Our resident tech columnist David Hathiramani provides a first-hand account of an average month in the life of an ‘e-tailor’
Inspiring the next generation of tech entrepreneurs
This month, I was given the chance to visit my old school, The Perse. It was at The Perse School that I met Warren Bennett, my A Suit That Fits co-founder – so it’s nice to pop back in every now and again.
The school arranged a Dragons’ Den-style entrepreneurship day for a group of year nine students who were tasked with developing an app for other teenagers. They contacted me as they were looking for people with business experience to whom the young people could pitch their ideas and get advice on what makes a business idea successful.
When I was younger, these tech entrepreneurship events weren’t offered as an option, and I thought how cool having an event like this would have been as a student. I always loved everything tech when I was younger and I grew up in an entrepreneurial family so always knew that I wanted to start my own business. I’m not sure that my family were so keen on my love of technology all the time; I started playing with computers when I was about seven years old and ended up writing a small program that blocked anyone entering the old BBC computer without the password that only I knew!
It just so happens that I was joined at the event by a number of other business people, including inspiring tech entrepreneur Sherry Coutu CBE. We started the day by talking to the students before they went away and developed their concept from start to finish. In the afternoon, we listened in on the pitches and judged for a winner.
The quality of the pitches was on the whole really good. In fact, some pitching techniques seemed far more creative than adult pitches I’ve seen and been in. For example, one of the pitches had a team of six standing in a choir formation and, in a random order, they held up a sheet of paper explaining their point. They were short snappy statements, right until the end of the pitch.
Not only was the style of pitching inventive, the whole event reminded me just how much of an opportunity there is in education right now. The ideas that the students came up with were phenomenal, ranging from effective revision timetabling to customised training for your position or level in a sports team. The only frustration is that they’ve still got a few years of school left, so I know none of them will actually execute any of their ideas right now. If I was starting a business at the moment, I’d certainly take a good look at opportunities in this area.
Global Entrepreneurship Week
It’s great that Global Entrepreneurship Week promotes entrepreneurship every year, and encourages people to think about starting their own business. We always try and get involved and inspire people where we can. In the past, we set a task to students across secondary schools to develop a new marketing idea for us. We were so inspired by the creativity that we ran our own design competition and opened it up to the men and women of the UK, asking them to design a new suit that we would sell on our website.
This Global Entrepreneurship Week, I was invited to the Great British Entrepreneur Awards; we have been lucky enough to win 15 awards at A Suit That Fits, and I always love going along to the ceremonies. In business, you are always working so hard on what you do day-to-day that it’s great to have the occasional opportunity to get out, meet other businesses and share ideas.
Thinking about Christmas
It seems funny as a retail business to be thinking of Christmas in July, but we’ve had it on our minds for a while. As a small business, we don’t have the budget for big ad campaigns to mark the season, but it doesn’t cost anything to have some fun! All of our teams work together to make sure that we do some fun stuff around the festive season; customers always have a mince pie in the studio and we team up with our lovely partner brands to run a big competition for our customers in the lead-up to Christmas. Past prizes have included a hotel day and a driving experience.
From an IT point-of-view, our team have been working on making sure our new gift sets are up on the website so our customers’ friends and family can purchase some bespoke gifts for them online. Alternatively, men can buy them for themselves. Our printed pocket square and cashmere tie gift sets both include a £50 voucher to put towards their next suit.