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Vinspi is an online retailer of custom tailored clothing for men. Instead of going on long shopping mall trips trying to find off the rack clothes that fit right, Vinspi allows men to purchase personally tailored clothing that fits their individual shape from the comfort of home.
MO: How has your background and experience contributed to the vision and development of Vinspi so far?
Ivan: I think I’ve always been tuned into business from a very young age. My family is a business family and since the early days we would have pretty unorthodox conversations at the dinner table. A typical question would be “Ok so who is going to buy their first investment property?”. It was that kind of upbringing that kept entrepreneurship hovering in my mind.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but that affected my career choices too. I’ve worked in 2 companies, a fast growing small business and another startup. It’s an intentional choice to stay away from a large corporate because I don’t get to learn and experience the ups and downs of building a business.
My role before Vinspi was as Marketing Manager at OZHut which is a Melbourne based Ecommerce startup. I oversaw all our marketing efforts with primary focus on digital marketing. I really cut my teeth at hands on entrepreneurship at OZHut. When I joined we were a 3 person team with small revenue numbers. By the time I left 2 years later we had grown into a 16 person team and become a multi million dollar business. We also had the privilege of being listed on the 2011 BRW Fast Starters List that ranks the fastest growing startups in Australia.
That background in Ecommerce and scaling up a fast growing online retailer really gave me the confidence to execute on the Vinspi idea. I spent a large part of my role at OZHut assessing new product categories where an Ecommerce store would do really well. One of the ones I discovered was custom tailored menswear. That’s where it all began.
MO: Can you expand on your acceptance into the AngelCube Startup Accelerator program and what impact that has had on the company so far?
Ivan: The whole experience of getting in AngelCube was eventful to say the least. By February 2012 the Vinspi business had launched for about 2 months and I knew I needed to get some mentorship. I found out about AngelCube through a contact’s recommendation. I tweeted the AngelCube guys and got a conversation going. From there I checked out the founders of the program and what their previous businesses were.
Through some creative hustle I found the mobile number for one of the founders and called. I introduced myself and after that I kept attending all their events in the lead up to their application opening.
There were over 150 applicants across Australia and to select the final 8 AngelCube asked for written applications, followed by a few teams being invited back to pitch their business and concluding with 12 or so teams coming back for interviews. Vinspi was fortunate to be one of the 8 who made it through the whole process.
The program has impacted Vinspi tremendously. Since getting into the program we’ve more than doubled our revenue and are growing steadily month on month. AngelCube has also provided a huge amount of education on how to start, validate and build a tech startup. We’ve also had the opportunity to connect with mentors like Leni Mayo from 99designs and Guy King who recently exited from RetailMeNot. Learning from entrepreneurs who have real experience is amazing and would not be so accessible without AngelCube.
MO: If a customer receives an item of clothing from Vinspi that they’re unhappy with (not like that would ever happen!) what is your return policy on custom tailored clothing?
Ivan: Great question! We have a no questions asked free returns policy. If a customer ever wants to return a product we will organise it and not charge a cent. We also have a simple refund policy so customers have a risk free experience with us. We want to give customers an unbelievable experience buying custom tailored clothing from us and that’s why we’re so generous with our return policies.
We also back up the experience with a local number to call for customer questions, a local return address and fast customer service response times.
MO: Can you talk about your marketing strategy, what’s worked so far and how much you’re been using social media to attract attention and build the Vinspi brand?
Ivan: The biggest driver for our growth is really word of mouth. We’ve already got a healthy group of repeat customers who have bought 2nd suits, more shirts etc. We also have a strong and ever growing presence digitally so customers do discover us online.
In terms of social media we run a vibrant facebook community where we post things that inspire our style and the modern gentleman in general. We’ve got about 2,000+ fans and growing. We like to use social media as a tool for having active customer conversations. It’s not a sales tool for us, it’s a brand building and engagement channel.
MO: What’s been the best piece of advice that you’ve received so far?
Ivan: It’s funny how the best snippets of advice I’ve received through AngelCube revolves around failure. I’ve learnt that failure is completely ok and therefore you should fail fast.
It’s human nature to fear failure but the truth is that we have to fail multiple times before we succeed. In startup world failure is part of the learning process. The sooner we test assumptions and see what fails, the faster we can create something that our customers actually do want! This applies to business models, web features etc. Fail fast so you can avoid slow failures that kill your time.
MO: Can you share how you’re branching out into a new hybrid online and offline model with pop up stores, and physical presences? How much have you had to pivot your business model to accommodate this kind of expansion?
Ivan: An online and offline hybrid model is something that has naturally come about as Vinspi has grown. The beauty of our business is that having custom tailored clothing removes all the problems of trying to find clothes that fit well. The process involved however requires taking measurements that not every man wants to do. Whatever we can do to simplify and remove friction in this process, the more customers we can reach.
A pop up store model where we have a physical presence for customers to get measured up is one of the many ideas we have, but we see it as a big part of our strategy moving forward. Our focus is making the shopping experience seamless and enjoyable. We’ve already got some solid plans to role this out so watch this space. A multichannel experience where customers can interact with us both online and offline is what we’re aiming for.
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