by DAVID PARKER
A BUSINESSWOMAN with a passion for exploring and for saving the planet has launched an eco-friendly online travel brand.
Grace Wilson (29) has launched Yugen Explore, which offers a range of products and advice for those who enjoy travelling the globe.
Its website offers top tips for backpackers, links to Government advice about popular destinations and blog posts by experts on topics such as travel, marine biology and mental health.
Grace, of Thackeray Avenue, Rawmarsh, said travelling around exotic locations such as south-east Asia and South America inspired her to set up Yugen.
“I just felt that there were a limited number of inspirational travel products available,” she said.
“It was difficult to find travel products, health and safety advice and to access Government websites for advice and I would spend hours researching things.
“I knew certain things that would make your life easier because I worked for an outdoor company — things like microfibre towels.
“It pains me to see people with bath towels in their luggage, and I think, ‘How do you not know?’, but people wouldn’t know unless someone tells them.”
Yugen is a Japanese word which describes an awareness of the universe too deep and meaningful for words.
Its product range includes universal plug adapters, microfibre travel towels, reusable water bottles, T-shirts made from bamboo and beach towels made from Turkish cotton.
Grace, who set up her business in March, said her best-selling products were the beanie hats, T-shirts and plug adapters.
“I have got quite a big online following already,” she said.
“We have a big focus on being ethical and not using companies which use child labour, for example, and using sustainable materials.
“Reducing plastic is a massive focus for us.”
Grace grew up in Rawmarsh and attended Rawmarsh Comprehensive School.
She later studied fashion buying at Manchester Metropolitan University, graduating in 2011.
After spending some time working at a clothes shop in Ibiza she got a job back home working at Go Outdoors as a product developer.
Last year, Grace travelled around South America, where she came up with the idea for Yugen, then travelled around the Philippines and south-east Asia.
Grace said she wanted to encourage people to look after her products and to be more sustainable.
“Otherwise people will buy a cheap plug adapter and leave it in the hostel — we want people to get away from that,” she said.
“We want to stop people from using single-use plastic — that’s why we have the reusable bottles.
“Why would you buy a bottle of water every day when you can spend £10 on one of these?
“We’re trying to encourage people to buy things that will last instead of having this trend of fast fashion.”
Grace said she was also keen on promoting cheap travel — not just in the UK but around the world.
“I want people to travel as much as possible,” she said.
“It’s a big thing I did — I’m from Rawmarsh and I didn’t know anyone who had been travelling.
“I didn’t go on an aeroplane until I was 16 and no one told me about it at school — no one said you can visit all those amazing places you talk about in geography.
“I just want to inspire people so they know they can go travelling and it doesn’t have to be expensive.
“I met so many different cultures and it’s just so valuable, the experience you get.”
Grace’s products are already stocked in outdoor accessory shop Foothills on Edgedale Road, Sheffield, and she is hoping to get stocked in more outlets soon.
She said she had sold products at festivals and shows, including surfing festival Boardmasters in Cornwall.
Grace said many customers had been in touch with her on social media and had sent her pictures of them wearing her products.
“Getting feedback like that and seeing everyone’s pictures makes it all worthwhile,” she said.
Among the bloggers contributing to her website are marine biologists from a University of Portsmouth project called See Bin, Sea Change, which raises awareness of marine pollution, and nurse Iona Rendall, who writes about how travelling can be beneficial for mental health.
You can shop online or find out more by visiting https://www.yugenexplore.com/