Made In Britain: SilkFred

What does your company do? What products services does it provide?
SilkFred is a one-stop-shop for independent fashion brands to sell their products, and for online shoppers to discover them.

What products services does it provide?
SilkFred is a platform that enables independent fashion brands to successfully sell their products.

Through providing e-commerce stores for our brands, and a presence on their unique marketplace platform, SilkFred powers over 140 unique fashion designers.

For fashion lovers, finding unique fashion at an affordable price is difficult. SilkFred connects cool independent brands with customers who love to discover them.

Where did the idea for your business come from?
When I was working at a luxury e-tailer, I was inspired by the ever-growing pool of creative talent amongst fashion designers in London and all over the world. A friend of mine (now my business partner) asked me for my advice on a young fashion brand a friend of his had invested in that wasn’t really working. That’s when we started to think about young designers who could now sell online but didn’t know the right way to market themselves or present their products online.

We set out on a mission to create a destination where shoppers could tap into this growing community of unique independent fashion brands, whilst providing the brands with the support they needed.

When did you start up, and what support were you given?
We launched SilkFred in January 2012 with angel investment. Once we built our technology and got some designers to use it, we realised we needed to raise some money to invest in marketing and start making some noise. We took out a start-up loan of £10,000 to help cover running costs whilst we launched crowd-funding campaign on Crowdcube, in which we raised £145,000.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
The Crowdcube campaign was a real turning point for SilkFred in that we got investment we needed to grow the business. Currently we are beating our projections in our business plan and experiencing explosive growth in terms of sales and new designers wanting to join us.

We also appeared on ITV, Sky News, hosted John Bercow and the Digital Democracy Commission for a tour of tech city, met with George Osborne and Matthew Hancock at No.11 and were invited to the Royal Garden Parties in recognition of our support for the Business is GREAT Britain campaign.

Aside from that, knowing that we are a start-up business that is powering the success of over 140 fashion designers is pretty special. It’s happening more and more that when I’m out and about, I see girls wearing the clothes from our designers and it’s great that there’s an appetite for unique fashion over the run of the mill high street clothes. I once went up to a girl and asked her where she got her dress from and she said “Oh my god, it’s the coolest website ever – it’s called SilkFred!” That was a really proud moment.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Running a start-up means there are challenges every day. One of our biggest challenges has been keeping up with how quickly we’re growing both from a technology angle, and customer service angle. But we’re 100% focused on providing the best experience for the designers whose businesses we support and the customers that shop with us.

How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
We really understand how to sell independent fashion and engage our customers with the products from the designers that sell with us. We also get the challenges that independent fashion designers face and everything from our service, technology and marketing is geared towards that understanding. We have the coolest, unique brands because we invest time in cultivating relationships with them that means they can grow alongside us.

What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
It’s so important to have the right team in place and I think building a culture where people believe in what you’re doing, and where you plan to be, is key. I’m really lucky I have such a talented and dedicated team in the trenches with me.

Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
We’ll be international! Growing fast, providing more resources to help independent fashion brands get their products to market.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Learn to be resilient – it’s tough! Surround yourself with the right people, mentors, advisors and investors. You want to be able to pick up the phone when you need advice or help making a big decision.

What do you find most satisfying about running a business?
Knowing that you’re building something of value and it’s unique. When a designer or a customer lets us know that they love working/ shopping with us or when a fantastic investor gets behind us and our idea, it’s the best feeling.