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Stop the clocks – Strathclyde alumnus is one to watch

A person checking the time on their Fiodh watch

You can often tell a lot about someone from looking around where they work. Walking into Michael Youmans’ Glasgow studio told its own story. Two flasks of coffee and an energy drink sat at his workstation; Michael’s an entrepreneur hard at work.

Founder of Fiodh (pronounced “fi-o-ch”), he studied both his undergraduate and Masters degrees at Strathclyde, graduating with a BSc in Product Design & Innovation in 2014 before returning to study an MSc in Product Design the following year. 

Now, with the help of Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network (SEN), Michael is living his dream as a designer, creating handmade watches from reclaimed Scottish whisky barrels. “I love Scotland, watches and whisky,” he enthuses.

“Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network have helped provide crucial funding to start-up the business such as a marketing grant.”

SEN has helped Michael bring his vision to life, connecting him with key contacts and assisting with funding.

“The Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network have provided a lot of great support in terms of connecting me with other organisations and entrepreneurs,” explains Michael, “and have helped provide crucial funding to start-up the business such as a marketing grant.”

His father was also an avid fan of watches and a huge influence on Michael’s choice of career. An engineer, it was he who encouraged Michael to pursue a Masters degree – a wish he fulfilled after losing his father to cancer in 2015.

“Most kids grow up with Lego; my dad bought me Meccano”

Childhood influences

As a child Michael was given Meccano, developing his passion of how things worked, which he attributes to leading him to where he is now. “Most kids grow up with Lego; my dad bought me Meccano,” he laughs.

After taking the brave decision to quit his job to focus on starting a business, Michael utilised the University’s Fab Lab to start building prototypes, using the lab to learn how to use new machinery to help develop his ideas.

Michael Youmans in his studio assembling a Fiodh watch

“I’ve always wanted to be a designer,” explains Michael, “So I gave up my job and started sketches and building prototypes. I bought a cheap watch and took it apart to find out how it worked.”

Fiodh is the Scottish Gaelic word for wood and Michael currently crafts his watches entirely by hand from a 1987 Invergordon whisky barrel, Harris Tweed and Scottish leather. “The plan is to scale up and get a manufacturer to make the parts and we’ll assemble them,” he said, while he’s also hoping to expand Fiodh’s range of products.

“I’ve always wanted to be a designer, so I gave up my job and started sketches and building prototypes. I bought a cheap watch and took it apart to find out how it worked.”

"All watches have time… ours have history," is the tagline on Fiodh’s website, and with the scrutiny and interest on provenance, particularly with Scottish spirits, Michael agrees Fiodh’s story adds to the brand.

On the business side of things he’s further teamed up with the University, taking on an undergraduate from our Business School on a summer internship, to assist with marketing. “I’m a designer first and a businessman second,” he expanded, “This will allow me to focus more on coming up with new ideas and designs.”

“Focus on the people and the product, and the money will come”

Fiodh currently relies on word of mouth to get business but Michael hopes to work with distilleries and gift shops to take his creations to market. July will see Michael launch a crowdfunding campaign in July to help scale production and export overseas.

He has a philosophical outlook on starting a business and any challenges that may bring: “Focus on people and the product,” Michael explains, “and the money will come.”

Watch this space!