Reef Knots: Patrick Dudley-Williams

Founder Dudley-Williams turned his redundancy into an opportunity with his new handmade printed silk ties venture

Name: Patrick Dudley-Williams
Age: 35
Company: Reef Knots
Staff numbers: 3
Location: Greater London
Website: www.reefknots.com

Tell us what your business does:

Reef Knots makes handmade printed silk ties that remind you of the good times of your life. Our designs are inspired by the summer and the ocean.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I worked in finance for 13 years and saw lots of people ditching their ties because they made them feel too corporate. They wanted to portray a more relaxed and personal look. There was no tie brand that offered them anything other than heritage and tradition. I wanted to offer them something else.

How did you know there was a market for it?

It was a product I wanted and I couldn’t find. I wanted a tie that said something better about me than ‘I bought this with my shirt’. That got me started. I then did lots of research, spoke to consumers, developed a brand and tested it. The results seemed good.

What were you doing before starting up?

I was working in finance and then got hit by the financial crisis. I was made redundant in November 2012, two days before my wife had twins! We had two babies, a toddler, a big mortgage and all the rest. But I felt I had to go and try this, despite the massive risk.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes. It was always in me, eating away. That was why I decided that I had to turn this negative into a positive. It was my opportunity to do something I have always wanted.

How did you raise the money?

I have financed the whole thing myself through savings and my redundancy. But because of that I have made huge attempts to limit the cost.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

I was very capital constrained given my circumstances so I learnt everything myself, from designing ties, using different software, product photography, branding, accounting, packaging. There’s a video on YouTube for everything!

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We sell ties, and people give us money for them. We try to make sure the revenue is higher than the cost. It’s harder than it sounds though!

What was your first big breakthrough?

Selling custom products to corporates. It’s easier to persuade one person to buy 100 ties than 100 people to buy one.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

You have to brutally honest with yourself. If you were a person walking into a shop (that had never heard of your company) could you honestly say you would take your product to the counter and part with the money? If the answer is yes, then you’ll be OK.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

I want Reef Knots to be the number one tie brand in the UK. I’m not sure how long it will take to get there, but that is my goal.

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