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Independent Retailer Month: Y.O.U Underwear

To celebrate Independent Retailer Month, with the help of our partners SumUp we’re spending July highlighting some incredible independent retail entrepreneurs.

SumUp helps small businesses to get paid, whether they’re starting up or leveling up, supporting entrepreneurs to make their business ‘oOOooficial’.

Business name: Y.O.U Underwear
Founded by: Sarah Jordan
Launched in: 2018
You can find them: Online at youunderwear.com

Y.O.U underwear makes super-soft, classically stylish underwear for men, women and girls. All our underwear is sourced sustainably, made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton, is Fairtrade and PETA-approved vegan. 

Y.O.U Underwear’s mission is to operate in an ethical, kind and sustainable way that has a positive social and environmental impact, using business profits to give back to vulnerable women and girls in the UK and Africa through our unique buy-one-give-two model in partnership with Smalls for All.

When did you switch the business from a hobby or side hustle into an oOOoofficial business?

I first had the idea for the business after a trip to Uganda back in 2016 where I took part in the Uganda Marathon and volunteered with local communities. I was working with women making sanitary towels to sell locally, but they were really struggling as many of the women in the local community didn’t have any underwear to put them in. It was then that I came face-to-face with the problems associated with not having underwear.

In deciding to do something about it. Y.O.U Underwear is about empowering women, but we’re now also on a bigger mission to show that business, and fashion, can be a force for good. I started with a Kickstarter campaign back in late 2017 and then bootstrapped the business until I hired my first employee and went full time in March 2020. 

What are your hopes for the business post-Covid?

We’ve been very lucky in that we’ve grown the business during the last 18 months (and for us, more growth means having a bigger impact) and we’re well on the way to reaching our target of 23,000 pairs of underwear donated by 2023.

We hope to keep on growing, with new ranges, styles and collaborations so that we can expand both our environmental and social impact. On a more practical level, we’re also hoping to get back out to markets and meet our customers in person again. Being an online-only business we love meeting those who buy and enjoy our underwear and Covid has also had a significant impact on our supply chain, so we’re looking forward to things becoming safer and gradually opening up on that side too.

What’s the best thing about being an independent retailer?

The flexibility. We started the business with a small selection of underwear and have expanded from two to seven core colours, five new prints and have also increased the sizes we have available across our range. We now offer nine sizes for women and five for men as part of our commitment to inclusivity. Many of the new products and colours we have developed and expanded into over the last few years have been at the request of our customers, for example our girls’ bralettes, which were developed with two local 11 year old twins! We’re also currently developing bralettes with more support and mid-rise knickers, all things our customers have said they’d love to see us do!

Being a small business, how have you benefitted from digital transformation?

We’re an online business, so digital-first is how we work and has been embedded from the start. My background was actually in digital technology and transformation too (nothing to do with fashion and retail!), so I know how important this is for our customers, team and business as a whole. For us digital is about speed, reach, relevance, accessibility – meeting our customers where they are – and also plays a part in our sustainability journey. Not only does it allow us to reach a wider group of customers – we’ve delivered to over 30 countries globally – we can also attract team members from a wider area too, as we’re not tied to specific geographic location. 

From a sustainability perspective, digital and being an online-only business means that we have a lower overall carbon footprint than if we had a physical shop or offices (no commuting, less energy etc) all of which helps with our pledge to get to Net Zero by 2030.