How the Queen helped this young entrepreneur disrupt the retail industry

Ross Bailey, Founder and CEO of Appear Here, had absolutely no experience in the pop-up shop industry. He was just a 19-year-old who saw an opportunity, had an idea, and made it happen. "At the time, every single newspaper was saying that vacancy rates were the highest ever, and that the high street was dying," explains Ross during his recent VOOM Podcast appearance. That was his opportunity.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was coming up and Ross thought it would be cool for people to be able to buy something "rebellious and interesting", rather than traditional and boring merchandise.

Combining the opportunity and the idea, Ross created a brand called Rock and Rule (it’s good, isn't it?), set up his own store in Carnaby Street, printed t-shirts with the Queen’s head on them, and started selling. He made it happen. It’s like Ross says: "why can’t you run a shop for a week when there’s all these empty spaces and people with ideas?"

The lesson here? Not having experience is not a valid excuse. If you have an idea and the opportunity to take advantage of it, you’re responsible for making it happen.

So, yes, Ross started off as - in his own words - naïve. But just as being naïve is no excuse not to start, there’s also no excuse to not try to become an expert as quickly as possible.

"So, although I was naïve, I think it’s then about very quickly trying to become an expert, and spending all those hours making sure you do understand the industry... then you don’t waste time."

And become an expert he did. He spent months researching things - like the way people rent space and how that hasn’t changed for literally hundreds of years, the amount of people that are involved and how lease lengths had changed dramatically in recent times. In other words, he got involved in the detail. He didn’t think he was above it, or that it was beneath him. He wanted to understand it all.

The lesson here? Understand your industry. Become an expert as soon as possible. Once again, there’s no excuse not to. If you’re not willing to do this, you can bet that someone else is.

Once Ross felt like he understood the industry and was becoming a bit of an expert, that’s when he started to tell people about what he was going to do.

"There’s real power when you say things out loud, because it’s like, actually, I don’t want to look like I'm just a talker... so I've got to go and do it. I found a friend to help me code it, found other friends who wanted to be involved in marketing."

I think we can understand that there’s power in saying out loud because it makes it more real for ourselves. It’s like making a verbal commitment in the mirror. We don’t want to look stupid in front of other people, and we don’t want to let ourselves down. But there’s a bit of an unexpected benefit there too - his friends being more than willing to help.

It’s one thing for people to say they want to help, but for people to actually help is a whole different thing. But the thing is... you need help. You need your friends. No entrepreneur does it all alone, and you’re no different.

 

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The lesson here? Tell your friends about your idea. Even if you're nervous or embarrassed or even a little bit ashamed. Give them a chance to help you. It’s either that, or you pay strangers.

Although Ross and his friends thought it was a good idea... not many other people did. At all.

"I spent a lot of time in meetings where everyone hated the idea, everyone thought it was terrible, and every investor said I needed a co-founder [because I was so young]."

Doesn’t sound that fun, does it? Could you handle that? Your precious and obviously brilliant idea being shot down by people with more experience than you?

Nobody thought it was going to work. More specifically, no "experts" thought it was going to work. And yet, it’s working. Appear Here is thriving, and boasts a client list with names like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Jamie Oliver.

"I think that’s the point as well - sometimes, if you meet every expert and they say there’s no need for this, and you need to go back to university, and investors are saying you need a co-founder, and then other people are saying there’s no market - to keep going is quite hard… or stupid."

The lesson here? You have to be able to keep going when it’s hard and everyone doubts you. Easily said, just not so easily done. But that’s an entrepreneur for you.

Ok, so Appear Here is working even after all these industry experts said it would never work - but how is it working? What happened?

Well, you’ll have to listen to the podcast for that.

What else you can hear on the podcast:

  • Ross’s story about Coutts, the bank of our Queen.
  • Renaud Visage, Founder of Eventbrite, and how one big failure showed him just how successful Eventbrite could be.
  • Yianni Papoutsis, and how he went from flipping patties at festivals to founding one of the trendiest burger chains in the UK, MEATliquor.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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