What I Wish I Knew – Carol Lathbridge, co-founder of Tiwani Heritage
Carol and Lola have known each other since they were 11 years old, having met on the first day of secondary school. Now, they run online lifestyle brand Tiwani Heritage together.
Tiwani Heritage was founded two years ago with a focus on recyclable hair extensions – specifically for women who like to wear their hair in curly or afro styles. Carol and Lola found that there was a lack of options in the UK for these products so they launched with 16 different styles that could all be recycled.
We caught up with Carol to find out more about their journey in business. She said that they wouldn’t be where they are today without the support they received from Virgin StartUp. In particular, they took a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp and received some invaluable advice on managing their finances.
“In the beginning, we were just having a guess as to how much things were going to cost us in terms of our forecast,” Carol said. “But speaking with Virgin StartUp and trying to put together our proposal, there were so many things involved. And we've learnt that you need to delve in and you need to know your numbers. We're always checking our forecasts and seeing if we're meeting targets, seeing if we're achieving the right turnover levels. Virgin StartUp really opened our eyes to making sure that actually this is a very, very important element, especially when you're starting up.”
Tiwani Heritage was also part of the latest cohort of start-ups to take part in Crowdcube's and Virgin StartUp's Collective Impact accelerator. Collective Impact is an investment-readiness accelerator for purpose-driven founders. It provides access to training, networks and investors to help you grow your business with the right partners. Virgin StartUp is currently looking for businesses to join its next cohort. Find out more and apply now.
What else have they learnt on their journey? Here are three things they wish they’d known from day one…
There's never a perfect time to launch a business
There's no such thing as a perfect website or a perfect brand. Sometimes good enough is good enough. We found that out the hard way. We were waiting for our website to look the part. We wanted it to have this clean, finessed look. But actually, now we're two years in and we're constantly changing things on the website. We're constantly evolving. Things are always moving.
So never wait. If you've got an idea, you should go for it. It doesn't matter if it's not polished. Just go out there and test the waters. You'll start to learn and pick up things, and change things as you're on this journey. Because it is a journey and not a race.
Don't be so rigid
In terms of your business strategy, in particular, try to be flexible. Don't make decisions that limit your brand's potential – especially if you're in a service-based or product-based industry.
We realised that we closed the doors on certain opportunities because we wanted to deem ourselves as an exclusive brand, a more high-end, luxury brand. But actually, now we're starting to understand who our customers are, we realised we needed to be a bit more flexible in terms of where we wanted to be seen and who we wanted to work with. So we realised we need to partner up with brands who share the same vision as us, who are environmentally friendly and want to reinforce that message.
Before, we thought we could do this on our own, be very exclusive. But actually, the message we're trying to put out there now is for everybody to see what we're trying to do. So don't limit yourself by making decisions that will stop your growth or build that brand awareness.
Know your audience, customers and industry
It's great to have an idea you want to run with, but research is so important. It will save you so many mistakes in the long term.
Make sure you have a very solid business plan and revisit it regularly. Things are always changing. I can't stress enough how much our business plan has been updated – probably five or six times in the last two years. We're always evolving, adding things, or taking things away.
Now that we're in this industry it's a very fast-paced industry and we're realising that we have to keep up with our customers and what they want. We need to understand what they're looking for, and the price point that they're willing to pay. And we need to make sure it's all in sync with our business plan, our ethos, our brand message. Just make sure that you are very much in the know and you know the industry and the customers that you are focusing on.
Inspired to start your own business? Visit Virgin StartUp for advice, guidance and Start Up Loans.