The man who brought tailored swimwear to the masses reveals how to get ahead in business
I didn’t have a game plan when I started I had no experience of the fashion industry and had never run my own business. We were one of those typical small businesses that launched from a spare room and we didn’t have big investment. I did a three- day start- your- own- business course and a one- week drawing course and followed that up with 18 months of sourcing and nding factories and fabric suppliers, and discovering how I could get a product made.
I had the idea for Orlebar Brown in 2005 I’d been sitting by a pool and went to lunch and thought it stupid I’d been asked to change out of my swimwear. So I thought I needed a short I can swim in. Orlebar Brown is a tailored approach to swim shorts – we are the antithesis to the baggy boxer short and board shorts.
You need to stand out from the crowd When you start a business, it’s all about nding a clear voice. I only created four styles, in ve colours, and in four sizes. We kept it very small. In hindsight, starting a business with no money was
But at the time it was born out of necessity. I could only pay to make those four styles of shorts, but that made it easy for customers to understand the brand.
It’s all about hustling I launched in 2007 with just 1,000 pairs of shorts and I was the only person in the company for two years. I started with a small website and just got it going from there. It’s all about hustling. It’s about sitting in Starbucks and trying to sell to friends, and dragging a suitcase around the shops. It’s the hustle mentality: you have to remember every sale counts. We now have 70 staff and seven stores, with ve in London.
The customer is king Interaction with the customer and understanding what they want is so important, otherwise they’ll never come back. But I’ve also found that if you admit to mistakes and listen, people will give you the bene t of the doubt.
Every company makes mistakes And one thing I’ve learnt is you only run out of cash once. The stress involved with a tiny company, when you run out of cash, means you do everything you can never to run out of it again. But when you make mistakes it means you won’t do them again, and one bonus of doing them when you are smaller is they are less visible. That’s not to say we don’t sometimes make mistakes now.
You have to live your business It’s fun. You have to enjoy it. If you don’t, it simply won’t happen. It won’t be a success. If you don’t live it every minute of every day, it will fail.