Posted: Wed 27th Sep 2017
Entrepreneur Tom Davies has built his eponymous bespoke glasses business into a brand that's loved by celebrities including Ed Sheeran, Angelina Jolie and Heston Blumenthal.
We're absolutely delighted that Tom will be speaking at the Fashion and Jewellery Exchange in Birmingham on 4 October. We caught up with him for a quick taster of what we can expect to hear.
Book your ticket to hear from Tom and other amazing fashion and jewellery experts and entrepreneurs here.
How did you come up with the idea for your brand and turn it into an actual business?
When I moved back to London from Hong Kong in 2000, I knew I wanted to start up and eyewear brand but I wasn't confident then that I could use my own name.
I had a few brand names in mind but I decided to test Tom Davies by asking a local boutique optician to put five Tom Davies frames I made on their shelf.
I went back a week later wondering if anyone had even tried them on and they said "so we sold all those, got any more?".
What start-up challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
I never really thought about it like that. I suppose I'm to list things like "funding", "getting sales" and "managing stock" and whilst they were the headline concerns, running and growing a company is full of challenges everyday and they never fundamentally change.
EVERYTHING is a challange from the moment you start. So the question to be asking yourself is are you up for it? If the answer is yes, then great, get on with it.
Why did you decide to move production from China to the UK?
When I decided to open my factory in China, it was not just because it was cheap, it was also because there was a lot of manufacturing skill and knowhow there in my industry.
I also spent a lot of time in China putting in appropriate management structures and creating manufacturing solutions. Over the past 10 years, I've built a fantastic process and its now easy for me to re-import this back to the UK.
Frankly, flying to China every six weeks is exhausting and after 10 years, I rather got fed up with that. But, overall re-shoring is something going on in many industries.
My advice is to start up in the UK in today's climate, rather than looking overseas.
How have you attracted such high profile customers to your business?
For a while I would seek them out. Maybe stalking them at events or even emailing them.
However, as the business has grown, celebrities have sort me out because they, like most people, need glasses. I just happen to offer the best service in the world!
What advice do you have for opening retail stores based on your experience?
I have a major supplier, which is ZEISS. I buy all my lenses from them and I made myself a great customer by always paying on time, having large sales (because I only buy their product) and made sure I worked with them on marketing.
As a result, I was able to raise capital from them to open additional stores at better rates than the bank and far easier.
What do you believe are the key factors behind a strong brand?
I looked to other big brands at the start of Tom Davies and looked at their identity, brand rules and ethos.
I would often ask myself 'would Prada do this?' when I was not sure about something I was doing in marketing. If the answer was no, I didn't do it.
To be a strong brand, you need branding rules, business rules, maintain your identity and don't confuse people. As a creative person, its tempting to change things all the time.
Why do you think business owners should come to the Fashion and Jewellery Exchange?
I'm attending to share my experiences over the past 15 years. I'm doing this because I would have benefited from someone like me doing this 15 years ago.
When I was starting out, I went to any event like this I could. I networked (I still work with people I met at this stage of my growth) and I learnt.
I've seen some of the other speakers and I would not want to miss the opportunity to grab as much information as possible.
Book your ticket to hear from Tom and other amazing fashion and jewellery experts and entrepreneurs here or below.