Founding a Needs-Based Design Business

Eyra offers beautifully-designed products that improve mobility

Looking at the available market need and matching it to great products is key to the success of any new business. Sometimes the need is right in front of us, and the ability to source or make the products is already in our wheelhouse, all that is needed is the imagination to link the two and the drive to manifest it. Many of us are thinking more entrepreneurially these days. Eyra is one such company that saw the opportunity manifest in the founder’s mother, then went about figuring out how to meet that need for others living a similar life.

Eyra is a homeware brand co-founded by sisters Susan and Anne Costello. Having not found suitable products for their mother and her unsteady hands, they recognized a growing market of older people who wanted homeware that catered for their needs while also being delightfully designed and fit for their homes.

After three years of development Eyra is crowdfunding their first product, a set of ergonomic kitchen utensils designed by leading industrial designer Sebastian Conran.

Susan Costello began her career as an IT manager and software developer during the birth of the internet. She went on to co-found a brand experience agency before going it alone as a freelance brand and marketing consultant for leading brands such Chantelle, Belstaff, DAKS and Tracksmith.

With positive feedback and in collaboration with leading designers, Susan is now launching her own brand, Eyra, to lead the way in making beautiful homeware made for lifelong design lovers.

There’s a real gap when it comes to brands connecting with older generations. Why do you think this is the right time for Eyra?

People are living longer and this market continues to grow. The rock-and-roll generation are now demanding more. We’re seeing some fashion and beauty brands take this on but it sometimes feels novel or token. In the product design and homewares world we only really see conceptual designs that never make it to market. With Eyra, I want to meet the demands of lifelong design lovers — with gorgeous homewares people actually want to buy, that are aspirational, because we know people are tired of unattractive, poorly-made ‘functional’ items. It feels ripe for change.

“Our initial idea was to create a better retail experience”

What was the original inspiration behind Eyra?

It started in 2016. My sister Anne and I went looking for a cup for our mother who has unsteady hands. We wanted something that looked good, wasn’t plastic and that had two handles. Online all we found were out-of-date websites so we visited premium pharmacies and larger stores to see what they had to offer. Again, everything we found looked poorly-made, beige and really quite depressing. We soon came to realize this whole area was really neglected and that what the customer wanted was being ignored.

Our initial idea was actually to create a better retail experience. We would find the best products on the market, photograph them nicely and sell them online. We visited a few different trade shows across Europe but found very little. In 2017, I went to the “New Old” exhibition at the Design Museum. There were some great concepts on show but they were just that and none were available to buy. That’s when we decided we needed to make them ourselves.


How did you go about creating the brand?

I’ve worked with Luke Scheybeler, the co-founder of Rapha, for many years. Luke was an early backer of the project and he lent his experience to create a brand that speaks to the segment of the market which has been neglected: people who’ve spent their lives carefully curating the items they surround themselves with.

Luke led the naming session where we came up with Eyra — a word that looks and sounds good, nods towards mine and my sister’s heritage (we’re from Ireland and it sounds like Eire) but isn’t currently imbued with preconceived ideas of what it means and therefore open to becoming synonymous with good design and quality in this category.

Sebastian Conran

Collaborating With Sebastian Conran

So how did you come to work with Sebastian Conran?

I was at an event where Sebastian was talking. The organizers were very encouraging and introduced us. I shared my story with him and what our vision was for Eyra and if he’d be interested in designing for us. He explained his interest in the area spanned over 30 years, having been featured in the first “New Old” exhibition in the ’80s. We could both see that nothing had really changed since then and that working together would be a great fit.

Throughout 2018, Sebastian and his team came up with concepts for a number of products before we arrived at our set of kitchen utensils that we’re launching as our first product to market.

In-House Occupational Therapist

What was the process from there? How did you come to what you have today?

Shortly after that, Eve, Eyra’s Occupational Therapist, joined the team and added her expertise to the design process and we started to prototype and test many different versions.

Last year, we shared around 40 different handle shapes with testers and arrived at the design we have today. Our final design was selected as the most beneficial to those we were targeting but also still usable by anyone.


Kitchen Utensils to Furniture

What’s next?

We’ve launched the Eyra kitchen utensils which are currently available to pre-order from Kickstarter. Following our campaign, we’re adding more items to our collection — furniture and other useful but beautiful designs.

I feel very strongly that our creativity grows with age, we get better at being ourselves, so it just makes sense that we’d want choice when it comes to products which improve mobility. If I’m going to use something every day, I’ve got to love it. And I know there are loads of people like me out there.




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David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.


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