The KYT, founded by Bridget Scanlan and JP Twaalfhoven, is part of Creative HQ’s incubation programme. KYT produces stylish handbags specially equipped to hold diabetes equipment. We caught up with Bridget to hear more about her story, mission and of course, the bags.
What was the inspiration behind KYT?
KYT stands for “Keeping you together”. It started shortly after being diagnosed with diabetes when I was 20. When you’re diagnosed with diabetes you’re immediately given a kit with equipment that has to follow you everywhere and it’s a little bit weird.
There are lots of things going on with learning how to manage this new condition but, at the same time, you’re also managing this equipment. I looked around for a nice way to carry it because I was quite fashion conscious and self-conscious. I didn’t want it on display. There was nothing around and the thought stuck with me. What kicked me off to do it was about five years later I went to a fashion school and learned how to sew.
I worked out of 1st Assembly for two months. I met Creative HQ’s Head of Venture Management, Jackie Laverty, there and when she heard what I was doing she said “Ok. Get off the machines it’s time to start selling“. And so my journey at Creative HQ started.
What do KYT bags do?
Our current bag is KYT crossbody, and it’s based on the most frequent request that I got, which was from women who wanted a smaller, more streamlined way to carry their diabetes equipment.
The pain, if you will, was that they were carrying it around all jumbled up in a really big bag and it was hard to find. It got broken easily or things got missing easily. It felt chaotic and unglamorous.
KYT crossbody combines two pouches that join together. The front pouch is for your life stuff and the front one is for your diabetes stuff. The back half opens completely and folds flat or as a table. We’ve pretty much created a testing station for people to access their equipment and it means that it’s all laid out in a usable order and you can pop it on your lap and do what you need to do very quickly, zip it up and go away again.
One of your key partnerships has been with Duffle & Co. How have they and the New Zealand startup community helped you grow?
Duffle & Co. and I moved into Creative HQ around the same time. I think we were about a week apart. One of the biggest questions I had at the time was “How do I produce these bags? How do I get off the sewing machine and can someone else do it?”
It was great timing for Danny and I to meet each other. They were also looking to explore how they could offer their manufacturing service to other businesses so it was good timing for both of us. We went on to develop the first bag together and then produce it.
In terms of the rest of the startup community, the thing I’ve experienced most is if you’re sitting at a table with other people who are going through the same thing as you, you have this opportunity to flesh it out together. There was a period where there were three or four product businesses in the Incubation programme, so we were able to talk about what that was like.
The New Zealand Startup ecosystem is such that you meet one person and they introduce you to a new one. I can’t count the number of people, experts, helpers that I’ve been able to meet my just being part of the hub. Now I’m trying to pass it on as much as I can.
What are you and your team currently up to?
I’m now working part-time on KYT, and contract working at the same time. So not much sleep! We have a photographer that we work with, a brand and graphic designer, and a digital media expert.
Just this week we found out that KYT is one of five finalists at D&AD which is a massive London creative festival. They have a category called “side hustle”, which is for side-businesses of people who work in creative industries full-time. My partner, JP Twaalfhoven, works in advertising and he’s a co-founder of KYT. He applied and we’re one of six businesses in the world to be shortlisted. We’re headed to London in two weeks time to pitch to a panel of investors!
Alongside that is I’m about to send a design brief tomorrow for three new bag styles – we plan to launch those products on Kickstarter in the next few months.