HOW I GOT HERE

Holly Tucker shares what she’s learnt by set­ting up two suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies

Red - - Contents - Holly Tucker (holly.co) is a judge for Big Book’s Smart Think­ing cat­e­gory. Dis­cover the win­ning book on page 95.

Af­ter a va­ri­ety of jobs in ad­ver­tis­ing and pub­lish­ing, Holly Tucker, 41, founded no­ton­the­high­street.com with her friend and fel­low en­trepreneur So­phie Cor­nish. The site, which pro­vides a plat­form for small cre­ative busi­nesses to sell their prod­ucts, has since pumped £600m into the UK econ­omy. In 2013, Tucker was awarded an MBE for her ser­vices. Here’s how she did it…

MY CA­REER BE­GAN IN AD­VER­TIS­ING AGED 17. I was work­ing

with an agency called Publi­cis, where I had al­ready done work ex­pe­ri­ence for three sum­mers. Univer­sity wasn’t for me and this role gave me a de­gree in life. It was chal­leng­ing, but I had a lot of great women show­ing me the ropes.

FOUR YEARS LATER, I WAS HEADHUNTED BY CONDÉ NAST.

I started work­ing there as fash­ion man­ager of Brides mag­a­zine, where I cel­e­brated my 21st birth­day. While I hadn’t worked in the in­dus­try be­fore, the tran­si­tion felt rel­a­tively pain­less be­cause I’d done a lot of work with mag­a­zines within ad­ver­tis­ing.

I’VE AL­WAYS BEEN EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR­IAL, SO I STARTED MOONLIGHTING, MAK­ING DEC­O­RA­TIVE WREATHS,

but I had nowhere to sell them. This led to me build­ing Your Lo­cal Fair, a small events com­pany that cu­rated fairs in town halls across Lon­don. I was still in full-time em­ploy­ment, work­ing a 10-hour day in the of­fice, as well as spend­ing my morn­ings, lunch breaks and evenings us­ing my Nokia phone to bring ev­ery­thing to­gether. It was a suc­cess and so I even­tu­ally re­signed from the pub­lish­ing world.

YOUR LO­CAL FAIR LED ME TO MY EPIPHANY MO­MENT:

to cre­ate a fair that was avail­able 24 hours a day, on­line. I emailed my friend So­phie with my idea, and a day later she said she was in. In 2006, no­ton­the­high­street.com was born.

WE SCRAPED TO­GETHER £75,000 OF INI­TIAL CAP­I­TAL.

This came from sav­ings, and both of our par­ents put in a mod­est amount. We thought it would see us through the first year, but we were build­ing tech­nol­ogy that hadn’t been built be­fore, and that cost more than ex­pected.

WE WORKED 50 WEEK­ENDS OUT OF 52 IN THE FIRST YEAR.

My son was un­der a year old and it was a very hard time. We were on a shoestring bud­get and only got a mod­est amount our­selves be­cause we knew how pre­cious every

penny was to keep the busi­ness alive.

‘I WANT TO SHARE WHAT I’VE LEARNT’

AL­MOST EVERY IN­VESTOR TURNED US DOWN.

They were mainly grey-haired men who looked at us like we were dab­bling in a craft hobby. Fi­nally, one in­vestor – who also wrote the cheque for last­minute.com – be­lieved in us.

MY SIS­TER WAS EM­PLOYEE NUM­BER THREE,

head of mer­chan­dis­ing. My fa­ther was num­ber four, the fi­nan­cial di­rec­tor, and So­phie’s sis­ter was num­ber five, ad­vis­ing on le­gal mat­ters. You build a team that be­lieves in the mis­sion, and I have the same ap­proach to hir­ing now we’re a team of 200.

MY GOAL WITH HOLLY & CO IS TO BE THE CHEER­LEADER OF SMALL BUSI­NESSES.

I moved away from the day-to-day run­ning of no­ton­the­high­street.com a few years ago, as I wanted to share what I’d learnt. I set up Holly & Co to help peo­ple build and grow their own small busi­nesses.

BE­ING AWARDED AN MBE HAS BEEN MY PROUD­EST MO­MENT.

When I was in the queue to meet the Queen, about to be awarded some­thing that would stay with me for life, it was the first time I thought: ‘I think I’ve done a good thing’.

The Holly & Co shop is based in St Mar­garets

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