Holly and I met at The Ivy Chelsea Garden, a tranquil but energising place to begin the day. Holly is the incredibly talented Founder and CEO behind Pampelone Clothing, the irresistible brand for resort wear to evoke the French Riviera. With a background in PR and natural chutzpah when it comes to marketing, it is of no surprise that Pampelone has become a go-to for influencers and editors. As well as getting into some of the biggest wholesalers across the world, Pampelone has followed in the footsteps of Victoria Beckham and Candice Swanepoel and collaborated with charity mothers2mothers (m2m), launching a ‘mini-me’ capsule collection with 100% of the profits being donated to m2m, which is working to eliminate paediatric aids in sub-Saharan Africa. Recently included in ‘Forbes 30 under 30’, Holly’s tenacity, drive and creativity will continue to make waves for Pampelone as she navigates fast growth in 2018.
Necessary extravagence Holidays and Mini Breaks. Good for the soul.
Favourite productivity tool My Calendar. Not only for meetings etc. but I schedule my to-do list into this also which I know if quite unusual. It gives me focus for my day and helps me block out time dedicated to big tasks.
Recent inspiration Looking through archive family photos of life on the French Riviera
What do you believe that most around you disbelieve That marketing is sometimes bigger than the product…
What do you wish you could change in the world of startups The fear of judgement. Also the difficulty in securing funding.
Holly, start us off by sharing a little bit about yourself and your background before founding Pampelone?
Since leaving university I worked in Fashion & lifestyle PR for years which massively shaped my business strategy to date. I especially loved working for some incredible female founders including Bec Astley Clarke MBE and Sara Blakely st SPANX who inspired me to start something of my own.
You worked in PR, tell us the highlights from these years and your biggest takeaways?
I absolutely loved my job in PR working for some of the biggest brands in the world including UGG Australia, Tiffany & Co, Puma and SPANX, but also for smaller brands new to market. The thing I learnt from it all was that you don’t have to have the biggest or best product in the world, you just need to know how to market it. And similarly there’s no point having the best product in the world if no one knows about it.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today?
Just do it by Sophia Amoruso. Sometimes you need to stop planning, questioning, writing documents on documents etc. and just go out there and do it! You have to be determined and driven enough to make things happen for yourself in business.
For those who don’t know, can you tell us what Pampelone is and what was the motivation behind launching the company?
PAMPELONE is a well priced, great quality resortwear brand, ethically made using the highest quality of cottons. The idea for Pampelone came from the time I spent growing up in the South of France in the beautiful French Riviera. Our family had a holiday home where we spent 5 months of the year, and it was the style of the women there that was the source of inspiration for me. Dressed in simple market bought cotton and linens, St Tropezienne women have always looked effortless and I could never find any beachwear back in the UK that emulated the same feel.
Years later while I was planning my honeymoon wardrobe, I was desperately looking for resort wear pieces to take with me. I really did not want to wear high street pieces – you just know they will fall apart after a few washes and that you’ll be sure to find someone else wearing it, but the only alternative were dresses and kaftans costing £300-500 which isn’t viable for everyone. I did some research and was shocked that there was nothing really in between these price points, and that is when Pampelone really came into fruition!
What has been the evolution and milestones you are proudest of to date?
I started the brand single handedly in June 2015 in my spare room, and by December 2015 I had secured orders from some of the biggest retailers in the world across 20 countries with zero wholesale experience. Nearly 3 years later, we’re available in over 38 countries and we’ve just launched our 6th collection including a mini-me line and an exclusive pair of sunglasses. I was also recently named on the Forbes 30 under 30 list which was an extremely proud moment.
What are some of the KPIs that you measure success by?
Naturally in a retail business, sales are our biggest KPI, but from a brand-building perspective, we also look at press and social media interaction to see what impact we’re making on the wider audience.
You have had enormous success with influencers and bloggers. Can you share your approach and strategy with this type of marketing?
I think the most important thing is to understand the value of this area of marketing and then in turn you will start to understand the importance of allocating the correct resources to support whether financial or operationally. With the rise of social media, influencers and bloggers are essentially your most successful source of marketing – word of mouth on a huge scale. The most important thing is to figure out who your audience is and ensure you’re targeting the correct bloggers/ influencers that speak to them. And sometimes the largest ones aren’t necessarily the best.
What values do you hold and what kind of company do you want to build?
Being able to manufacture ethically is hugely important to us. I spend a lot of time in India ensuring a transparent manufacturing channels. Another is producing long term fashion and not encouraging throw away fashion. I think we all need to take more responsibility for the grossly negative impact of mass manufacturing.
