Shopping4Fans: Patrick Ashworth

Ashworth's discount licensed merchandise site looks to make waves in the world of e-commerce

Name: Patrick Ashworth
Age: 43
Company: Shopping4Fans
Staff numbers: 10-20
Location: London
Date launched: 14/01/2013
Website: www.shopping4fans.com

Tell us what your business does:

Shopping4Fans.com is the world’s only internet shopping club selling officially licensed merchandise to fans at highly reduced prices. The site runs limited-in-time shopping events offering excess stock and end-of-line products from iconic brands from around the world in key vertical segments including sport, entertainment, kids and characters, celebrities, brands and publishing.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

Over the past 15 years, I have been involved in the internet, brand and licensing industries and Shopping4Fans exploits a mixture of my experiences from all these industries.

There were no internet shopping clubs exclusively focused on the officially licensed merchandise market, a market that has global retail sales of $192bn. When licensees sign a license agreement with brand owners, there is a specified term, then a sell-off period for selling remaining stock and at the end of the sell-off period, licensees are obliged to destroy any remaining stock. Consequently we feel that Shopping4Fans is the ideal channel for licensees during the sell-off period and a controllable distribution channel for the brand owners.

How did you know there was a market for it?

The licensing industry is a sector that is unexploited by existing internet shopping clubs and offers very interesting opportunities. Shopping4Fans addresses a major problem for its licensing partners in the disposal of excess stock, end-of-line and out-of-season products. In discussions with many licenses and brand owners it was confirmed that the over-stock represents between 20 to 40%.

Furthermore, the licensing industry appeals to people with a passion for sport, movies, musicians and celebrities and Shopping4Fans makes it possible for such fans to get access to products at unbelievable prices.

What were you doing before starting up?

I have been a serial entrepreneur since 1999 having first founded a digital marketing solutions company Interactive Communication Group (ICG). ICG was one of the first companies to offer video banners and rich media online formats in Europe with a platform called ad-booster.

In 2009, I was a co-founder of ArtOfBrands which is an art venture that creates, produces and sells authentic and officially licensed fine art prints on behalf of iconic brands. The company works with brands such as Ducati, Aston Martin, Alinghi, Olympique de Marseille, FIGC, and Cadillac and allows their customers to “design their life with their passion” at prices that are affordable for most.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

After starting my career in the brand world, working for Longines Watch Co and Swatch, I was passionate about making a difference and bringing something new to the world.

I am a generalist and enjoy the ability to grow a business from scratch and work on all aspects of the business from finance, fund-raising, marketing, technology, operations, fulfillment, and sales. It is a constant challenge but allows us to learn new things everyday and meet new and interesting people.

How did you raise the money?

Shopping4Fans has been self-funded to date by myself and through a friends and family investment round. Shopping4Fans will now look to close a post-launch investment round, which will allow the company to grow quicker and exploit the opportunity in the UK and further afield.

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

Shopping4Fans is an ambitious project that involves many people with different expertise. It has been a challenge to find and bring these people together to create a team that can grow successfully.

The technology side of the business has been a challenge since Shopping4Fans is not a typical e-commerce platform but a members only environment that gives the members access to great deals. It also involves important systems to integrate with the operations and fulfillment side of the business.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

Consumers enroll as members free-of-charge, which provides them with access to shopping events (a limited period in which a number of products from licensees are sold – typically two to four days).

When the shopping event ends, the licensee ships the bulk order to Shopping4Fans and we dispatch the orders to the consumers, taking a percentage of all sales.

What was your first big breakthrough?

The first big breakthrough was building the purchasing team which allows us to source the products from key suppliers.  We have a very experienced and dedicated team who are focused on obtaining great products at unbelievable prices.

The second big breakthrough was the launch of the site which has been well received by the initial members.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

It is critical to have a complimentary team around you with strong experience in their particular fields and a dedication to making the business a success.

Being an entrepreneur is very lonely and there will be constant setbacks, hurdles and problems. Fight the urge to give up in tough times as the satisfaction of bringing your baby to the world is huge.

Be prepared to make sacrifices in your standard of living, short term income, holidays and nights out.   Lastly, when you think something will take ‘X’ amount of time to get there, it is most likely going to take ‘X+2’.

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

Shopping4Fans offers an international opportunity and once we have gained important traction in the UK, we would like to roll out to key markets around the world, most notably Germany, Spain, USA, China, India and Russia.

So in five years I would want to see Shopping4Fans throughout the world and a leading distribution channel for officially licensed products.

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