What I Wish I Knew – Andrew and Elizaveta Bennett, founders of Arkdefo
Andrew and Elizaveta Bennett founded Arkdefo, an online sewing school, to help women avoid the pains of trying to buy ready-made clothes that fit their bodies.
“I know it’s a very common problem,” Elizaveta said. “Women often say that they have a weird body shape but I don’t like that because we all do. None of us is standard size, we’re all different, we’re all unique and that’s ok. Instead of trying to change ourselves to fit ready-made clothes, we can make clothes that will fit us and make us feel good about ourselves.”
The husband and wife team applied for a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp to help them get the business off the ground. And now you can buy their learn to sew courses via Virgin Experience Days, or use your Virgin Points through Virgin Red to get access to the online classes.
We caught up with Andrew and Elizaveta to find out more about their start-up journey and what they wish they’d known from day one…
You can't always trust research
Given that there's a drive towards environmentally-friendly, ethical fashion and conscious shoppers, we thought that it would be more straightforward than it has been. People have a tendency of saying one thing but doing the opposite. There are a lot of people who will quite happily say in surveys that they would spend more money to shop ethically but the reality is quite different.
We had a big idea to change the world, but it's maybe too big. We were a bit naive because we thought that people would listen to our message. The truth is that there's a lot of work to be done to change people's shopping habits.
Don't rely on other people too much
There are so many tasks that you have to know how to do when running a small business because you don't have the money to be able to pay for copywriters and search engine optimisation experts, marketing pros, admin people, and accountants, you have to learn how to do it all yourself. The only way to do it is to learn how it all works. It's a big, steep learning curve but it's the only way to do it.
Building a team in the future would be great, but at the beginning of the business, you just have to focus on getting it done yourselves and realise that nobody cares about your business as much as you do.
When you start to learn how to do business, a lot of people tell you to find great people and build a team. But the truth is, it's really hard and it's really tempting to start relying on someone and believing them when they tell you that they can take care of something for you. You start to relax a bit and let the process go and then you realise that it didn't work out because it wasn't the right person. The truth is that the only people we can rely on are ourselves.
Protect your business and your idea
Sometimes opportunities come along that might sound amazing. It could even be a financial deal and you really need the money. But if the deal's not right for you or if it's pulling you away from what you want to do, it could be damaging to your business, even if you're going to get the finance that you need.
Don't think of money as the reason for whatever you're doing. What you're trying to do with your business is the greater purpose – whether you're trying to fix a problem, or make a better product. The money will come. But if you're doing it for the money it's never going to be the right reason.
We've cut ties with a few things in the last year because it became abundantly clear that these things weren't right for our business – and some of those came with quite a lot of money. And we could have used the money, but if it's not the right thing then it's not going to benefit your business in the long term.
The other thing that every single business owner seems to do, which is a mistake, is to start out with so many things. They think that they will be the ones to make it work. But narrowing your business down to a smaller niche can be really beneficial. If you can have fewer products, have fewer products because you will understand it much better.
Inspired to start your own business? Visit Virgin StartUp for advice, guidance and Start Up Loans.