Scarlett of Soho: YC Ng

Recovering from surgery, YC Ng spotted a gap in the eyewear market and traded in his banking job to 'hustle' his way into the start-up sphere

Name: YC Ng
Company name: Scarlett of Soho
Number of Employees: 2
Location: Greater London 
Date launched: 4/4/2014
Website: www.scarlettofsoho.com

Tell us what your business does:

We design, manufacture and retail high quality eyewear at great prices, directly to consumers. By bypassing the middlemen and avoiding unnecessary overheads altogether, we can offer premium aged Italian acetate eyewear at a quarter of what the high-street charges, whilst remaining economically competitive. Additionally as an online-only store, we offer a complimentary Home Try On kit for consumers to try on four frames for a full week and delivery is completely free. At the end of it, consumers just pack up the box with stickers, and drop it off at the closest post box – easy!

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I was recovering from surgery at home and wanted to buy a new pair of glasses. As my recovery prevented me from heading out to the local optician, I attempted to look for a pair online but found the experience was very poor. I wondered if there was a better way – two months later, I traded in my business suits for glasses and started building Scarlett of Soho full-time.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Almost 70% of the UK population need glasses. To validate this as well as the design aesthetics, I conducted early customer surveys in Old Street, Shoreditch and Waterloo where I interviewed over 50 members of the public on their eyewear habits and experiences. I complimented this by conducting 30-minute interviews with 10 applicants online.

What were you doing before starting up?

I was a capital markets syndicate manager at Barclays, where I helped corporates and countries raise money in global capital markets.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes, I have always wanted to own and run my own company.

How did you raise the money?

I approached numerous friends and private investors, and pitched for investment – eventually I was oversubscribed for funds.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We primarily generate sales by retailing eyewear to consumers. Other products, such as extra thin lenses and leather spectacle cases, are then upsold as an additional revenue stream.

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

Since starting up three months ago, we have now got over 100 customers and will be validating our early market hypotheses with them. Our challenge here is to delve into customer behaviour and mindset so that it can be useful to our next big challenge – scalability.

What was your first big breakthrough?

We were recently described by Marie Claire as “a website that rocks” and have just been invited as one of 20 disruptive start-ups to exhibit at The Summit @ Dublin – Europe’s biggest tech conference and one of the world’s largest. Other start-ups that have previously attended include: Nest, Stripe, Uber, Vine and Dropbox.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Hustle. Execution is everything.

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

Advising and helping other start-ups build great things.

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