award, Ella has achieved some ambitious targets and gained national exposure for MERRI Intimates.
“This summer, we got our first piece of press in The Times. This generated a huge boost in sales and mailing list signups, which gave me a real insight into the power of PR and reaching the right audiences. Seeing our name in print was such a joyful and overwhelming moment,” she says.
MERRI Intimates has grown into a successful ecommerce business in the last 12 months. It’s in profit in its first full year of trading and there’s a pop-up shop planned for the new year. She’s launched six new limited edition products and grown the mailing list to over 600 people.
There’s no slowing down either. She wants to expand the range, and has a new partnership on the horizon with a fellow Young Innovator.
“I hope to expand the MERRI range to include bras and vests. I intend on improving my own lingerie manufacturing knowledge too, by attending evening classes on pattern cutting and lingerie sewing,” she says.
“I’ve also partnered with another Young Innovator, Mihir Sheth, to gather data on UTIs and potentially find a way of diagnosing them more effectively. I founded MERRI Intimates due to my personal experiences with UTIs and because cotton underwear had really helped me tackle recurring infections.”
Test out new ideas
Ella praises the financial support of the programme for giving her the funding to be able to place minimum orders at reduced prices. That, she says, meant she could increase profit margins.
The funding also gave Ella another precious resource – time. The allowance meant she had the time to be creative and test out new ideas, such as trading in markets, which has been a big success.
She recommends future Young Innovators use the year to experiment and be open minded about the direction the business might grow in.
“I think, as an entrepreneur, it is very easy to be quite blinkered in your vision. By learning from others in your cohort, as well as mentors, you begin to realise far greater opportunities and potential for your business,” she says.
“I feel really proud to be a Young Innovator and really grateful for the experiences that this programme has given me. Over the past year, I have grown in confidence and feel a lot more assured in my abilities. I feel prepared for the future of my business and confident in the direction that I’m travelling in.”
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