What is your long term vision for Pampelone?
Our long term plan is to be your go-to brand when going on holiday, providing not only your holiday wardrobe but also your accessories also!
Women in Business
What advice would you share with women in the early stages or thinking about launching their own venture?
Be confident and be smart. if you’ve researched your product / service enough to believe it to have potential for success, then throw everything at it with the up most confidence. It’s a stereotype but true in that women tend to be more apprehensive and less likely to think big before proven success, but there really should be nothing holding you back.
What is life as a Founder CEO and mother like?
On one hand it’s the biggest privilege, being able to show my daughter an example of what a strong woman is able to achieve, but on the other it’s a constant struggle trying to manage being a good mother whilst running a company with such great demands.
What personal qualities to you attribute most to your success?
Tenacity and self motivation. Success seldom falls into your lap; you’re very lucky if it does! You HAVE to chase it, and push through setbacks and difficulties. You have to believe enough in your product and brand enough to make it succeed, and be willing to put in the time and effort on top! Business acumen can be learnt but this drive to make it happen needs to come from within.
Whitney Hawkings is the Founder and CEO of FLOWERBX and is the powerhouse behind all of those enviable and spectacular dinner table floral arrangements that have peppered everyone’s Instagram feeds. We met for breakfast at Daylesford in Notting Hill and it was one of those meetings which fill you with energy and enthusiasm for the day ahead and contribute to the feminist zeitgeist of today. Before founding FLOWERBX, Whitney worked with Tom Ford for 19 years, during which time she gained first-hand experience of the genesis and growth of a global luxury brand. Becoming an international brand is what she aspires to create within the backward floral industry and it is a vision backed by fashion heavy hitters. Former chief executive of luxury etailer Net-A-Porter, Mark Sebba, is an investor and recently appointed Chairman of FLOWERBX, with Net-a-Porter’s Natalie Massenet and Carmen Busquets also early investors. Clients include Bottega Veneta, Christian Dior and of course Tom Ford. We talk about what she learnt from her previous tenure and boss, how different her lifestyle is now compared to the velvet sofas and head to toe Tom Ford and the achievements and milestones she is most proud of.
Education BA French Language and Literature, Columbia University
Necessary Extravagance A blow-dry
Favourite productivity tool My phone
Favourite podcast or book? Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
Recent inspiration Ruth & Tom Chapman who have maintained an incredible family and marriage, while working together, and creating such a successful business.
What do you believe that most around you disbelieve? The power of the flower.
What do you wish to change in the world of startups? I wish there was a manual – an easy dummy’s guide, covering everything from whom you go into business with, how you raise money etc!
Favourite flower I can’t say as it changes with the seasons! For example when peonies are in bloom they are amazing, but then dahlias come back into season and I can’t get enough of them until hydrangea reappear, and so on.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background before you started FLOWERBX
I started working for Tom Ford at Gucci in Paris as his PA and became indispensable. Eventually when he left to set up Tom Ford, I left with him and headed up communications. In the early days, we sat alone in an office together, so I watched him and helped him build a brand from the ground up. There was literally nothing – no logo, no advertising, no label design. However, he had resources and so many people wanted to come to work for him. In the beginning of FLOWERBX, I didn’t have a name, I didn’t have resources, and it was difficult to convince people that we were more than just another florist.
What were the highlights from working with Tom and the company for 19 years?
I couldn’t have learnt from a bigger perfectionist. Someone who was so passionate and gave everything. His level of perfection was unparalleled. I had exposure to the most incredible people and incredible lifestyle – not just meeting them but working with them too. It was such a mad ride – as soon as the job got in any way mundane, then Tom changed it up by launching women’s wear or making a movie. And I was involved in every aspect – which involved a whole other learning curve and set of people. It was a whole career full of highlights!
Can you name your favourite aspect of your previous job?
Probably my first show at Gucci when I thought I was the luckiest girl ever to get to work for this incredible man. I really thought I should be paying him to come to work. The other aspect was leaving and opening the door to my own venture – which was and still is an incredible feeling.
What’s the best piece of business advice that has helped shaped you as an entrepreneur?
Being tenacious and passionate. I am pounding the pavements all day and every day. You can’t do that if you don’t believe in what you do.
Can you encapsulate what FLOWERBX does and your motivation for starting the company?
FLOWERBX is an online flower delivery service. We get flowers directly from Holland and cut out the middleman. They arrive in our warehouse at 4am and we send them out that day. This compares with traditional florists, where the flowers will be 5-7 days old by the time they reach the customer. You cannot have fresher flowers and having cut out middlemen who represent 2 price hikes we are offering a genuine value proposition.
