InStitchu UK: Elliot Suiter
The young co-founder of the tailor made suit start-up talks brand awareness, social media and why "style is power"...
Name: Elliot Suiter
Company name: InStitchu UK
Number of Employees: 2
Date launched: 1/02/2014
Tell us what your business does:
We give men the freedom to create their own tailor made suits online. Our website makes it easy for users to build a suit from scratch with help from our style consultants. We usually visit our customers at their office for convenience, measure them and discuss fabrics and the suit is then delivered in less than 30 days.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
My business partner Matt Hinkley and I (pictured) both needed a suit. We were both trying to find a suit to fit our builds (I’m slim built and Matt is tall and muscular) and shopped around but couldn't find anything tailor made and customised for under £600. As I was living in Australia at the time, I searched online and came across InStitchu Australia which had seen tremendous growth and had recently raised investment. I approached the founders and proposed setting up a UK-based subsidiary whereby Matt and I would run the company but it would be part owned by InStitchu Australia.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We asked several friends where they bought suits and how they found various aspects such cost, fabric, fit etc. The common theme was apparent; they always had to compromise. We knew if we could guarantee the best fitting suit that was fully customisable and easy to re-order that it would appeal to men across the UK; especially in a corporate environment.
What were you doing before starting up?
I worked with a retail business for a year after finishing university and then went travelling to Australia. I have always been interested in technology and fashion, especially with regards to how the former is changing the way people shop online. Jack Dorsey at Square is one of my idols.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes. I always used to watch Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice thinking this looks fun and exciting. I started my first ‘business' when I was 13; washing cars for friends and family and even employing two of my friends to help out. My next business was a website development agency started at age 16 with two school friends before moving onto a video social media site that allowed users to upload their university antics.
I think the reason I love running my own business is the freedom you have to change things that aren’t working, that's why I hate working for someone.
How did you raise the money?
We required very little capital initially due to the business model being very cash flow positive and were able to use savings. We're currently looking into funding options from Virgin Start Up Loans because of the mentorship they provide.
For entrepreneurs looking to raise funds, I would recommend only looking at raising finance to build your business not to promote it as this needs to be done through hard work.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Most customers find us online and book to have a style consultant measure them at their office. Once the suit is designed online it’s then paid up front and delivered in 30 days. If there are any minor alterations required when the suit arrives we update the measurements online and reimburse the customer for alterations costs.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Initially we struggled with raising awareness of our business like most start-ups. We overcame this problem by informing our friends and family of what we were doing and offering discounts on suits to get the product in their hands. Since then we have had lots of referrals which has allowed us to build a good reputation and client base.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Our biggest breakthrough has to be suiting Danny Cipriani. We reached out to him via Twitter and went to measure him the following week. He was delighted with the suits and recommended us to his team mates which was good.
Social media now plays such an important role for new businesses and often gets disregarded. It’s a great way to establish who your customers are and what they want.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
I would advise budding entrepreneurs to stay focused on what's most important to your business at the stage your business is at. For example, when you launch your focus should be awareness not sales and pre-launch your focus should be on creating a good product. We have often strayed into other areas which shouldn't have been our focus; we attended wedding fairs ways to early and that hasn’t proved lucrative yet.
I would also say that networking is the best way to grow your business straight off the bat as it costs nothing and you learn a lot about what others have found useful.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We are looking to grow the company nationwide and organise pop-up stores so that customers can visit us to get measured and have their measurements saved for life. Our focus at the moment however is corporate bookings and making sure men in the business world are suitably dressed. Style is power!