Jack Wills co-founder Peter Williams on his golden rule for starting a business

The entrepreneur behind the ‘preppy’ British clothing brand shares his start-up tips and business inspiration with Startups.co.uk at Sir Richard Branson’s house

Having launched British ‘prep clothier’ Jack Wills with co-founder Robert Shaw in 1999 and grown it into a multi-million pound empire, fashion entrepreneur Peter Williams has some interesting business advice to share.

Speaking with Startups.co.uk from Sir Richard Branson’s house for the Pitch to Rich 2014 competition, Williams discusses where he finds business inspiration, his tips for start-ups, and what lies in store for him over the next 12 months after recently stepping down as chief executive.

Entrepreneurial spirit

A judging panellist alongside Sir Richard Branson, Holly Tucker MBE of Notonthehighstreet.com and Moonpig founder Nick Jenkins at the competition, Williams explained that he had found the day “deeply inspirational” and was encouraged by the entrepreneurial spirit on display.

Williams commented: “You get inspiration from everywhere […] I find entrepreneurs who are starting out, irrespective of the idea, […] very very inspirational.

He added:“It’s the hunger, the look in their eyes, the self-belief.”

Advice on starting a business

Williams opened the first Jack Wills store at the age of just 23, so it’s hardly surprising that he encourages budding entrepreneurs to go out and pursue their business ideas without hesitation:

“To misquote a very famous sports brand ‘just do it’!”

For Williams it was his father who offered him the best start-up advice despite his father knowing very little about the retail market –

“The golden rule my dad gave me before I started my business was […] ‘I don’t know anything about marketing, I don’t know anything about retail, I don’t know anything about fashion, but what I do know is that you should make it for x, sell it for y, and make sure y is bigger than x’.”

Plans for the year ahead

Last year, Williams stepped down as CEO of Jack Wills to the position of non-executive director with former Vodafone chief marketing officer Wendy Becker appointed as the new CEO.  Despite the move, Williams asserted Startups that he will still be actively involved in the ‘fabulously British’ clothing brand, but may also look to start a new venture:

“Jack Wills is still my absolute priority. I stood down as chief executive in September, we now have an amazing CEO and she’s recruited a fantastic team who are doing brilliant things with the business and the brand.

“Watch this space – I’m not quite sure yet what I’m going to do, I’m just enjoying relaxing a bit!”

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