Style Nibble: Nigel Whiteoak
Online personal styling service for women
Tell us what your business does:
We provide an online personal styling service for women, offering bite-sized fashion advice and suggestions for what to wear.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
My girlfriend has lots of pairs of shoes. One evening I got her to talk me through her collection, explaining what she liked about each pair. I quickly got a good sense of the kind of shoes she liked, and wondered if we might be able to use data and segmentation to help stylists give a personal service to lots of customers.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Before committing to building the website, we researched the market: going on personal styling sessions, talking to brands and retailers, and building a really simple prototype of the styling quiz that’s the first step of the Style Nibble journey.
What were you doing before starting up?
I’ve worked in e-commerce businesses since the late 1990s, selling everything from semi-conductors to summer holidays. I met my co-founder at eBay – she left to work for JustGiving and I went to work for a German start-up to launch their business in the UK.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Not always, but working at eBay gave me the entrepreneurial buzz. I went to work for a real start-up, launching the UK branch and resolved I’d do it myself one day.
How did you raise the money?
We’ve bootstrapped the business up to this point, putting in some of our own money and calling in a few favours here and there to help keep costs down, whilst investing in the things we felt were really important. We’re now looking to raise some seed investment to take us to the next level.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
As we’ve bootstrapped so far, the hardest part has been making the tough decision to not do things that aren’t absolutely essential to demonstrating the concept, even if we think they are important. We really wanted to build Facebook integration into the site, and make it work beautifully on mobile devices, but decided that they both needed to wait until we’d got the core service working.
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How much do you charge?
Nothing! Our service is totally free to our users.
What was your first big breakthrough?
We felt really honoured when each of our advisory team said they’d give up their time to help us: Nina Hampson, the founder of Myla, Shannon Edwards, MD of Vestiaire Collective, Alison Perry, Fashion Editor of Look, Tim Boughton from HomeAway and our stylists Charlotte Kewley and Nicole Smallwood. They said ”yes” when it was just a crazy dream and have been really helpful offering support and advice.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Get started. There’s no real substitute for just doing something: you’ll learn, refine and make progress. My background in manufacturing and direct marketing has taught me the importance of measurement, testing and iteration. If you’re not doing anything, you can’t measure it, so just get going.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We want to be the home of women’s fashion identity online, helping deliver a personal service not just on our own site, but across all fashion e-commerce online.