A growing company that is revolutionising the way parents feed their babies has set up home in Dartford with the help of Locate in Kent.
yoomi, which moved from Woolwich to the Old Ambulance Station on Dartford’s Questor Estate in November, manufactures an innovative feeding bottle that warms milk from cold to breast milk temperature in just 60 seconds.
It was the brainchild of company founder Jim Shaikh and was born out of necessity.
“My son Daniel, who is now 12, was born prematurely and needed feeding every two hours,” Jim explained. “My wife was expressing milk so I could take my turn feeding, but I found I could never get the temperature right. I thought there had to be an easier way.”
Jim found the answer in technology similar to that found in handwarmers.
Each yoomi bottle holds a “warmer unit” in the neck. Activated by a push button and ready to use after 60 seconds, the warmer unit heats only the milk the baby drinks and to perfect breast milk temperature.
Jim started work on researching and developing his idea in 2003 in his spare time, before – with the backing of a research grant from the Department of Trade and Industry and equity from investors – he launched yoomi from a business incubator unit at the University of East London in 2007.
With production in full swing, yoomi moved to Woolwich in 2011.
“The difficulty with Woolwich was that we had no on-site storage, so we were using warehousing near Heathrow and our warmer production capacity was also limited by the available space,” said Jim. “As we grew, that became a real problem, both logistically and in terms of cost.”
Needing to combine production and warehousing on one site, Jim started researching the TIGER Regional Growth Fund scheme that applied to the Thames Gateway, and through that discovered Locate in Kent, the county’s investment promotion agency.
“I spoke to Chris Broom at Locate in Kent to get his feedback on the RGF application process and what it involved,” said Jim. “He also helped us identify potential premises in the TIGER catchment area.”
The choice of new headquarters was perhaps surprising.
“It’s not your typical place,” said Jim. “As the name suggests, it is a former ambulance station and had been scheduled for demolition.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to it, but it’s four times the size of our former base in Woolwich and the floor plan works well with a manufacturing area and warehouse space.”
yoomi’s staff has risen from 11 to 15 since it moved to Dartford and more will be recruited, including in the warehouse.
“At the moment, 95 per cent of our bottles are exported, with 80 per cent of those going to Asia,” said Jim. “My ambition for 2015 /16 is to make real progress into the domestic market, and I’m happy our new Dartford home gives us a great base to do that from.”
Paul Wookey, Chief Executive of Locate in Kent, said yoomi’s choice of new headquarters showed how flexible accommodation in the Thames Gateway could be.
“Regeneration of an area doesn’t necessarily mean the old has to be swept away to be replaced by the new,” he added. “Jim Shaikh had the vision to see just how the Old Ambulance Station could be made to work for his company and is breathing new life into it.
“Across Kent and Medway we have an enviable mix of older buildings which are full of character, and new, modern complexes offering a variety of configurations, ready for companies to move in and start trading.
“The key is finding the one that’s right for your business, which, with our help, is easy to do.”
To find out more about the technology behind yoomi bottles and where to buy them, visit www.yoomi.com.
To find out how Locate in Kent can help you grow or set up in Kent, visit www.locateinkent.com.