Entrepreneurs Week: Losses, learnings and leaps of faith
Global Entrepreneurship Week was founded 13 years ago to celebrate and empower entrepreneurs in every country and community around the world, especially those who face barriers to launching their own businesses.
Every November, 10 million people take part in #GEW activities and events that inspire them to make connections and gain knowledge from those entrepreneurs who were once in their start-up shoes.
On Tuesday 9 November, founders from eCommerce businesses came together at The Scale Up’s dedicated ‘Celebrating Entrepreneurship Week’ event, hosted by founder of James and James Fulfilment, James Hyde.
As well as hearing from specialists in global expansion and digital marketing, our guests listened to the start-up to scale up tales of independent games studio CluedUpp Games and Irish-based, inclusive athleisure brand, Peachylean.
Here are just a few of many highlights and takeaways from the presentations, discussions and Q&As…
Tref Griffiths, founder of CluedUpp Games, once headed up Customer Services at James and James Fulfilment and enjoyed engaging in game nights alongside his day job.
Those ‘doing something fun outside of work’ activities soon became something much more, something hugely successful. So, as no surprise, James accepted Tref’s resignation letter and wished Tref the best of luck in his new venture.
CluedUpp Games is a cross between Pokemon Go and Cluedo, using augmented reality through a phone app to take players on a murder mystery tour. Players are presented with a number of clues to try and work out who committed the crime. The first location for the platform was in Milton Keynes in 2017, led by a very small yet specialist CluedUpp Games team. You’ll now find CluedUpp Games in over 80 countries – but interestingly it’s still played in English.
When it came to expanding globally into those 80 countries, Tref took the slightly more risky but definitely more entrepreneurship approach. He’d identify a new city, test it with his team, put it out there and see how it fares. And it worked. Sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith when growing your business – there’s a lot that can be said of ‘gut feeling’ when it comes to identifying the right place, at the right time.
Next up, Sharon Keegan, Founder of Peachylean and ‘Chief Confidence Creator’. The Irish entrepreneur who impressed the Dragons’ Den judges with her body-positive athleisurewear brand back in May 2021.
After losing five stone and bouncing back from postnatal depression with her two boys, Sharon wanted to help other women going through similar experiences. Peachylean epitomises confidence and self-love with a strong brand message of supporting women in and outside of the gym, helping them to dream, believe and achieve anything they want. With its female empowerment message, Sharon says it’s important that they stay true to their word, so the company made the decision to work with and employ a lot of women.
Since being offered investment from three of the five Dragons – Touker Suleyman, Sara Davis and Tej Levani, her international business has skyrocketed.
“After the Dragons’ Den episode aired, we had hundreds of thousands of people on our website with thousands of orders. Without a really good fulfilment partner to help get those orders out on time, tracked, delivered and with feedback – we would have completely failed. That success would have been all for nothing.
“There’s really no point in driving masses amounts of traffic or spending on your digital marketing to create a huge amount of sales unless you have a watertight fulfilment partner like James and James.
“We still use the Dragons as mentors and Touker Suleyman has been phenomenal in helping us to open stores in the UK. We’ve found the UK market’s been a more difficult nut to crack in comparison to Ireland and the US. That may be down to the Brexit movement and ‘Buy British Buy Local’ consumer mentality – and we’re of course an Irish company. So while we’ll always stay true to our roots, the Dragons’ support in tapping into the UK consumer has been invaluable.”
On being asked what she’d do differently, Sharon said, “Maybe I would have created more technology products first. Community is core to everything we do as a brand and we have a vision to create a digital course or some kind of events system – in hindsight, we could have perhaps started with that. But, I honestly have no regrets. A lot of our failures were huge lessons, even during the six weeks of hell following the Dragons’ Den airing.
“We started with very little money but we scaled very, very quickly. There are some days when our success could’ve ultimately been our failure because we were running out of cash which is always such an issue for start-ups. You can only do what you can do with what you have.”
Quick-fire Masterclass: Global Ambition
- When it comes to selecting the right manufacturing partners to work with, or any other global partner for that matter, it’s important to do your research. Network and ask other brand founders if they have any recommended contacts – they’ve been in your shoes and are usually willing to help. Sharon mentioned ISPO is a great trade show to attend for sussing out great apparel manufacturers specifically.
- Having separate eCommerce storefronts, for example .co.uk vs .com, for different markets can be beneficial for SEO purposes. Bear in mind that this takes time and investment to do, particularly if translations are needed, so you’ll need to weigh this up against how profitable those locales are for your business.
- When looking to expand your business in new territories, it’s a good idea to be partnered with a fulfilment company who offer technology that enables you to sync inventory with multiple store fronts by warehouse. With data, you can choose where’s best to ship from in the most cost-effective way, for both you and your end consumer.
- There are numerous levers you can pull from a marketing perspective to drive traffic to the products which you have surplus stock of. Follow the data. Where is the product selling organically? How much traffic/revenue are you receiving from each location? Google Analytics is your best friend.
- When you’re starting out it’s about getting the product in front of different consumer groups, testing and validating. You can use social media without spending masses on marketing in the early days to find your community, your consumer, your avatar – whoever that may be.
- Identifying global influencers to promote your products in different regions is straightforward (and easy if they’re already advocates of your product type!) Try engaging with micro-influencers, not the huge influencers asking 10k for one post and three stories. Not everyone can afford this when starting out. Micro-influencers are the ambitious, creative types who are very active – they’re ‘The Builder’, the person who wants to be a huge influencer one day.
- You’ll find there’ll be lots of tweaking along your scale up journey. You’ll come across a lot of intricacies, especially when it comes to regulations, customs and duty per country. That said, with the right partners and a great marketing team, you can scale very, very quickly and it is manageable. Don’t be afraid of ‘going global’. Just do it.
This is the first year we’ve been involved in Global Entrepreneurship Week, but it won’t be the last. Through The Scale Up, we’re championing the sharing of good practice across all areas for retail businesses - not just order fulfilment.- James Hyde, Founder - James and James Fulfilment
“We’re always delighted to welcome entrepreneurs like Sharon Keegan and Tref Griffiths to our event panels – these are the inspiring individuals who’ve started with very little and faced huge personal battles, yet made huge successes of their visions. Sharon in particular was very transparent about the challenges she’s faced and there’s nothing more invaluable than real-talk when you’re starting out.”
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James and James Fulfilment
It all began in 2010, when James Hyde and James Strachan couldn’t find a modern shipping service for the eCommerce business they ran. Faced with messy warehouses based on out-dated systems, they decided to build their own.
We’ve not stood still since, helping hundreds of online brands scale up – and scaling with them.
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