UCL Innovation and Enterprise


Urban Beings

16 August 2013

Mentoring programme

Who are Urban Beings?

Urban Beings engages toddlers with the environment through a series of Treasure Hunts using what is already in the city. Set up by Yatwan Hui, an Urban Designer lecturer at Bath University with a degree in architecture and a Masters in Sustainable Urban Design (Sweden), the inspiration was a desire to teach young people how to love their city and not destroy their own community.

person jumoing onto stones

It was also inspired by her two and a half year old nephew whose excitement in seeing new things encouraged her to capture the experience on film through his eyes. Based on architecture, open spaces, people and transport, Toddle in the City was born.

How did UCL help?

Urban Beings was established in 2010 and Toddle in the City launched in March 2011. Whilst there was initial business advice from friends and family, Yat required more support such as strategic input and help regarding operational efficiency.

UCL Advances matched Yat with Clive Brazier, a mentor with strong SME experience specialising in operations, process and analysis who saw his role as a sounding board and confidante who could bring structure, direction and discipline whilst keeping an open mind.

“I essentially didn’t want Yat to make the same mistakes I made such as missing early business opportunities due to lack of organisational governance.” Clive Brazier, Business Mentor

Clive immediately helped with the business rationale and addressed the things that are always a problem for start-up businesses; time management, income, priorities, organisational structure and process, and juggling the different roles/hats. He taught Yat to move away from being the ‘architectural perfectionist’ and move to being a business person – questioning what was critical, what was nice to have and to look at the cause and effect a decision can have.

The immediate barriers were identified, achievable targets and milestones were set and they worked backwards to form a plan with small manageable projects so Yat was less overwhelmed with the task ahead. Yat could re-focus on things that would deliver rather than the more distracting and attractive tasks, such as producing a promotional trailer without any experience or promotional channels.

What were the results?

Without Clive, Yat admits she wouldn’t have progressed as quickly. Toddle in the City sessions have increased for this year to 3 sessions a day over the weekend, whereas last year it was very ad hoc with little continuity.

Yat has recently worked with a nursery school in Harringay which presents more opportunities for mid-week activities and may lead to employing another person.

To extend the seasonality of the offering, Yat is also looking at different Toddler niches and markets, for example; Toddle School, Toddle Museum and Toddle Birthday Parties.

Clive has helped explore the vision for the future which has given a clear focus to the business and has clarified the potential opportunities with a franchise model. There is already interest from cities in Germany, Italy and Sweden.

2013 is about perfecting the product offering with a view to rolling out a franchise in 2014 and this vision is as a result of the mentor and company working in harmony. One of the surprising upsides for Clive was discovering ‘how many wonderful spaces there are in London despite living here for a long time!’ whilst for Yat, the mentoring programme ‘more than exceeded expectations’.