Men's fashion duo are suited and booted to blow-up the bespoke tailoring industry with focus on effortless design.
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Jonathan Kruger and Stephen Stroud are founders of fast-growth online tailoring service The Drop. Here, they talk fast fashion, cutting out the middle man and why their business was once hamstrung by a change in the weather.
What’s the business in a nutshell?
Show us a suit you love. We will make it for you and deliver it worldwide from online shopping cart to your door within three weeks.
Why did you start it?
Working in the fashion industry, we saw first-hand just how inefficient and outdated the fast fashion model is. It can be a struggle to find clothes that look good, fit well and represent great value for money.
Our solution was to make the outfits on-demand, meaning the opportunities to customise and make it your own are (virtually) endless. Customers get exactly what they want, the way they want to wear it.
How did the business develop?
We started life as an offline business - visiting customers in their homes, understanding their needs and making them great quality, custom clothing turned around really quickly. From this, we created an online prototype whereby customers could send us a photo of an outfit they liked the look of, some photos of themselves and some basic measurements.
We developed this into the e-commerce experience you see today, where customers can buy an outfit from our gallery or send us a photo of something they’ve seen elsewhere.
Tell us about market conditions.
The suit market in the UK is worth about £800m a year. It’s currently dominated by a few big high-street PLCs who are optimised for producing limited ranges in limited sizes in bulk. They have high overheads and a traditional retail model. It is these companies that we are competing with.
It’s a very exciting time to be in the fashion industry for a business like ours. Consumer tastes are evolving - fit, quality and value for money are more important than ever before and sustainable manufacturing is increasingly important to them too. They are less likely to buy premium labels for the sake of a ‘label’ than they were previously and fast fashion as a whole is being seen as wasteful.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has been securing funding for a disruptive online model without traction. We had an offline business and plenty of insights but had to prove to potential investors that this was a model that could scale online (and crucially, across different product lines and different geographies).
We had to jump through a number of hurdles and a rigorous due-diligence process to show that we understood the different market and would be able to execute quickly and effectively.
What has been your biggest mistake?
Massively underestimating seasonality took us by surprise; we should have been better prepared and aware of the drop in engagement ring selfie posts throughout social media.
We had little understanding in our secondary market and this left us playing catch up in appealing to the likes and needs of its customer persona.
Reducing the nasty looking customer acquisition costs couldn’t happen without burning significant capital, inevitably meaning our spend was cut until we learnt more. Our promising and exciting month on month growth of 20% took a steep dive for the worse and that hurt.
Retrospective insights have given us the knowledge and knowhow to be well prepared and focused for seasonality before it bites.
What major bumps in the road have you had and how did you overcome them?
The concept of our first website delivered exactly and only on the ability to share an image of a suit you like that we would then make for you.
Customers weren’t used to this idea of shopping as it differed completely from their usual online shopping experience such as recommended products therefore our customer conversion (customers actually buying) was very low.
We decided to introduce a product listing of popular suits to explore, meaning the customers that didn’t come equipped with their own image were still able to find something they liked the look of. This, alongside keeping to our original premise of making any suit the customer desired meant we were able to fulfil two customer base journeys – this massively improved our conversion rate.
What sets your business apart from the rest and how have you nurtured this point of difference?
The ability to make any suit you want from an image you send in is our USP but it’s the quality of the suits that sets us apart from our competitors.
We charge the same price regardless of what you ask us for and we deliver super-fast worldwide (in as little as 10 days). For an online company, we also have immediate and attentive customer care that means our returning customer base are happy to recommend us to other people.
How do you attract and retain good people?
As a young startup, when we seek out new members of the team we look for an entrepreneurial spirit. We need all our members to embrace critical thinking and enjoy challenging the status quo.
They need to be able to think big and see the potential (which is hard at such an early stage). Most importantly, we look for people with passion for our mission. One of our team even decided to cut through the traditional application process by turning up at the front door claiming they had a meeting with the CEO - status quo challenged!
Our belief is that if you get the right people around the table, a culture will start to form that will attract the next wave of new hires.
After we raised our seed round, we went off-site and agreed to a set of key company values and behaviours - things that we know are important. We use this as a framework to hire the right people, as well as to keep ourselves in check.
What's your best advice to would-be entrepreneurs?
We have always liked what our investors Garage Soho said - "Don't build a business, build a brand". Applying this thought process to every decision, from our website and packaging rebranding to customer experience has made us the brand we want to be.
Don’t be afraid to launch your minimum viable product ASAP. It doesn’t have to be completely polished, and the sooner you start learning, the easier it is to avoid an unnecessary rebuild.
Be humble enough to ask for help from as many people as possible, especially those who have been through it before.
Learning from your own mistakes is great, but if you can learn from someone else’s it’s much cheaper!