To celebrate 10 years of My 1st years, we sat down with founders Dan and Jonny to find out all about their journey so far. From their 1st meeting on the playground to meetings in boardrooms, the last decade has taught them a lot about life, business and above all, friendship.
Q: How did the two of you meet?
A: We met when we were 4 years old at Primary School! We were good friends from day one and we would often spend playtimes thinking up different businesses that we could one day start together.
Q: How did you know that you would be good business partners?
A: We compliment each other well as friends so it made sense that we would work well together in business. We have been there for each other in good and bad times over the last 30 years and we’re both quite different people, in a good way. When one of us is feeling down about something, the other is always able to see the positive. Going from being friends to becoming business partners has been a fantastic experience. We’re kind of like a married couple, really; we care about each other a lot and although we might not always totally agree, we ultimately share the same goals in life as well as business.
Q: Where did the idea for My 1st Years come from?
A: We were looking for a gift for a family member and noticed that the baby gift industry seemed a bit stale. There really wasn’t much choice out there, it was quite a shock to see.
Around the same time as this we each ordered a pair of popular trainers with initials and it got us thinking about personalisation as a growing trend. We thought, this is going to be massive! We put two and two together and decided to use personalisation to switch up the baby gift industry.
That’s when we decided to launch My 1st Years.
Q: Are there any particular achievements or milestones that you are most proud of?
A: Obviously it was very cool to see Prince George in our gingham robe when he met President Barack Obama but more than anything, as a gift brand, we are so touched that people choose us for their most precious moments. We’re really proud that we’ve touched the lives of so many families over the last ten years and that a personalised gift from My 1st Years can help to bring people together and mark a special memory.
We love receiving emails and getting tagged on social media by customers who tell us how much our products mean to them. Whether it’s a welcome gift for a friend’s new baby or a new toy for their own child, it’s really rewarding to see our products playing a special role in such a key time in their lives.
Q: Looking back over the last 10 years, what advice would you give to your younger selves when you started My 1st Years?
A: Quite a lot really, we really have learned a lot.
- Do not rush as much, really think things through.
- Seek advice from the right people and be careful when deciding who the right people are.
- Build a culture from day 1 that you’d want in 30 years.
- 1 great employee is better than 10 mediocre: hire slow and train and nurture great people.
- Remember that members of your team may only be there for a particular phase of the journey and that it’s ok to let people move on.
- Do things because the business ‘needs’ to and not because another business is doing it or because you feel that you should.
- Always hire your weaknesses. Go and find people that compliment your skill set.
Q: Since founding My 1st Years you have both become parents. Has this affected your approach to running a baby gifting brand?
A: Neither of us were parents when we started My 1st Years, so when we started having children a few years ago it really helped us to understand the customer a lot more. We get how important all those milestones are, not just to children but to their parents, too.
The brand has definitely changed a lot since we had children and it’s amazing to see how it’s grown in step with our own families. Being a parent is just the most amazing experience and we really do understand how special it is when you receive this amazing gift and it’s got your child’s name on it.
Q: What do you look for in the perfect gift for your children?
A: We love something that is unique, something that our children feel like is their own. Of course it has to be of good quality but the main thing is that it’s different and it really feels like it’s theirs.
Q: What do you think makes My 1st Years different from other companies?
A: Our ability to be a full stack gift company. We design, source and manufacture all of our own branded products. We sell via our own direct website with our own marketing, personalised by our own production facility under our quality control. I guess you could say we really do add a personal touch to everything we do!
This gives us complete flexibility and means that we are making totally unique products.
Q: What are your favourite My 1st Years products?
A: Our personalised robes definitely, these are bestsellers for a reason. They’re always super soft and come in cute character designs. Plus, adding a personalised name on them is actually proven to make bedtime 10x easier.. Just kidding! But they are our most popular product for a reason.
Q: Celebrating this special brand birthday during a pandemic, how has this year changed how the business is running?
A: This year has been a strange one for all of us. As a business we have obviously had to adapt to a lot of things and our team has been really amazing, we’re really proud. We have been so touched by how many more families were sending gifts when they couldn’t be together and it’s nice to think that our products could send a personal message for them when they needed it most.
At such a difficult time for so many people, we also found ways to work with charities and support the good work they do. It means a lot to us that we’re able to do that.
A: For first time shoppers, which products would you recommend from My 1st Years?
B: We have some incredible collections on offer at the moment but for first timers, you can’t go wrong with our core products. These are our classic gifts that people come back to again and again: we’re talking fleecy hooded robes, cuddly soft bunnies and beautifully crafted wooden toys, all available in different colours. These may seem like standard products but we make them special with high quality design and unique personalisation. Something as ordinary as a soft toy then becomes a timeless keepsake.
Shop the Founders’ Favourite Gifts from My 1st Years
A Personalised Hooded Fleece Robe is the ‘go-to’ gift for babies.
This Personalised Bunny Soft Toy is so soft, your child will never let it go!
Personalised Star Storage Bags are great for the nursery to keep things tidy and bright.
These Personalised High Tops are where it all started – these unique shoes were our 1st product!
“The adjustable straps on these Personalised Mini Backpacks are really useful as kids grow”
“I love playing with this Personalised Colourful Wooden Xylophone Toy with my little lad”
“This Personalised Star Design Toy Box is good for storage, but great for a game of hide and seek!”
You can’t go wrong with a Personalised Cellular Blanket to welcome a new arrival
This Personalised New Baby Essentials has a everything newborn needs in one box.
This Personalised Gingham Trim Robe certainly has the royal seal of approval
Shop Dan & Jonny’s top picks here – did we mention they’re on offer?
Follow us on Instagram @My1stYears and tag us #My1stYears so we can celebrate together!
My 1st Years x