The idea was conceived because as a working mum, I was buying everything online from groceries to clothing, yet flowers were the one thing that I couldn’t purchase in an acceptable way online. Also working for a brand, I realised that everything that we use has been branded apart from flowers. It is so old fashioned the way the whole flower industry works. Any florist online still follows the old traditional methodologies and approach. They have not changed the model – so you are still paying for the waste, the bricks and mortar etc. Somewhere like Interflora, which is not a brand as such, often has an unpleasant surprise element, as there is no control on the supplying florist. I am trying to remove that and guarantee consistency by creating the first international flower brand. It’s never been done.
Do you think your time in fashion helped your market research having tried out many online sites and therefore accelerated your progress?
In the fashion world, people are constantly sending and receiving flowers – daily or weekly. They were always bouquets of a single type of flower. There was no other choice. Most people don’t want lots of filler in their flowers. So, what I learnt is that the flower industry hasn’t been modernized in any way. People are also often nervous about arranging flowers. We take that away – you just need to put ours in a vase.
How does life as a CEO & founder compare to your old lifestyle at a global company?
My old life used to be so glamorous!! I had velvet sofas, Diptique candles lit constantly, flowers on my desk and I ate at The Wolsey probably three times a week! Now I work in a building that is freezing and there are mice. I go down the road past a bunch of mechanics to go to the bathroom. It couldn’t be more different. Also getting dressed previously used to be like dressing for a first date or a cocktail party in head to toe Tom Ford. I was always fully manicured and fully coiffed.
What’s been the evolution and milestones for Flowerbx that you are most proud of?
Building the most incredible team. There are 14 of us. We now have the perfect foundation on which to build our business. Everyone is so excited and working so hard. Every day something wonderful happens – a real achievement.
Tell us about the fundraising history for FLOWERBX
We launched with £100k that got us through the first year. We then did a friends and family round and I was very fortunate in having some amazing friends. For example, Natalie Massenet was one of our first investors. She brought on Carmen Busquets and Mark Sebba, who has now become our Chairman. Then a lot of big investors from the fashion world also invested, so fortunately it was relatively effortless and we raised £750k in that round. We then raised a further £1.5m in March this year and that was again from friends and family. We were clearly going in the right direction at that stage and we were oversubscribed for that round.
It’s a high bar for your next set of investors. What would you look for that you might be missing from your next round?
Right now we have the brand, we have the attention, the marketing. What will take us to the next level will be to become a logistics company, a little like Ocado. We are on our way to having a very sophisticated website and in the next month adding multiple deliveries and other options. So it is logistics expertise that we would look for from our next investment round. The flowers need to be cut and to your door in the minimal amount of time. The last mile is crucial. We hired a great logistics expert who is starting in February and I feel that will make a big difference.
What values do you hold and what type of company do you want to build?
I want people to be happy, valued, motivated and feel part of something new and big. I want them to feel excited to feel in part responsible for the very tangible results we see every day.
What do you look for when you hire people?
I look for people who are hardworking and who are over achievers.
What is the long-term vision?
I want to create the first international flower brand. I also want to combine that with a happy marriage and being a great mum.
Women in Business
What advice would you give early stage women founders or those thinking of launching a company?
Just do it. And be prepared to work in a way that you have not before. You need to have a great idea and be prepared to work really hard because its diehard. It’s a total rollercoaster every day.
Any advice for those seeking investment who perhaps didn’t have the contacts you had?
Find women! No one supports women like other women. Seek them out. There are lots of women investors nowadays.
Do you think about building a diverse team?
It is, of course, important for me to employ women. They work in great ways and also have an emotional connection in what they are doing. Given we are running a flower business, there is an emotional component that is as important as the business component.
What personal qualities would you attribute to your success?
Cosmetics queen and beauty boss Maria Hatzistefanis is the Greek entrepreneur behind Rodial, the London-based brand that she started in 1999 with her own savings, a fact that is revealed in the early pages of her tongue-in-cheek titled new book: How To Be An Overnight Success. Maria started her career as a beauty writer before moving to New York where she received an MBA from Columbia Business School. She now runs Rodial and Nip+Fab, selling through 20,000 doors across 35 countries worldwide. Her cult products are known for their evocative names such as Snake Serum and Dragon’s Blood and are a favourite with high-profile models and media personalities including Poppy Delevingne, Ellie Goulding and Kylie Jenner.
You started your career as a beauty writer prior to receiving an MBA and subsequently working in corporate finance. What lessons did you learn from these professions and did you always have an entrepreneurial itch?
