Find Me A Dress: Yvette Snowden
Company name: Find Me A Dress Website: www.find-me-a-dress.com Founders: Yvette Snowden Age: 23 Based: London Staff Numbers: 4 Date started: June 2009
Tell us what your business does Find-me-a-dress.com is the UK’s ultimate dress comparison website, which helps women find their perfect dress, whatever the occasion, through a quick and easy search process. Visitors to the site can either choose a category and/or conduct their own personalized search. There are over 15,000 products in our database, including: dresses, shoes, handbags and jewellery, from over 400 of the UK’s top high street, high end and boutique designer brands and labels including.
Where did the idea for your business come from? During my final year at university I was on the train coming home, staring at an insurance comparison advertisement. I thought to myself, why can’t we have that for fashion, specifically dresses? Women spend so much time online shopping for that perfect dress for a certain occasion, so it made sense. That night, the name Find-me-a-dress came to me, and after a few months of planning, the website was launched.
How did you know there was a market for it? How will you differentiate yourself from the competition? Before I started, I got friends and family members, as well as females at my university, to partake in a short survey. 90% of the women said that they would use a dress comparison service if it were available. I wanted to create a comparison website which was very much service orientated and so I came up with the site’s ‘personalised search’ facility. A lot of fashion comparison sites offer users a filtered search facility, but I felt that to really stand out from my competitors, I should also provide a service that was unique and more tailored to the users’ needs.
What were you doing before starting up? Before I launched the business, I had just finished at City University in London, where I studied international politics. However, I have always been passionate about fashion. I had completed a course in fashion illustration at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? Whilst studying in university, I hadn’t really thought about what I wanted to do after finishing. I wanted to go into the fashion industry, but it wasn’t until I did my final year dissertation on the economic crisis of 2008 that I realised, with so much unemployment and the current economic climate, I may as well start my own business because I have nothing to lose. I ultimately love the freedom a web-based company gives you. I can operate my site from pretty much anywhere and being my own boss means that I can grow a business which I am 100% dedicated to. It’s a great feeling.
What planning did you do before you started up? What advice did you seek?To be honest, I launched the website first and learned different lessons as I went along. The past six months have definitely been a learning curve for me, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I have been lucky enough to meet my e-heroes: Brent Hoberman – co-founder of Lastminute.com and Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-A-Porter.com. They have given me some really great advice and have definitely made me believe that I had a good business idea.
How did you raise the money? How easy was it? I launched the business with no more than £5,000, which was raised from family members and savings I had accumulated through my university maintenance grant. Acquiring the right finances has definitely been one of the biggest challenges and I worked for a few months to fund my business. But I am definitely a strong believer in perseverance and also doing a lot with a little. As a result I have been able to secure a second round of funding and I am currently trying to source venture capitalist investment.
Where is your business based? We have office space in Shoreditch, London, but I do a lot of work from home because it’s a web based business, so I can run it from pretty much anywhere.
How have you promoted your business? I have done some online PR and pay per click campaigns, which have proved to be very beneficial. I am a strong follower of social media and would definitely recommend using free marketing tools such as Facebook and twitter to drive traffic to your site.
What about staff – how many do you have? I have four members of staff. They are a great team and I definitely couldn’t have come this far without them
What has your growth been like?Growth has been challenging, due to the recession. However, since receiving our second round of funding, we hope to see significant growth over the next few months and we will be launching the menswear version in spring 2011.
What’s the impact on your home life been like? It hasn’t really affected my home life. However I wouldn’t say I work 9-5 – I work pretty much all the time. But when you’re passionate about something, it doesn’t really feel like work, and I have very supportive family and friends who are always willing to lend a helping hand if needed.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?The greatest difficulty as a start-up is sourcing funding for your business. At the beginning, you definitely need a cash injection to get the business running how you want it to, but you don’t need a multi-million VC cash injection to start a business.
What was your first big breakthrough? The first big breakthrough I had was when Dolly Jones, editor in chief of Vogue.com, agreed to do the website’s first ever interview. Making my first sale through the website was also a significant step.
What would you do differently? ie what have you learnt? To be honest, I don’t think I would do anything differently. I think everything so far has happened for a reason and as the website grows, so do I as a fashion entrepreneur.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? If you have a great idea, you shouldn’t let a lack of financing get in your way. Reach out to other entrepreneurs who have been in your shoes because their advice is priceless. You’d be surprised at how many of them are easier to reach than you think!
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan? Over the next five years, I hope to grow the “Find-me-a” brand into a chain of websites, providing users with comparison-based services, within the fashion and lifestyle market.