A watercooler moment with Gerard Toplass, founder and CEO of Frillo, the online marketplace for business customers
In a nutshell, what does Frillo do?
Think “Amazon for business and education”. With Frillo businesses, schools and academies can shop for products – anything from stationery to technology – save money with our approved service partners and learn with our specialist content. We’re the first ever website to offer both EU compliant and non-EU compliant products in the same basket.
Where did the idea for Frillo come from?
In May 2012, I was reviewing the stationery business for Claughtons and it was clear that the whole channel was changing and there was an increase in online sales for stationery. After having done the research, I found there was no equivalent of online marketplace for the business community, so I built one.
When did you start up?
How has it gone so far?
It started off slow but we’re now gaining momentum. Our recipe for success is “Shop Save Learn”, which people are reacting well to and so we are growing well.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge has been getting the marketing proposition right and getting it communicated correctly. As a business, we think it’s simple but it’s hard to communicate to potential customers who may not have heard of us. There are a lot of businesses with a lot of different ideas, so ensuring you maintain the credibility in what you do whilst communicating your brand message is tough but it’s been worth it.
How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
Nobody in our sector is doing what we do in offering additional elements like saving or learning. Our relationship with Pagabo.co.uk is completely unique and therefore our education proposition is unique. We’re the first ever website where you can buy EU and non-EU products in the same basket.
What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
The best decision we’ve made to date was bringing tech and marketing in-house. We were previously subcontracting both but that had its problems. We’re now self-sufficient, flexible, proactive, reactive and our work is of much higher quality.
Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
We will be making big strides into education and we’re confident that the launch of more unique elements of the business – Frillo+ and our Education Store – will make a big impact on the space.
If you had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Be prepared for a changing environment because everything you think will happen probably won’t, and everything you don’t think will happen probably will.