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Setting up a fashion website - An interview with Jo Booth
by Startacus Admin
After Jo Jaeger-Booth was made redundant she decided to take the opportunity to set up an online fashion platform myfashionshop.co.uk aimed at the student market. Still a relatively young entrepreneur herself, she was the first person to be successfully awarded with a Startup Loan in the North West of England and is using the money to launch a online fashion magazine for the student market over the coming months. Hannah Carr interviewed Jo and kindly has allowed us to share the interview here on Startacus. Over to Hannah with the questions...
What inspired you to start your own fashion website? From a young age I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Whilst at university I was given opportunities and time to figure out that it was a viable option. I started thinking about what I would like to do for my first business but found it hard to settle on an idea. After graduating I began working for a government project to help young people access higher education while I decided what business was best for me. Unfortunately the project came to an end but this allowed me to put my aspirations into practice. I knew that starting up would be hard, lonely and financially risky, so I decided to look for a franchise. During the search I came across companies that sold websites that helped you with starting your own online business, training and provide technical support. This struck me as a great way to start a business as it was lower cost than buying a franchise, provided support and gave me the extra training. I then wanted a business I could relate to, market to an audience I understood and something a bit fun! I decided a student orientated fashion website was the way forward and I’m glad to say it was!
Did you have experience of operating websites/writing about fashion before this? No. This is why I found the help I needed and purchased the training; if you want to do something you just need to ask ‘how can I do this? Who has the information I need’ and go get the help you need. As for the fashion side, I had my personal opinion of what looks good/what I should sell but I wanted the site to be more open than that. I worked hard at finding a wide variety of male & female students (not necessarily interested in fashion; but people that had a style of their own) to help me. I ran focus groups where the participants decided which retailers the site would stock and the look of the site. We now have student guest bloggers who produce all our blogs, look books and even produce our Student ‘Seen’ in their university towns.
Do you think that anyone can set up a website or do they need specialist knowledge? It depends what you want from the site. I know someone who set up a lovely blog about fashion and because it is so personal and focused on her style she has gained a huge following and now works on the site full time. In this case she learnt on the job and built up her skills, slowly; she also got others to help with the turning the blog into a fully functioning website. However, if you want to build a big site, particularly an e-commerce site, I would say you either need to have the skills yourself or find people who can help you.
Did anyone encourage you to start the website? Yes. I had huge support from my mum; she has had her own business since I was a child and could see how much I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Friends and family all encouraged me too and still do! Of course some people weren’t as encouraging, mostly because they thought it was too risky, but once I decided to go ahead they became supporters too.
What made you want to hire only student contributors? Two things really. One is that it is a website for students so it seemed silly not to have contributions made by students themselves. The second reason was I wanted to provide opportunities to students. When I was studying it was really hard to find quality experience that would be industry recognised. I did very well volunteering during university and thought that if I could provide the same quality experience for others I should and wanted to.