I never thought I would be an entrepreneur but working in different industries made me adaptable and able to cope with change.
For those who don’t know, can you tell us what Rodial is and what was the motivation behind launching the company?
I saw a gap in the market for high-tech, fast acting skincare range which offered more than simple cleansing and moisturizing. Back then the skincare on the market was very simple and wasn’t driven by ingredients. I wanted to create a range which offered the consumer solutions to specific skin problems such as wrinkles and pigmentation. Rodial is an active, fast acting range of skincare and makeup which offers instant results.
What influenced your decision to launch a separate sister brand Nip + Fab?
I have always been inspired by fashion, and I was seeing so many designer/high street collabs such as Stella McCartney for Gap, and Lanvin for H&M. I thought that this was such an aspirational concept and I wanted to re-create it in the beauty world, which was why I launched Nip+Fab. At the beginning Nip+Fab was a hybrid of Rodial at a lower price point, taking some of the most successful Rodial ingredient stories and bringing them to the mass market. As time moved on Nip+Fab actually became its own entity and became the go-to brand for millennials and beauty junkies globally which was really exciting to watch. For Nip+Fab we work with young, influential talent such as Kylie Jenner and most recently Sofia Richie, and the brand couldn’t be more different to Rodial today.
How has your role changed as CEO as you have scaled the company to over 150 people?
In many ways it is exactly the same, I am in the office every day, all day, motivating my team and taking care of all of the business needs. I like to be in the action, I can’t work from afar, I need to be in the everyday detail of the business. If I had to pick out a way that my role has changed as my business has grown it will probably be dealing with issues more than anything else! As your team grows, so does your need to firefight all sorts of internal issues. I think that nowadays I have to always be looking at the bigger picture for the business and to guide my team in the right direction.
What work do you get involved with as patron of the British Fashion Council and are you involved with any other organisations outside of Rodial?
I work on a mentoring program for up and coming fashion designers helping them establish their brand and grow their business.
What capital did you use to get the business started initially? Have you taken any investment since launching the business or has it all been organic growth and what influenced that decision?
My business is 100% privately owned to this day. In the beginning my husband & I invested £20k to get the business started.
What has been the evolution and milestones you are proudest of to date and what are some of the KPIs that you measure success by for both the business and your team?
The launch of Snake Serum brought a lot of buzz to the brand. Launching our flagship Rodial counter in Harvey Nichols was a huge milestone taking the business to the next level.
You have scaled the company to 35 countries and added makeup to the line, how do you think about sustainable growth?
Sometimes we grow too quickly, other times we had to slow down to build what we had, it’s always a balancing game.
Rodial was a pioneering brand in terms of using social media and communicating with consumers. You also decided to work with Kyle Jenner and Millie Mackintosh as brand ambassadors. How did these relationships come about and talk us through the strategy behind these marketing initiatives.
Most of the time working with celebrities and influencers starts from a very organic place. With Kylie Jenner she was using our Nip+Fab products at a shoot and instagrammed them and her fans went crazy! The relationship grew from there and Kylie was the face of Nip+Fab for two years which was really amazing. Elle Goulding is a massive Rodial fan and often instragrams our Dragons Blood Eye Masks and talks to the press about how much she loves the brand, and not a penny has been exchanged for this. The organic and real relationships are always the strongest.
What is your long term vision for Rodial?
I want to expand the Rodial makeup range and launch more counters internationally. I would like to see big counter space for Rodial in the USA and Asia.
Women in Business
What advice would you share with women in the early stages or thinking about launching their own venture?
Make sure that you 100% believe in your vision because there will be people along the way that will tell you that you can’t do it. You need to have a thick skin and be ready to be told no. Starting your own business is not an easy ride, you will be challenged every step of the way and if you listen to the negativity you won’t succeed.
Who has been your mentor in business and how did that relationship come about? Do you now mentor other entrepreneurs?
I didn’t have a mentor and I do not think it is necessary. In this day and age there is a lot of available info out there on successful women that we can read and get inspiration from. I give a lot of talks and connect with young entrepreneurs when I am there.
Do you consciously think about building a diverse team and how can we do better to attract and retain more women?
In our industry we are 95% women so we are doing well on that front!
What personal qualities to you attribute most to your success?
I think that I am very motivated and passionate about what I do, I don’t take no for an answer. I give 100% at all times. I don’t go on holidays much but when I do I am always thinking about the next new product or campaign. I am prepared to sacrifice which I think is key to being successful, its hard at the time but you get the results you are looking for at the end.