HOW I GOT HERE
Holly Tucker shares what she’s learnt by setting up two successful companies
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