Last week I discussed the various challenges facing young entrepreneurs in an ever-changing, ever-saturated world of technology and confusion.
The existence of these challenges make it all the more admirable when a young person rises to success and yields inspiration for countless would-be entrepreneurs the world over.
At the age of 18, Tom began designing clothes, selling over Â£3,000 worth of “SWINE 09” t-shirts at school in one week, giving all his profits toÂ MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res – commonly referred to as ‘Doctors Without Borders’ across the channel.
Skip forward to Tom, now aged 23, launching his eponymous brand ‘Tom Cridland’ in January 2014 which focussed solely on trousers – a move called ‘vertical branding’ whereby a company focuses and specialises in one product only. A controversial decision,Â Forbes claimed “vertical brands crash, horizontal brands fly”, but Tom was defying all odds and building a luxury menswear brand described by CNBCÂ asÂ “quality over quantity retail.”
Adapting to the modern world, Tom’s simple strategy was to sell online, getting his product to the customer as quickly as possible. Indeed, his strategy proved successful as ForbesÂ note his trousers have beenÂ “donned by celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry, and Daniel Craig”.
Following his success and appreciating the appetite in the market for high-quality fashion, Tom quickly Â launched ‘The 30 Year Sweatshirt’: an organic cotton crew neck which came with a 30 Year Guarantee.
For both the launch of the trousers and the sweatshirt, Tom made use of the website ‘Kickstarter’ – a crowd-funding platform which raised money from online backers who were able to get their hands on the first products. Word of the campaign spread quickly, as did Tom’s success and he released his ’30 Year T-Shirt’ immediately after.
And his success hasn’t slowed in 2016: His pop-up shop opened on Chelsea’s coveted King’s Road, where he launched his latest product, The 30 Year Jacket, a product hailed by The Telegraph as “faultless.”
So what can young entrepreneurs learn from this?
Despite Forbes’ consignment of vertical brands as destined toÂ “crash”, focus on one very specific good seems at least a good place to start. Whilst famously vertical companies like Blockbuster have failed to remain in the rat race, similar companies such as Netflix were able to capitalise on a changing market, expanding from an online DVD-service to a live-streaming one. This success lends weight to the argument – as epitomised by Tom Cridland’s success – that starting a business with one very specific product and appealing to a niche market before ultimately expanding outwards, is the way to go.
A clear, long-term business plan is therefore key when pitching to investors, either in the traditional sense, through crowd-fundingÂ campaigns, or via schemes such as Virgin Voom, which shows not only an interesting an innovative product, but also a clear path for diversification such that a new brand can become more proliferate in such a commercialÂ market.
You can find out more about Tom Cridland here.