Frock: Rachel Perrett
Rachel Perrett tells us how she went from taking a degree in biochemistry and genetics to setting up an online fashion boutique
Company name: Frock
Founders: Rachel Perrett
Age : 29
Based: Farnham, Surrey
Staff Numbers: 3
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Date started: April, 2007
Tell us what your business does
Frockonline is an online fashion boutique selling exciting, quality fashion and accessories, which showcases exclusive collections from UK and European brands and gives fashion tips and styling advice.Where did the idea for your business come from?
I launched Frock to capitalise on the growing phenomenon of fashion internet retailing. Having attended weddings where girls spent the day avoiding the other guest in the same dress, I had to make my own Frock to address the issue!
What were you doing before starting up?
My degree in biochemistry and genetics wasn’t the obvious route into the fashion industry but it certainly was a talking point in interviews. Part-time fashion classes and retail experience on the shop floor gave me a foot in the door of the industry and I worked for Debenhams before taking a job as buyer for fashion and lifestyle chain, Joy. That really inspired me to start my own business and gave me fantastic skills and contacts.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I think since a young age I wanted to run my own business. I was always making jewellery and selling it to my friends at school. At 18 I got a marketing grant from the Prince’s Trust and had a small business making and selling tiaras for weddings which I used to help me through university.
What planning did you do before you started?
I did extensive market research with questionnaires and focus groups before writing my business plan. I amassed a huge library of business books and spent several months working on my financial projections and tweaking my plans. I also took advice from local business services as well as the commercial manager of my bank.
How did you raise the money?
I raised the money to launch Frock through a DTI loan. This is a small firms loan guarantee scheme which helps small businesses to raise funding for their ventures.
How did you find suppliers?
I source products from all over Europe, particularly France and Denmark and attend trade shows several times a year. I have developed fantastic relationships with existing suppliers from my previous job as well as new contacts and am always on the look out for the next big thing.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them?
Our biggest challenge to date has been marketing. With online business you can have a fantastic site with wonderful product but if no-one knows you are there you have no business. We are competing with large companies in a tough industry and we concentrate a lot of our resources on getting editorial in the fashion media. We have had fantastic coverage in magazines and newspapers as well as on television.
Where is your business based?
We have offices, a warehouse and a photographic studio in a lovely manor house in Farnham. I can see the River Wey from my office window: it is such an inspiring setting.
How much do you charge?
Frocks range from £40 to £150. We like to think we are competitive and excellent value for money. From my research I identified the key price points in which we want our collection to sit and I source labels that fit into our offer.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
It is hard not to work 24-7 but there is an on-going joke with my friends that I am permanently attached to my laptop. However, I have lots of hobbies especially dancing and cycling and do endeavour to have some time off – not least to keep me fresh for Frock.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Research, research, research!