24 Jan, 2013
Business In The Spotlight – Pretaportobello
Posted by: Bev James In: Uncategorized
Georgie Cooper started her business: Pretaportobello due to her love of creative fashion. She is now an Ambassador for Start-Up Loans along with 11 other young entrepreneurs. Here is Georgie’s Start-Up journey:
What Makes Your Business Unique?
In 2008, Georgie Cooper founded pretaportobello.com, the fashion markets online, promoting and selling clothing and accessories from new, undiscovered design talent with origins at the world famous Portobello, and other fashion markets such as Spitalfields, Camden and Brick Lane.
The website enables customers from all over the world to shop at the market, any time, any day of the week and have purchases delivered straight to their door.
Competition in the online fashion space is really fierce, there’s the established names doing tremendously well plus, as the barriers to entry are so low, there are lots of new entrants selling cheap imports from China.
We feel we are different to the other online boutiques out there, so have more of a niche position – we’re not an online boutique, we’re the markets online. When we set up the company, there was a real gap in the market, there genuinely wasn’t anyone out there providing an online link to these fantastic physical fashion hubs… and so we decided to.
Like these markets, pretaportobello.com also sells vintage clothing and accessories. We recently launched our HaggleTM functionality so we’re now the first website in the world that lets customers interactively barter with the virtual market trader to get instant discounts.
To start a business you need a great idea. You need to fill a gap in the market, or meet a need that is not being met. That’s why pretaportobello.com received such a great response. Everyone loves shopping for fashion at London’s Markets, but pretaportobello was the first to put the market traders’ products online.
Entrepreneurs should note, though… a business idea doesn’t have to be totally unique, it could simply be that your idea can improve upon an existing business model, or serve the market better, more cheaply or in a different way.
Please Tell Us About Your Background
I am 28 years old. I left Bournemouth University with a degree in Fashion Design. I had various internships at fashion houses such as Emma Cook, Betty Jackson and Richard Nicoll, which, although great experiences were unfulfilling. Although I loved the creativity of design, I wasn’t sure if this was my calling.
So, instead of continuing along that path, I decided to turn what I already liked doing (shopping at London’s markets for new design talent and vintage finds) into a viable online business.
I left university in 2007 with a fashion degree and a pitiful bank balance so would often visit Portobello market with my sisters to hunt for bargains. We would always get comments on our Portobello finds – and requests from friends to buy things for them when they couldn’t get to the market themselves.
The majority of designers there did not sell online, so the only way to get their products was to physically visit the market.
What Has Been Your Proudest Moment In Business So Far?
Pretaportobello is an award winning company, but my proudest moment so far would be launching HaggleTM . It’s a totally groundbreaking functionality that changes the way people can shop online.
Rather than shop with standard discounts, our site lets customers Haggle for discounts off the set price of an item….and how well they Haggle dictates how big the discount is!
To be the first website to offer this sort of e-shopping, taking the lead over the big internet retailers worldwide is quite an achievement.
And The Hardest Moment?
Too many to mention! We’ve made many mistakes along the way which have been a real hit to the company. But we’ve had to learn fast and get back up…and avoid making them again.
After graduating, the ‘sensible’ thing would have been to go and find a job for a bit of security. That’s what all my friends did, and now they can enjoy their 9 to 5 jobs, free evenings, weekends off and paid holidays. I don’t have that luxury!!
It’s true, if you start up your own company you have to be prepared to give up a lot to establish your company and make it grow. My social life has taken a hit, I’ve invested all my time and money, and I live off a nominal salary (everything goes back into the business), working long hard hours.
Real holidays are no more – even when I’m away from the office, I’m working. But before, we get the violins out, I can honestly say that it’s all worth it.
I am immensely proud of pretaportobello, and the recognition it has received so far and the fact that despite the UK economic downturn, we’re still here competing with the big boys!
Have You Adapted Your Business Model To Cope With The Economic Downturn?
Starting a business, especially during a recession means it’s important to keep a hold on your costs. We didn’t have a lot of money to spend so everything was done on a shoestring – where we could save money, we did and we called in favours from EVERYONE we knew.
This hasn’t changed; in fact we’re more aware of keeping our costs down than we ever were.
I did (and still do) all the design and illustrations and I design all branding and marketing collateral. My sisters (who were avid internet shoppers) worked on the website layout, navigation and shopping process.
We’ve been conscious not to grow the business too fast, so our cost base becomes unmanageable and as such, we’ve outsourced a lot of our business functions to avoid full time personnel until things stabilise
Times are still tough, people are thinking twice before they purchase, so we need to work hard to convince them to spend their money with us. The way to do this is by ensuring our product is good, our prices are attractive and we get our name out there.
What Advice Would You Give To A Budding Entrepreneur?
I get asked a lot about the criteria to be an entrepreneur – I think you need drive, stamina and confidence in yourself and your idea. If you’re starting up yourself, most likely you will be making up a lot of the rules as you go along.
Bear in mind that you still need to have a clear strategy and direction for your company, and don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked. Most importantly, you need to be prepared for the hard slog.
Not everyone wants to be fully responsible for their career or livelihood, and prefer to have a more stable job. Stability is one thing I do envy, but for me the freedom and excitement more than makes up for that.
My key bit of advice to anyone wanting to start up their own business is ‘do your research and build a plan’. In doing so, talk to as many people as you can – don’t underestimate the benefit of a business mentor to guide you through your entrepreneurial journey.
That’s why the new government-backed initiative, StartUp Loans is critical for budding entrepreneurs. Not only do they lend up to £2,500 to young people wanting to start a business, but they provide mentoring and advice from people who have launched their own businesses, been there and got the T-shirt.
I’m one of twelve young ambassadors for StartUp Loans, all of whom have started their own companies across a wide range of industries, here to give support to those that need it.
Visit www.facebook.com/StartUpLoansUK for more information.