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Nine (painful) truths about launching a retail start-up

Know your 'North Star' 

 Some wonk in Silicon Valley came up with the new name but this is the DNA of your business - its core value. This will be what drives engagement with customers. Best to be articulated in just a few words. In newspaper terms, it's the "Sell" (eg: Nike - Just do it).

Think about it long and hard, then say it out loud. Write it big. Make it your daily mantra.

Deviate and you may lose your goal. 


Get the name right 

Go for one that's short, memorable, pronounceable and that 1,000 other companies haven't already picked. Hey, we got the first three right. (You can't imagine how many Sodas there are out there - always an SEO challenge).   


  Make a super sharp social media manager your first hire

Unless you're a whizz yourself, beg and borrow to invest in this, prelaunch. The pay-off is a buoyant Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest/Facebook platform that'll do the heavy lifting when it comes to sales, marketing and community growth further down the line. Kerching.

(Followers are all future investors care about too). 


Build a website that works 

Sounds so simple, right?  

*stares wistfully into the middle distance*

It's not.

Those web designers will want bells and whistles when all you need is a shop front that whispers "Buy me" in your inimitable tone of voice. Lovely clear images, fun words, ideally videos. But mostly it needs to get customers seamlessly to the checkout - and wanting more. 


Metropolitan office rent is a killer   

Do a Steve Jobs and stay in someone's basement for as long as possible. Or choose a munificent VC who'll lend you a corner of his/her office. (Thank you Saul and Robin).

Every little helps.  


Invest in your team 

Staff are humans. Humans are complex. If you don't get this right, they'll occupy 50% of your time. Employ those with the most passion and expertise, and if you can't bribe them all with company shares, go for food & fun incentives. A regular round of oat-milk lattes. A weekly local cafe breakfast meeting. A monthly pub quiz night. A virtual or actual team huddle, to keep them informed. So they won't "feel unwell" on a Friday.     


If you build it, they won't necessarily come* 

Embrace your early fails. We once opened a pop-up in the lobby of Facebook's London office at not inconsiderable expense. Sounded like a good idea, looked great. Only probs, we'd chosen a day the whole office was on a jolly in Wales. Who knew? We now ask questions.

*The actual quote: ”If you build it, he will come” (not they), is a line from the 1989 Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams. In retail, srsly, he won't always come.    


Someone in the room needs to be good with money  

Creative minds are great, but at least one person needs a head for figures - sales, gross margins, profits and cash flow. Mostly cash flow. No cash flow = no good = no business. Hand over that company card to the most tight-fisted employee pronto.   


 Paying Instagram influencers may not convert  

When you get to the Should-I-pay-an-influencer stage of marketing, take great care. Huge followers do not = huge sales. Best invest in micro influencers. Better still, believe us when we say old media still works. (One down page column item translated into sales of more than 600 units). Thank you Lisa.   


PS

When growth demands an office, don't buy desks from Ikea - they may cost tuppence but the moment you get them near a radiator, the glue unglues.
And invest in a cleaner. Millennials don't do dishes. 

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