Stylus: Marc Worth
Founded: 2009 Founder: Marc Worth Turnover: Estimated £1.6m
In 2005 Marc Worth sold his subscription-based fashion-forecasting business, WGSN, to Emap for £142m. In 2009 he returned to entrepreneurship with the intention of providing the interiors world with a similar product, but saw a bigger opportunity. Stylus has now grown into a design inspiration resource encompassing fashion, beauty, interiors, travel, hospitality and the automotive industry. Having launched in September 2010, the service now boasts 200 customers ranging from Marks & Spencer to General Motors.
The market opportunity
In some respects Worth has sown the seeds for Stylus' success with WGSN, by making this type of resource a “must-have” product for the fashion industry. Furthermore, with Stylus appealing to every corner of the design sector, the market opportunity is heightened, and only 10% of Stylus' current customer base comes from fashion companies.
Differentiating the two products, Worth explains that, while Emap has grown WGSN from 1,500 to 3,500 customers, much of that growth came from the “economy class”, meaning the product has “become dumbed down”.
He adds: “Everybody has WGSN, which has made it too easy for people not to use their brains to create. It's made the industry lazy and our job is to re-educate. Stylus is not a prescriptive design tool; it's an inspiration tool… It's not telling you what to do, like WGSN.”
Emap is obviously aware of the threat posed, as shortly after Stylus launched it developed interiors spin-off WGSN-homebuildlife as a competitor. Further competition is posed by trend forecasting agencies such as The Future Laboratory and, arguably, the free resource of fashion and design bloggers.
Yet, Worth believes that the lack of quality control in the blogosphere removes this threat and is unconcerned about launching a subscription-based model in the current climate:
“This is the best time to be doing this. The smart businesses realise that they need to innovate. Faced with more discerning consumers, they want to stand out.”
Stylus was founded with £4m of Worth's own money, allowing him to maintain 100% of the business. A critic of seed funding, this has been crucial, as he believes retaining ownership of a business helps an entrepreneur to maintain interest in it.
Worth's 30 years' experience in fashion have also instilled the business with a strong network of contacts, and the company has grown quickly to encompass 70 staff worldwide – eight or nine of which left WGSN to be part of the new venture.
Subscription prices have been set at £10,000 for an unlimited number of users in the first year on the basis that “WGSN became a must-have after the first year of using it, but it's only once you start using it that you realise that it's a must-have.” Subsequent annual subscriptions are priced at £10,000 for three users, with £500 added for each additional user.
The growth strategy
As with WGSN, much of Stylus' growth is likely to come from word-of-mouth recommendations between design leaders. However Worth is also directly approaching some companies to introduce them to the product, as well as organising seminars where prospective customers can learn more and hear testimonials from their industry peers.
Already, Stylus is reporting good levels of renewals and upgrades and, with 60-70% of its current 200 customers coming from the US, there is good scope for international growth.
With his eye firmly on the BRIC MIST states (Brazil, Russia, India, China; Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey), Worth says: “These are the markets that we should be in. We have to be in Asia and South America.”
Stylus has already met its target of reaching 200 customers by the end of 2011 and is now focused on surpassing 600 contracts by the close of 2012. With Worth's hopes to break into China, the Far East and Taiwan within five years, Stylus should be used by approximately 3,000 customers by 2015.
Having launched in September 2010, the service already boasts 200 customers ranging from Marks & Spencer to General Motors. Having sold his subscription-based fashion-forecasting business for £142m in 2005, Marc Worth's next business is bound to be big.