Since arriving on the scene three or four years ago, equity crowdfunding has become an increasingly popular way to not only raise crucial growth finance but also market a product and develop a core user community.Internationally acclaimed, London-based shoe label Upper Street is no different, having secured its first round of funding – from Venrex Partners and the British Business Bank – in 2013. This enabled the company to rebuild its technology, open up its retail concept the “Shoe Lounge” in central London, grow the team and also buy its US competitor. Founded five years ago by sisters Julia Elliott Brown and Katy Chandler, the company was worth over £2.8m before it started fundraising once more in 2015. And this year has proved to be just as eventful, with Upper Street having launched a £200,000 fundraising round using equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs to help grow its online platform. Astonishingly, the company walked away with just under a quarter of a million pounds in investment. Having revolutionised shoe shopping and enabled women to design their own shoes online using a 3D shoe designer, CEO Brown talked to Real Business about how she succeed in crowdfunding – and what the essential ingredients were to creating a competitive luxury brand. Brown claimed that crowdfunding success came down to doing a lot of planning and preparation. She said: “We had a really good video – a big factor to rocking the crowdfunding scene. As we were a luxury brand, we wanted to make sure our video reflected our company as well as it could. As such, we really needed to explain the concept and what Upper Street was all about.” Essentially, in 2012 Brown put her house on the line for the perfect pair of shoes, but it was Chandler who was praised by Brown as the real inspiration. Brown explained that Chandler always struggled to find shoes she loved in the right size. When she got married, Chandler decided to have a pair custom-made for her, and when Brown saw “those gorgeous shoes,” she was green with envy, and wanted to see her “own shoe ideas come to life too.” That was her “light bulb” moment, and her vision was to make it possible for women all over the world to design the perfect shoes. Of course, this meant, in their case, gaining investment through Seedrs.
“We planned the entire crowdfunding strategy like a marketing campaign,” Brown said. “Everything was done four weeks in advance. We also put together a communications plan, which suggested when we would talk to the press, the investment community and when we would contact customers. We thought this was incredibly important because when you’re doing crowdfunding, you have moments where you think ‘this is never going to work’ as your campaign can plateau at any minute. But if you have a plan and you stick to it, it gives you confidence – so you don’t run around like a headless chicken. “Most importantly, your customers are your best source of potential investment as they, on average, put in twice as much as anybody else. That’s because they know the brand and they trust us. You definitely can’t rely on the platform to do all the work for you.” Read more about the luxury sector:
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