Jessica King, formerly a fashion buyer at retailers like Alex and Alexa and Selfridges launched THE MINI EDIT, an online multi-brand childrenswear outlet designed for fashion conscious parents, earlier this year, alongside her mother Beverley. Jess knew that fashion lovers were used to getting gorgeous editorial content, incredible personal service and a really focused edit when shopping for themselves and didn’t think the experience should be any different when they shopped for the kids in their lives.
The Mini Edit has brought together a whole range of innovative fashion labels, shifting focus away from the big brands that typically respond slower to changing trends and embracing contemporary brands offering equivalent or even superior quality at reasonable prices.
You’ll see the likes of Stella McCartney Kids, Kenzo, Ruff and Huddle, MSGM and Etre Petite alongside toy and gifts brands, such as Lomography cameras and Penny skateboards.
“We’ve been on a whirlwind journey since then, launching the site in July 2015, our first pop up in August and dressing some of the coolest kids on the planet every day since!”
We caught up with Jess to find out how it’s going and the lessons she has learnt so far.
Can you tell us how The Mini Edit came about? What motivated you and your mum Beverley to launch it?
I’d been working my way up in corporate retail for a few years, getting more and more frustrated with the slow pace of change, when the idea for The Mini Edit came up. After a particularly tough week at work I was ranting to mum about how incredible it would be to create a retail concept which was built around offering real fashion to real families. She challenged me on why I was constantly trying to revolutionise existing businesses, when I clearly wanted to build my own. Initially I dismissed the idea as being too farfetched, but then couldn’t get the concept out of my head. Step by step we mapped out how the model would work and eventually realised that we actually had a viable concept.
How did you turn your idea into a real life business?
I’m a serious control freak so needed to be sure that we had a really water tight business plan before I had the confidence to start speaking about the idea outside of friends and family. We started with the brand, mapping out our core purpose, brand values and tone of voice. Ultimately we are a family business and always want to keep our core principles at the centre of everything we do, so this was the most natural place to start. From there we mapped out the existing market, comp shopping, studying retail data reports and reaching out to experts in the industry to ask for advice. I was already pretty clear on what I wanted the brand edit to look like so next we then began fleshing out costs and the structure of the financial model. Mum has a three quote rule before she’ll approve any costs, so we invested a lot of time in making sure we had found the best partners for everything from packaging and business stationary to shipping and insurance providers. Once we’d done all the ground work we pulled everything together into a jumbo business plan and started sharing it with the key partners we needed to bring it to life.
Do you have a mentor that has advised you along the way? If so, what advice or tips have they given you that you can you share with our readers?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really incredible people over the years and would never have been able to do this without their continued guidance and support. I recently met with the CEO of one of our brands who I find incredibly inspirational. I was sharing how difficult I had been finding it to prioritise my workload in the context of the vast amount to be could / should be done and so few resources, when she reminded me that our core purpose and brand values weren’t just a section in the business plan, but a tool which should help determine every decision we make in the business. The path of a start up business is never straight, and whilst things will never ever go exactly according to plan, if you’re really clear on your core vision and values, it is so much easier to be decisive. The day to day tasks are what keeps the business going, but the long term vision is what keeps it going in the right direction.
You launched The Mini Edit with your mum; what is it like working with each other?
Because mum isn’t in the business on a day to day basis the dynamic works really well. She’s always on the end of the phone to give advice or a second opinion, but is also removed enough that she is able to maintain a really fresh perspective. We sit down once a week (after Sunday lunch) to do a review of our trading and financial position, but also make sure that we get together with the rest of the family every Friday to spend time together and not talk business, which is really important to us both.
How did you fund the launch of The Mini Edit? Did you receive any funding? If so, where did you get your funding from, how much did you receive and how have you used it?
We’ve been lucky enough to be able to finance the business as a family so far, with everyone pitching in to help get it off the ground. Knowing that the money has come from the people I love really gives me added incentive to make sure the business succeeds, because when it does eventually start to generate a profit, it will be profitable for the whole family, which is an incredible motivator.
What have you found the most challenging about running an online business?
E-commerce is fast and there is a huge amount to be done to create a really 360º customer experience. The pace you
need to work at is relentless, but the workload is directly linked to the return. Invest a morning in creating incredible newsletter / social / blog / homepage content and by the afternoon you will see the direct impact on sales. Sometimes it is really hard not to be distracted by the back office workload, but it is so important to focus on customer facing tasks which ultimately generate revenue.
What have you found is the best way to drive customers to your website?
Social media has been an incredibly powerful tool for us, particularly Instagram. It provides us with a direct channel to our customers, getting instant feedback on what they think of what we’re doing at the moment and an endless source of inspiration for what we should be doing next.
What are your top tips for making contacts in the baby fashion world?
People are so lovely in the kids’ industry, reach out on social or via a brand’s contact page and let them know what you’re up to – nine times out of ten people will be really happy to hear from you and give you great honest feedback.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of launching an online business?
Never stop revisiting your site, e-commerce never stands still so there are always new and innovative ways that you can better serve your customers. We’ve only just launched and I’ve already got a list of things as long as my arm that we need to update / improve!
What are your future plans for The Mini Edit?
I’m a digital girl through and through, but would absolutely love to bring our brand to life in a physical space in the long term. Our recent pop up was a great example of how with enough focus on customer experience, bricks and mortar can be a really powerful tool to support an e-commerce business. It is a little way away, but definitely part of our long term vision!