’s Holly Tucker MBE talks marketing, pitching, and business inspiration [VIDEO]

The entrepreneur behind the online marketplace for thousands of creative small businesses speaks to from Sir Richard Branson's house

Talking to from Sir Richard Branson’s house at the Pitch to Rich competition, co-founder Holly Tucker MBE shared some of her business secrets.

When she started the online marketplace in 2006 with business partner Sophie Cornish MBE, the pair set to work on their marketing strategy.

To get their start-up noticed they targeted influential journalists. “We made it our mission to court the press,” she recalls. “Sophie and myself used to do everything from creating individual, personalised bags for each journalist and got all our small businesses to contribute whatever they could.”

It wasn’t all plain sailing though. She says that in the early days this amounted to “the most random things” and says they got far better at it, helping to establish as Britain’s best-known online marketplace and an alternative to US giants eBay, Etsy and Amazon.

“We knew what the press could do for the business,” she says. “It was absolutely imperative that they knew what we were trying to do from day one.”

Even today, relies heavily on its strong relationships with journalists. As the business enters each summer, the management team, led by Tucker, plan what they’ll be doing to gain press coverage at Christmas.

Nailing a great pitch

Acting as a judge alongside Sir Richard Branson, founder Nick Jenkins, and Jack Wills’ co-founder Peter Williams, Tucker said the group had been talking beforehand about what makes a great pitch.

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The answer? “[Sir Richard Branson] was talking about spirit a lot. That’s something that we all, as entrepreneurs on the judging panel, really understood.

“And it’s the spirit you have from day one that can see you through what is always a rocky road.”

Business inspiration

When Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish set out it wasn’t with a roadmap to gaining an honour from the Queen.

Instead, the thing that inspires her most has remained a constant. “I thought it might change over our journey,” she says, “but since day one, the partners we support have been my ultimate inspiration.”

Speaking to Startups before notonthehighstreet’s annual convention – The Make Do and Meet – she was gearing up to address 750 partners. “Every time it’s almost like enough ‘drugs’ to keep me going for the rest of the year.”

“I feel very inspired by them and their energy and get-up-and-go,” she adds. “They’re almost doing what we’re doing but on a smaller scale.”

Plans for’s growth

Not resting on her laurels and now leading the business since Sophie Cornish stepped back, Tucker has been busily planning the company’s next 12 months and beyond.

While the company already has more than 3,500 independent enterprises selling more than 70,000 original and high-quality products, Tucker wants notonthehighstreet to remain an affordable way for designer-makers and small businesses to reach the market against bigger multi-national brands.

Recognised as a Young Gun by Growing Business in 2008 and awarded the Keystone Law Golden Gun of the Year in 2013, Tucker also picked up an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year title for London and the South in 2014.

This is in addition to the company making all sorts of growth lists, including the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 and Deloitte’s UK Technology Fast 50.

In 2012, the business was backed by Fidelity Growth Partners Europe, Index Ventures and Greylock Partners to the tune of £10m, valuing the business at £100m. But what lies in store next?

Launching the business in Europe, celebrating the company’s first 10 millionaire partners, a move to new 35,000 square feet offices in Richmond, as well as taking on hundreds of new partners and thousands of products a month, mean to ensure, Tucker hopes, that is destined for greater things. Progress to date suggests it will be.

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