Whilst working at Startup Direct I have been constantly impressed by the variety of businesses who apply for a startup loan. It really is a credit to the scheme that there are so many people out there, many of them young people, who are setting up their own business. One such fabulous business is Western Assembly, started by fashion entrepreneur sisters Kiran and Aneeta Sumra, who have received both a loan and mentoring from Startup Direct. My colleague Charlie and I went down to meet them at their first pop-up shop in Old Street station last month and asked them some questions about how they successfully converted their business plan to a trading business.
Q: Where did the idea come from?
A: Kiran and I were living together at the time. I was working as the menswear buyer at Burberry and Kiran was in digital marketing.
K: I was working with brands like Diageo, in quite a male-centric environment and it made sense because I was doing a lot of ecom and on-line marketing, menswear buying.
A: We talked about how there was a gap in the market for a fashion business for a lot of our friends who are city dwellers, aged 24-40 years old (our key target market) with a disposable income.They want to spend their money on something that has a story and is linked to where they are from in Europe. So all of the brands that we have brought together all have really lovely stories, really routed in the place they are from. So “Le Paz” for instance is a brand that is from west coast of Portugal and so their designs are to do with coastal, sea design, fishing and surfing. It has a story.
K: I think you find a lot on the high street these days without a clear brand message. No one business was standing up just for Europe and British heritage and design. So that is why we have purposely bought designs from across Europe.
Q:How long have been going?
A: In August we will have been developing the concept for 3 years developing but launch day is today.
Q: What was your biggest Challenge?
Both: Time! Transitioning between jobs has been the biggest challenge. Working jobs in the day and working on Western Assembly in the evening. Every hour we are not at work we are working towards our business.
Q: How much funding did you receive from Startup Direct?
A: Initially we asked for £3500 in funding and then and additional £5000 each. We also added our personal savings.
Q: How important has mentoring been?
A: Our mentor Ross has been really helpful! We will catch up with him every few months and he will say “what about this, what about that?”. Things we wouldn’t even have considered, because he has had businesses before. For example he is really strong on LinkedIn and we didn’t know about this before. He thinks from a business perspective.
Q: Is there anything you wish you would have known when you first started your business?
A: Don’t be too hard on yourself over what you can achieve. If you can, go into partnership with someone because when one of us feels like it’s a bit tough we have each other there to bounce off.”
K: Take on as much feedback as possible. This has been key to us!
Q:Where do you see western assembly in three years:
K: We would like to carry on doing what we are doing and carry on working towards our business ambitions.
Thank you Kiran and Aneeta for answering our questions. We wish you every success with your business.
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