Casabu: Rachel Oxburgh
Flash sales for mums
Tell us what your business does:
We are an online shop that sells everything a mum needs – from pregnancy through to when her kids are teenagers – in limited time. Our private members receive heavy discounts, of up to 80%.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Flash sales are a retail channel that has burgeoned in the past couple of years. We know that mums like deals, they like shopping online, and that they don’t have time to shop around, so it is an obvious sector on which to focus.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The model has been very successful in the United States and in other, broader verticals over here. In addition, every time I mention it to mums, they think it’s a great idea and can’t wait to sign up.
Our unique selling point is that ‘if you can beat it, we’ll meet it’. Before we put a sale live, we check internet prices to make sure we’re not undersold, and if a customer finds our products cheaper elsewhere then we will refund the difference in price.
What were you doing before starting up?
I ran a web consultancy and design agency, called The Storm, with my husband. Before that, I worked at a digital consultancy for five years, and prior to that, I was a geochemistry lecturer at Edinburgh University.
I did my undergraduate degree in chemistry at Oxford, a Master’s in geology at the University of Wyoming and a phD in geochemistry at Columbia University in New York.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes. I love that everything you do really matters to the business, and that you are in charge of your own fate. When times are tough you can call on your own resourcefulness and inner strength.
How did you raise the money?
We initially raised money from our savings and friends and family. Subsequent funds have come from investors, who had previously worked with one or more of the partners at different times.
We are lucky in that our model and approach has essentially been proven, and is a good retail model in recessions, so investors tend to be interested in working with us.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Cashflow in a start-up is always a problem – particularly one with our ambitions.
Good people are the cornerstone of a successful business. We used a combination of networks, word of mouth and recruitment agencies to build our team.
How much do you charge?
We charge a percentage of the product price. That’s essentially how we make money.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Getting the site live and getting our first sale! Growth since then has been good and pretty much to plan. We are aiming at a turnover of £5m for 2012 and to be profitable by the middle of 2013.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Make sure that you make time for yourself and that you don’t burn out. You are more efficient and effective when you are well-rested and clear headed.
You also have more perspective and make better decisions. The temptation is to work all hours that God gives – but that may well not be the best thing for the business.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
In a house with a big enough garden for my boys to play football! We aim to exit within two to four years.