Grace Gordon is the founder of her eponymous label, an independent women’s leather goods brand designed and made in Britain.
Already making waves in the fashion industry, Grace Gordon’s elegant and versatile range of bags have received plaudits across the media from The Huffington Post to Grazia.
We spoke to Grace about her experiences of starting a business and how to crack the fashion industry.
What inspired you to set up Grace Gordon?
I’d always had a love for craftsmanship and the detail that goes into making quality products. This was combined with seeing a gap in the market for contemporary leather accessories made in the UK.
How much experience did you have in fashion before setting up your business?
I had worked in fashion since leaving University. Starting out as a showroom assistant, I eventually began working in the Buying & Merchandising team for a global retailer.
What did you use your Start Up Loan for?
I used my Start Up Loan to help me set up my website, create quality brand imagery and to help towards paying for my initial production order.
How long were you planning the business before you started?
I’ve always known I wanted to start my own business, but planning really began around a year before leaving my full time role. Product development and securing intellectual property rights can take a long time so I think it’s prudent to make sure you’ve got the basics in place.
Did you do any market research?
Yes. My background in merchandising meant I knew that analysing the marketplace was vital for my products to succeed. I used focus groups and market data, but real-life interactions are the cornerstone to any good business so I spoke to shops, colleagues and customers about their experiences.
My market research also formed a large part of my business plan. I knew I needed to answer fundamental questions about who my customers were, what their buying habits were and why were they going buy from me.
How do you market your business and get your name out there?
I decide on my budget to begin with. At the beginning this had a lot to do with cashflow and judging the return carefully. For me, online marketing is imperative. I look towards social media influencers and improving my SEO to make sure I get noticed.
How did you go about finding suppliers for materials?
I went to tradeshows, factories and used online directories, but my best contacts have come as recommendations from speaking to people. With suppliers, and any contacts involved with your business, it’s key to have a mutual understanding of each other’s’ goals. My suppliers wouldn’t necessarily be the right fit for another business but by sampling and visiting companies in person you get a feel for whether you can work together.
What was the main challenge in working to crack the fashion industry?
Fashion is a progressive and forward-thinking industry which is one of its biggest assets, but when it comes to starting out it can be difficult to keep up. There’s a new way to combine tech and fashion just about every week and the internet is so saturated with small brands you have to have something special to get noticed.
What advice would you give to other people starting up in fashion?
User generated content is important. Get images of people using your product and encourage testimonials to go with them. When buying online, there’s a vital trust element between retailer and consumer. The more confident they are that someone else has bought and enjoyed the experience, the more likely they are to do the same.
Competing with the bigger companies is difficult with a modest budget. You have to get creative and use your size to your advantage. Customer service is an area where start ups can excel. Transparency is something consumers love and knowing that they’re talking to someone integral to the business who cares about their request makes a big difference.