Michael Farnsworth and his business partner William Johnson’s story will sound familiar to many entrepreneurs – they were looking to purchase something, only to discover nobody was selling it yet.
The mystery item they were looking to purchase? Believe it or not, it was a phone case.
At first, this may be hard to believe – after all, phone cases are everywhere. Even so, the pair couldn’t find a case suitable for a moderate business professional. The market offered up only expensive designer cases, or cheap plastic contraptions.
“Torro was created to fill the void and produce high quality desirable genuine leather cases at affordable prices,” said Farnsworth.
“The company was started with £500 working capital. Goods were sold online and very quickly momentum gathered and a further range of leather cases and covers was developed for a growing number of devices.”
A typical case retails for £25.99. The phone cases were soon followed by leather lifestyle accessories such as wallets, passport covers and notebook covers.
The business was part of a panel on entrepreneurs at the recent Amazon Academy in Newcastle, so Real Business caught up with Farnsworth to find out more about how the business launched on Amazon and seized this gap in the market.
Ready, set, grow
The business is based in North Shields as that’s where both of the founders are from.
“We both love working in the North East of England and have found a wealth of talent that has allowed our business to thrive,” said Farnsworth.
“The cost of running a business in the North East is much more competitive than, say, the South East. We have worked with the NECC and the North East LEP to help grow our business who have both offered excellent support and advice when needed.”
Initially, the brand started selling in the UK only and fulfilling orders themselves, and eventually decided to start selling on Amazon, where it could utilise its Pan-EU fulfilment network to cover the rest of the EU.
The pair made sure to reinvest in the brand as it grew and used a mixture of keyword analysis and Amazon Sponsored Products to ensure maximum visibility.
“By selling on Amazon, we have more than doubled our turnover in the UK alone. Amazon’s European fulfillment network has allowed us to grow a presence in Germany, France, Italy and Spain that we would otherwise not have been able to do in such a short space of time,” explained Farnsworth.
Getting in front of Amazon’s audience was a game changer. Within a relatively short space of time – around the nine-month mark – they were ready to give up their full-time jobs to pursue the business.
Looking to the future
“There are many challenges that seem impossible as you grow a business from startup,” said Farnsworth.
“As your business grows so do overheads. Maintaining a competitive price point with increased overheads is a challenge.”
According to Johnson, one of the biggest skills a business owner needs to succeed on Amazon is the ability to analyse data. For example, the data might be showing that a product is priced wrong, but you need to be able to interpret data to get useful insights.
For Torro, the price is built into the ethos of the brand, and Johnson says customers are sometimes surprised by the quality of their products – in a good way – so it’s crucial to get this right.
The pair have ambitious plans for the future, and now they’re getting their brand recognised in front of a much larger audience, they won’t be resting on their laurels:
“We will expand further on the Amazon worldwide network and also expand our other sales channels away from Amazon. We hope to develop a retail presence to reach a wider demographic of consumer,” said Farnsworth.
“We also hope to expand our product range to attract a wider audience. For example, we are currently designing a range of leather messenger style bags that could attract a whole new audience to our brand.”
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