James Gold, co-founder of smartphone accessories brand Skinnydip London, tells the story of his business including appearing on Dragons' Den and getting stocked by retail giant Topshop.
How did you come up with the idea and turn that idea into an actual business?
When Apple released the original iPhone, myself, my brother and best friend were discussing why the only cases you could find were either black, white or grey. We felt there was a gap in the market for tech accessories to be actual fashion accessories and be sold in fashion retailers which at the time nobody was offering. That was the initial idea that led to Skinnydip London being set up in 2011 as a brand producing something different to accessorise your phone with.
What start-up challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
We had loads! Sourcing reputable suppliers in the Far East to produce our products, then getting them made and trying to make sales were three big ones. When we started and being so young (23, 22 and 21) we worried our ages would count against us in trying to make sales. Therefore so we were treated more seriously, our business cards read account managers rather than co-founders as we wanted to give off the impression of being a much bigger company than we were!
What benefits did your appearance on Dragons' Den bring to the business? Would you recommend it to other business owners?
It was a great learning experience and one I would definitely recommend. When you go on Dragons' Den the pitches can last for over two hours, which ours did. It's then cut to 10 minutes for TV. When you've spent over two hours being grilled by some of the UK's most successful entrepreneurs, you never feel nervous for another meeting again. If it goes well, which we were fortunate it did, it also gives your business enormous credibility so I would always suggest giving it a go.
How did you manage to get stocked by Top Shop and what's your advice to other entrepreneurs looking to do business with big retailers?
A lot of perseverance! One of the most important lessons we've learnt is that it can take a lot of time to be stocked by big retailers and don't be put off if you’re initially rejected. We've been fortunate since launching in Topshop to grow with them and consider them one of our most valuable partners. Whether it is Topshop or any other retailer, my advice would be to ensure your product is the very best it can be and that your brand or concept fits the retailers you are targeting.
What's your advice for opening your own store based on your experience of setting one up?
I believe retail today is more about selling just products. We try and offer a Skinnydip experience in our stores whether that be by having in store DJs, photo booth machines, braid and nail bars or food and drink. The reason for this is to ensure the customer has a great time when they visit a Skinnydip shop, whether they bought a product or not and most importantly, they will re-visit us again. That positive feeling leads to brand loyalty which is something we are passionate about.
What are your three top tips for starting a successful business?
- Love what you do
- Don't be scared of failure
- Believe in your idea
Looking to grow a great business? You need to be at ScaleUp 2017 in London on 10 November with top entrepreneurs who've done just that! Book a ticket here.