Nu Blvck: Andrew Vincent and Becca Flory
A former lawyer and accountant talk about "taking the jump" from their well-paid careers, to launch their own artisan fashion website
Tell us what your business does:
NU BLVCK sells limited edition collections of female fashion accessories which are handmade by artisan producers from around the world. Our ‘made to order’ business model allows our online community of fashion forward, ethical customers to preview designs online.
If our online community backs a product, we take it to production. We’re redefining the way people buy clothes.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Co-founder Becca previously looked into working with artisan producers in India to celebrate hand made products and sell them via an e-commerce platform.
Then when Becca and I met last year, we both instantly knew we had a shared passion to celebrate artisan producers around the world and a passion to build a global business. The model we’ve adopted allows us to do both… Nu Blvck was born in Boston over a glass of wine or two!
We’ve built and launched the business at pace since then without compromising on quality.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The female fashion accessories market is a massive market globally, however the world of fast fashion means that there are some questionable ethics in how brands service this massive demand. We’ve spotted a trend in consumer behavior in peoples’ preference for luxury stylish accessories but also for a growing demand for storytelling.
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People want to know how their product has been made and the stories of those who made it. Consumer markets are slowly realising that as millennials move into the luxury market, they place value in the provenance behind each product, almost as much as the product itself.
What were you doing before starting up?
Becca and I were both career professionals until August of last year when we set off to complete an entrepreneurial leadership course called the Saltire Fellowship (based out of Babson College in Boston, USA).
The course focused on entrepreneurial thought and action… so for a former lawyer and accountant who had dreams of doing something different, we’ve put a lot of thought into the business and now we’re acting!
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Since a young age we’ve both wanted to run our own businesses.
Flory: “I used to sell paper sketches of my designs for thousands of pounds from my imaginary fashion boutique at a very young age. It was a very profitable business!”
Vincent: “I’ve always had a flare for enterprise. From a young age I was charging family members to iron their clothes and selling homemade confectionery to my neighbours … I learned a lot, the fundamentals are the same in any business. Regardless of how young or old you are.”
How did you raise the money?
We’ve bootstrapped the start-up phase of Nu Blvck and we successfully crowdfunded the first collection via Kickstarter.com in order to raise the funds to develop the first iteration of our platform. We raised over £15,400 in 30 days, it was a great experience, not only did we raise the money we needed, but we also validated the business and learned a lot about our customers.
With a business like ours which is centered around a dream to do things differently, people get on board with the journey which is awesome! We’ve been creative with funding, hardworking, and thankfully we’ve been able to deliver to date without having to compromise on quality!
After our first few collections and once we have the NU BLVCK platform in a good place for scale, we plan to go to the private equity markets to raise money to accelerate growth globally.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Our new online platform connects our customers with emerging designers and artisans from around the world. We will preview each of their limited edition NU BLVCK accessory collections with our growing community of users who will provide us with real time feedback (in sales) on each accessory before they go to our artisans for production in limited quantities (we’ll only ever produce our accessories in small batches and made to order).
This approach cuts out the many layers of the traditional retail model and offers complete transparency to our customers, who follow the creative journey from design to hand made production of our beautiful, limited edition accessories.
As well as adding value to the customer, it celebrates the designers, artisan makers and reduces the masses of waste in the supply chain. It also makes for a nice looking cash flow cycle.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Like all start-ups, every day is a challenge! But it’s great fun! When entering such a competitive market such as fashion, there are a lot of people who tell you things aren’t possible, that a small start-up can’t completely change the model of such a mammoth industry.
We’re doing things in a fundamentally different way, which means suppliers changing the way they work. This can be draining over time, and it’s a constant challenge to change mindsets and make people believe in a new way of doing things. But we believe in our product, our plan and we’ll change the industry one stylish fashion accessory at a time.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Like all new business owners, things move on so quickly that we still think the first big breakthrough is on the horizon – we have our eyes set on becoming a global brand.
To date, though, taking our first collection to market has been a massive achievement. We’ve worked with such amazing people to get it there, we had a massive launch party to celebrate the brand launch which was awesome!
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
We’re both early in our journey as entrepreneurs, but we’ve learned very quickly to expect the unexpected. Each day is different, the pace is constantly changing and the most mundane things can get in your way. But with resilience and hard work, it can be the most beautiful of journeys.
Taking the jump from good (well paid) careers was a big decision. If anyone is in a similar boat thinking of starting their own venture, I’ll repeat the words that made me realise it was time to take the risk.
“Jump, but don’t have a safety net. Because if you do, you’ll end up using it.”
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
NU BLVCK has grand ambitions of growth. In five years we want to be in most markets around the world with a network of designers and artisan makers across the world.
It’s our ambition to change the way people buy their clothes and we hope to making a real change in the industry by offering an alternative way to buy.