From Dragons' Den to Topshop: The story of Skinnydip London

From Dragons' Den to Topshop: The story of Skinnydip London

Posted: Wed 4th Jan 2017

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, my brother, my best friend and I 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 us setting up Skinnydip London 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! Three big ones were sourcing reputable suppliers in the Far East to produce our products, then getting them made, then trying to make sales.

When we started, we worried our ages (23, 22 and 21) would count against us in trying to make sales. To make sure we were treated 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?

It was a great learning experience. 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.

How did you manage to get stocked by Topshop? And what advice would you give 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. So 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's Topshop or any other retailer, my advice would be to make sure:

  • your product is the very best it can be

  • your brand or concept fits the retailers you're targeting

What's your advice for opening a 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's having in-store DJs, photo booth machines, braid and nail bars, or food and drink.

This is to make sure the customer has a great time when they visit a Skinnydip shop, whether or not they bought something. And most importantly, they'll visit us again. That positive feeling leads to brand loyalty, which is something we're 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

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