Most Xero users will embrace the latest technology, yet when it comes to the latest fashion trends, it’s fair to say that few are as well-accessorised as London-based designer and entrepreneur Emma Lomax.
Two years ago, Emma set up SewLomax, a start-up firm that designs hand-embroidered items such as washbags and baby gifts. Since then, she’s secured a coveted place for her accessories on the shelves at Fortnum & Mason and Harvey Nichols, and she’s successfully exported her products overseas.
We caught up with Emma on location to learn more about how she’s using Xero to take her business forward and translate creativity into commerce. Check out the video here:
With Global Entrepreneurship Week providing a forum for advice and new opportunities for entrepreneurs, we asked Emma a few more questions off-camera about her experiences pitching to retail buyers and exporting to new markets:
What’s the secret to getting listed with high-profile retailers like Fortnum & Mason and Fenwick?
A strong proposal and presentation requires solid preparation. You have to be organised and give the prospective client all the information they need. This is really important when it comes to finance – for each product you need to understand what your margins are and what each item can realistically be sold for.
How do you keep control of cashflow at SewLomax?
This can be tricky as it can be anything from 30–60 days until you get paid, and you need to cover the cost of manufacture before the money comes in. For bespoke products, we ask for 50% upfront, which most clients accept. In terms of managing cashflow day-to-day, Xero is enormously helpful because you can use it to invoice for a job, monitor what is outstanding and manage payments.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs and new start-ups looking to break into export markets?
The best piece of advice I can offer is to do your research. Every market is so different and must be treated as such. If you make mistakes in Japan, for instance, you effectively blow your chance in that market. To avoid this pitfall, SewLomax invested heavily in research to ensure we understood the market before going in. In my experience, that initial investment really will pay off.
Sure – don’t be afraid to ask for help! As a small business owner, you do everything – from accounting to stock and marketing, it’s all on you. However, you can not expect to be an expert in all fields so, in this regard, finding the right external advice is key.