WANDERING around an Apple store in 2010 Lewis Blitz had an idea that turned into a business with a £15million turnover.
The then 22-year-old couldn’t understand why there were ten companies selling black or white phone cases while there was nothing bright or fun.
He called up two of his mates who happened to be brothers – Richard and James Gold, aged 21 and 23 at the time, and sold them the idea to start Skinnydip London.
At the time the lads had all recently graduated from university and took a chance on starting the business selling phone covers with quirky and fun designs on them as no-one else was doing it.
“We thought we’d give it a go at selling phone cases into fashion retailers and if it didn’t work, we’d get proper jobs,” James, now 32, who lives in North London, told The Sun.
“At that time, if you wanted to get a case or headphones, you’d have to go to the traditional kind of tech retailers,” Lewis said.
“And we were thinking that the 18-25-year-old fashion-conscious girl, she’s not going to those places.”
They rented an office in Wembley and bought desks and phones and started cold calling retailers.
James added: “We were literally just cold-calling everyone from the office we rented in Wembley.”
“There were three of us, three desks and three phones.
“I remember making calls from 9am to 11am – and by 11am we’d been rejected by everyone.”
But then they had their first break. High street fashion chain River Island, which has around 250 shops across the UK, agreed to a meeting and they put in an order for 20,000.
Tips from the successful trio
KEEN to be your own boss? Here are some tips from the trio on how to make it happen.
- Don’t wait for everything to be perfect before you launch: It’s important to go for it early and not waste a lot of time. A lot of people think you need to perfect every single aspect before you launch and for us, it was just about trying to get out to market and learn as we go. So that’s really proven to be a great way for us and model of how to start a business, said Lewis
- Find good business partners: It’s also key to find good business partners. You should partner with people who have different skills compared to you, because different skills sets mean that you can do different things, said Richard
- Don’t be afraid of failure: A lot of people are really nervous about setting up a business in the fear that it doesn’t work out and the repercussions of what other people may think of that. I think that if you can go with the feeling that ‘if it works, brilliant, but if it doesn’t, I’ll dust myself up, pick myself up and do something else’, that’s great, said James
- Do what makes you happy: In the eight years of running Skinnydip, I’ve never felt like I’ve worked a day in my life. I never have the Sunday night feeling, I love what I’m doing and I love who I work with. And I think if you could something that makes you happy, you’re normally good at it and if you’re good at it, then hopefully success comes on that, James added
Although, there was one big problem. They didn’t have the money to produce the order so they had to beg their friends and family for cash.
The three North London born lads raided their savings accounts and scraped together the £10,000 they needed and once their first order was completed it was a lot easier to sell into other brands.
At the time they all lived at home with their families rent-free and were only able to pay themselves a salary of £18,000 each two and half years after starting the business.
They used whatever profit they made to re-invest into the business and after two years they were able to hire their first member of staff.
The name of the business takes inspiration from brand titles such as Virgin, which has no relevance to its products, they said.
“We wanted to portray Skinnydip as being young, fun, free with no limits!”
The three founders now employ over 250 people worldwide, with around 70 staff members at its London headquarters.
This is exciting, but also a big pressure, they said.
“We have a lot of people that work for Skinnydip, whose monthly salary is reliant on the performance of the business and that’s a really serious responsibility to take on.
“Therefore, we have to constantly think about the impact our decisions can have on all the people in the company and looking out for their interests.”
Since starting they have moved on from just phone cases and now have around 4,500 unique products each year, including handbags, clutch bags, sunglasses, jewellery and beauty.
Their products are in 200 concessions worldwide, including every single Topshop, as well as in its 15 own Skinnydip stores.
It’s not clear how big of a market share the business has grown to, but the trio claims it’s the largest seller of phone cases on social media with over 500,000 followers only on Instagram.
It has collaborated with celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and others including Bella Thorne, Miley Cyrus and members from Little Mix have also been spotted toting its wares.
Last year it was also crowned one of the top startups to work for by LinkedIn.
Yet they haven’t let the success get to their heads.
“We’ve always been really ambitious, but we’ve also looked at things in terms of realistic targets.
“We still feel there is so much more Skinnydip can do that we don’t really look at it as such a success, rather a work in progress.”
Want to start your own business but could do with even more inspiration?
Last month, a 23-year old entrepreneur revealed how he started a million-pound video business with just £50 after his parents lost £150k in the Northern Rock crisis.
Recently, we also spoke with a dad-of-two launched beer made of leftover bread – and the company now turns over £1million a year.
And we’ve also chatted with Blackpool man Lee White, who went from working as an apprentice to running his own business with a turnover of around £1.4million each year.