The Entrepreneur: James Gold, Skinnydip

The co-founder of the accessory brand known for its creative phone cases has some sage advice; run a business out of love rather than financial gain...

Founders: James Gold, Richard Gold, Lewis Blitz
Company: Skinnydip Ltd
Description in one line: Skinnydip is a London-based brand creating effortless cool fashion accessories for the ultimate stylish girls

Business growth

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Skinnydip is a London-based brand with 200 retail concessions and eight of our own stores
  • All products are created within our in-house design studio
  • Having a strong, loyal and organic social media following has helped build our brand profile

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

There are two – building our concession business with Topshop and opening our first store in Carnaby Street.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Retail and e-commerce sales but also social media engagement [Skinnydip has over 370,000 fans on Instagram] as this is just as important for us in building a consumer brand.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We trade in over 30 countries. Our biggest market after the UK is the US where we work with Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and Urban Outfitters.

We also have eight concessions with Topshop and are looking to open our first stores this year in NYC.

Describe your growth funding path:

We have never taken outside funding, instead we have grown organically. When we first started we put in all our savings and, because we work on wholesale basis, we then reinvested the profits from our first orders back into the business to allow us to grow.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

For us, the rise of social media in the last few years has been an unbelievable opportunity to grow our business.

The beauty of social media is that if you can put out engaging and interesting content, you can build up a large following without the traditional costs associated with advertising.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

For us, growth over the next few years will come from diversifying our product range. By April 2017, we will have launched beauty, stationary, sunglasses and jewellery to compliment our existing bag and tech range.

International expansion is also key with plans to open stores across the US and then look at further expanding in new territories such as the Middle East, Japan and Australia.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

When we first started out, it was making our first sale! We had to not take initial rejection to heart and made sure to keep on plugging away until eventually someone took a chance on us.

What was your biggest business mistake?

We don’t look back on mistakes with regret rather as a learning curve. I think it’s impossible to run a business without making a mistake so, when one is made, we try and learn from it as best we can.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Even as we’ve grown we've kept a small business mentality as being reactive to trends is a key factor in our growth. That’s why we try and make decisions as quickly as possible as we believe slow decision making is the biggest piece of red tape that harms growth.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Not enjoying it. We’re fortunate that we love what we do so it never feels like work, rather it feels more like a hobby. If you do something purely motivated by financial reasons rather than doing something you enjoy, I think it’s very difficult to succeed.

How will your market look in three years?

I think that e-commerce will continue to become a major area of fashion retailing so it’s important you invest in your online offering.

I also feel traditional bricks and mortar retailing will continue to be difficult. That’s why it crucial to offer the best possible customer experience within stores to keep customers loyal and coming back.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Believe in your idea and concept and enjoy the journey.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

We are fortunate that both our fathers run their own businesses. Being able to call on their advice and expertise from the day we set up the business has been invaluable.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

It depends on the individual. One of Skinnydip’s key brand ethos’ is being a proud supporter of young British talent. We work with many of the UK’s design universities in offering placements to students who join us and immediately get stuck into real and important work.

We are big believers in the right type of individual being able to learn it on the job!

What would make you a better leader?

Experience. As Skinnydip grows, the three of us are going into new territory.

We started the business aged 23, 22 and 21 with no experience. Over the last seven years whilst we have learnt so much, we feel there is an enormous amount still to be learnt.

What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?

Everything takes longer than you think! Having a big picture plan is important as time flies.

One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:

Business app – Shopify so I can track our sales
Personal – Instagram so I can keep up to date on what Skinnydip is posting!

Business book:

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the creator of Nike by Phil Knight. A fantastic read for any entrepreneur.


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