In this instalment of Startup Life, we speak to Jason Yau of Zyphr about activewear, the power of sport and the importance of mental health.
A young brand rooted in innovation, Zyphr was founded with the intention of combining science and high performance fabrics. Most importantly, millennial founder Yau is committed to building a local community that fosters social change and inclusion through sports.
Name: Jason Yau
Profession: Founder of Zyphr
Company Size: 10 people
Startup Since: January 2018
When did you launch your company and why?
I launched Zyphr in January 2018. Being a sports fanatic myself, I’ve always felt that in Hong Kong, we never had a sportswear brand that was truly born and breed locally. This inspired me to be the first one to try and make that dream a reality.
We are currently working with over 100 professional athletes in 12 different sports. They help us to test our materials and push our fabric quality to the next level. I wanted to create a brand that allows our professional athletes to have a voice and showcase who they are as people, while inspiring others.
What’s Zyphr position in the activewear and wellness industry?
We are a life-performance wear brand. The concept is to blend lifestyle with high performance fabrics that excel in sweat-wicking and breathability. Hong Kong’s weather is extremely humid and hot, especially in spring and summer, and this is why using excellent sweat-wicking and breathable materials is key to our product development. Making it accessible to everyone is also important for us.
What were your main goals when you first started?
To develop products that I love and finding materials that are extremely comfortable to wear casually or during training. At the time, I felt that there were not many sportswear brands to choose from in Hong Kong and the quality was often compromised. I wanted to create my own version of life-performance wear and to build a community around the brand.
What’s the inspiration behind your company’s name?
Zyphr comes from Zephyr, the name of the Greek god of the west wind. He represents freedom, which aligns with our slogan, #DreamFearlessly. We believe that each human being is unique and special. Being fearless doesn’t mean that you are not afraid; it simply means that you are accepting that fear but you keep pursuing your dreams because nothing can, or should, stop you.
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
To be honest, I’ve always wanted to become a professional footballer growing up. I had the opportunity to study abroad in England and the United States and within those ten years, I’ve played high level rugby and football for my school and university. But while I was working for Reebok at their headquarter in Boston back in 2016, I had this inner feeling that starting my own company was the right step for my career… I was 23 and the rest is history!
Tell us about the main milestones and challenges of your startup journey.
We came a long way since we started back in 2018. From reaching out to the fitness trainers and gyms to promote our products to working with over 100 professional athletes across the world including Olympians and some of the top Hong Kong athletes, like Sasha Palatnikov in the UFC, Russell Webb and Max Denmark in Rugby 7’s and Dudu Klein and Wai Wong in Football.
Opening our own popup store this year was also a massive step forward for us to engage and speak with our customers directly. The next step is to expand globally and our team is working hard to make that goal a reality this year.
Starting a company is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life and It doesn’t get any easier, but you just get more experienced with time. Mental health is a key topic these days and I think it is very important to talk about it as you will definitely experience a roller-coaster of emotions and struggles as an entrepreneur because of the uncertain nature of the business. You must build a strong support system around you and have close friends and family to talk about the issues you are facing. It is ok to admit you need help and have the right people to guide you through the right path.
What are some dos and don’ts of starting your own company?
When you are starting a company, you have to develop the skills and the ability to read situations on a macro-level. You have to have your own vision, be honest and be direct with the people you are working with. We tend to run away from uncomfortable conversations, but that’s not possible in business.
Good things do take time. It is important that you test your idea out on a small scale to then develop something bigger. Do not dwell on your failures because failures are the key lessons for you to be mentally stronger.
What’s next for Zyphr?
2021 was a great year for us. We learned a lot in terms of how to deal with the changes brought by the pandemic and to adapt to a new life. We opened five popup stores across Hong Kong and that was very helpful as a learning process as well.
The next step is to continue to push the brand to the next level by expanding our offerings, working on our online store and building an even stronger community and set of resources for youth in Sport. We are currently working with Nation Soccer, a Brazilian Football School in Hong Kong, AS Football Centre and Azzurri Football Club in the Yau Yee Division 1 League. The goal is to help kids and amateur football players to gain new skills to support their future career endeavours.