Yvonne Lo

Co-Founder of BuddyPhones

Yvonne Lo was born and raised in Hong Kong (HK), then traveled to the United States to attend and graduate from Michigan State University with a BA in Business, Hospitality. Her career began in the hospitality industry working for a luxury hotel chain before starting her own catering venture in 2004. During her time in the U.S., Yvonne worked in various roles related to sales and management. After six years, she sold her catering business and moved back to HK to raise a family.

While being a stay-at-home mom, she acquired a master degree in International Hospitality Business from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University where she received an invitation to pursue a PhD. Instead of the academic world, she chose the trending editorial world of producing food-related articles and cooking videos for a leading social media company. She spent the next four years consulting in the food and beverage industry while in HK.

In 2015, Yvonne teamed up with Petur Hannes Olafsson, founder of ONANOFF, to launch the BuddyPhones line, a series of audio solutions designed exclusively for kids to engage safely with technology. Yvonne is the co-founder of BuddyPhones and managing partner of sales and marketing for ONANOFF.

Where did the idea for BuddyPhones come from?

My business partner, Petur Olafsson, had come up with a patented audio sharing jack for his brand’s adult headphones. At the same time, I was seeking durable kids headphones for my young children to utilize on plane rides when traveling. We discussed the potential of developing a high quality brand of kid’s headphones that were both safe and comfortable to use and we discovered there was a void in the market for headphones that provide a premium listening experience specifically for young ears. That’s how the BuddyPhones product line was born.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Because of the difference in time zones, I usually start my day off calling clients or vendors in the US. While I’m doing this, I make sure my daughters also get ready for their day ahead, which could include any number of plans depending on if it’s a school day or not. If they’re on holiday, I try to plan something that we can all do together first, like getting mommy-daughter manicures or a sushi lunch. They’re 8 and 11 years old, so it’s a great time to do things together as much as possible!

Around 10am, I head into the office. The great part is that I can bring in my daughters if I need to, they are favourites with the office staff who have no problems putting them right to work labeling products or helping with market research. I appreciate the opportunity to bring them in to work with me so they learn about what I do and gain valuable experience about being in a workplace. At my desk, I catch up with my ongoing projects and check in with my marketing team. I stay until late afternoon, which is when I head home to have dinner with my family or a happy hour drink if clients are in town.

I try my best to make my day super productive by not spending too much time sitting at my desk and on social media. As a working mother, I have to multitask and plan so that I can get as much done as possible every day. I do this by prioritizing what is most important and not wasting time on non-productive activities. I also make sure I give myself personal time to unwind, reflect and plan ahead.

How do you bring ideas to life?

A new product idea comes from a combination of vision from the Research and Development team on the latest trends and customer/end user feedback. Once an idea is identified, we enlist our designers to develop the idea into visual renderings. Our engineers will start to identify materials and technology needed for the design. The factory will then mock up a sample/prototype with enough room for multiple improvements on our end. Simultaneously, our marketing and design team will begin working on marketing materials, including packaging and other assets necessary for our sales team to begin testing the waters.

Once a product is proven to have traction, a final sample is adjusted and approved so that production can take place. Last but not least, the finished product will then be shipped to customers and retail shelves.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Female empowerment. It excites me to see the rise of a global movement that stands behind women and our proven ability to be and accomplish whatever we want.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Focus on value added tasks rather than busy work. The longer you work, the less productive you are.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t worry about mistakes, it is the process of finding the solutions and learning from your mistakes that defines your success.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That I am always right! Jokes aside, I think it’s a great mindset to be confident and correct, but accept it when others disagree and welcome constructive feedback.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I have many things- empower your team, do not make decisions alone and learn to let go and delegate.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Diversification in product offerings, sales channels and market segmentation. There is so much unknown in the world, whether it is political instability, climate change or change of human behavior. You need a diverse business strategy to minimize one-sided risks. Being dependent on one customer is the kiss of death.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In my first business venture, I thought I was the only one who knew how to run my business. I end up doing everything by myself 24/7 until I got burned out and started experiencing anxiety attacks. I had to seek professional coaching help to overcome my isolation and came up with solutions to ease my pressure, move forward and expand my business.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

High tech shoes or socks that stimulate your feet for health benefits while you sit down at work, on the plane or at home watching TV.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Personally speaking, it was when we rented kayaks with my kids and friends over the weekend and paddled to a deserted beach for a lazy afternoon.

Professionally speaking, it was paying my kids to do some miscellaneous office jobs, like labelling boxes, as a way to teach them the importance of financial freedom.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

WhatsApp and Google Doc helps me to stay connected at all times with my family, partners and customers. I cannot live without it!

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.

I love the way he perceives customer service and company culture, reinforcing that it’s an important aspect of any business.

What is your favorite quote?

I have many, but my current favorite is, “Step out of the history that is holding you back. Step into the new story you are willing to create.” -Oprah Winfrey

Key Learnings:

  • Do not isolate yourself in your business.
  • Hire and trust smart people.
  • Welcome mistakes to build character and resilience.
  • Do not sit still to be productive.
  • Work hard and play harder for success.