Frustrated by his own retail experience, budding entrepreneur Geoff Measey recently launched Fashion File, a site that acts as an online directory for other brands.
Measey talks to StartupSmart about how he’s aiming to provide something new to online shoppers in Australia.
What gave you the idea for the business?
I was looking for a black leather belt and I wasn’t sure where to go. There wasn’t a directory of businesses and brands to look for, I had to go to each brand individually and check.
It was a waste of time as I didn’t know the brand I wanted. Also, a lot of sites I looked at didn’t show the product or the price. A lot of online stores can only hold so much inventory, so they can only show two belts at a time on their site.
I walked around some retail stores and thought “why isn’t there somewhere online that can list products from different retailers and where to find them?” That’s what led me to the idea of setting up Fashion File, a directory of products rather than a sales portal itself.
How did you go about setting it up?
The idea sounded cool in my head, but it took awhile to plan. I started working on the idea in January 2009 and then launched in June this year.
I was working in marketing and eCommerce in the fashion industry and could see that a lot of Australian sites didn’t have the useability of a lot of overseas sites. I realised that people would use something with an improved level of useability.
I worked out the website development, how much it would be to start-up and budgeted for no income for 24 months and realised that it was viable.
I planned it for six months and then it was 12 months of website development work. And then it was another few more months to work out strategy.
What was the biggest hurdle you faced?
Definitely the business side of things. I basically live online, so the design part was okay for me. But when it came to trademarking the business, working with an accountant and things like that, it was a massive learning curve.
It was a bit trial and error. I set the business up as a company, which gives you a bit more credibility I think. But it was hard dealing with a lot of things that I’d never had to think about before.
So how does the site work?
Brands create a profile on the site and upload their content. Users can then click through to buy the product or find the physical location of the store, as many people use online as a research tool before going into a store.
It’s free to join as we want as many people as possible to sign up. While the big brands may be able to afford a fee, the more boutique brands, who find it tough to reach people online, can’t really do that.
How will you monetise the site?
Through advertising, product placing on the homepage and charging brands for newsletter editorial.
We haven’t rolled that out yet as we want to get the database filled up first and then go to brands and demonstrate that we have got people on board that they can reach.
We need the useability to be really high too. We’ve already had a few requests for advertising kits, which is good.
We have about 25 to 30 brands on board now, and we’re talking to others. We have 1,400 members registered on the site. Anyone can view the store, but if you register you can follow brands, as well as save and rate products.
We want to hit 5,000 users over the next few months.
How have you marketed it?
Through email and cold calling. The brands I’ve sat down with have been instantly keen as they can see that it’s free and great for their SEO, links and brand name.
The feedback has been phenomenal. There are a lot of marketing people at brands who want to do more online, but don’t have the money or authorisation from higher management to do so. I pitch it as a free service, so they can make that call themselves.
Some say, “We’re already getting good numbers, why would I come to you?” and my response is that they are going to you because they know about the brand. My site provides new leads.
Don’t you think that there’s a danger that you’ll be crushed by the large retail brands once they improve their online offering?
The beauty of Fashion File is that it is supporting other retail sites. We’re not choosing one site over another – the more sites who sign up the better.
The brands can control their own content and do everything themselves. It’s the brands who don’t join us that will lose out as we grow.
What’s your target for the business?
The ambition is endless, really. Assuming it works well in Australia, I can’t see why it can’t be rolled out across the world. It can be used for high or low end products, appealing to all backgrounds and incomes.
In the short-term, I would like to be profitable within a year.