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Tell me about Dharma Bums?
Dharma Bums was founded in late 2014 by myself and my business partner Mat Guthrie. I was in the corporate world and was involved in buying and merchandising. I took a bit of a side journey into yoga, and yoga for me was very transformative. I came through that journey wanting to buy a product that was made within the values of yoga, so in fair and just ways. I simply couldn’t find any products like that, so recognising a gap in the market, I leapt into it.
How did you fund it?
We funded it ourselves, so we pooled all of our savings. We haven’t taken on business investors. Not that we’d never do it, it’s just that we haven’t really needed to do it to date. That’s allowed us to have the freedom to shape the company as we wanted to.
You were looking for something in the market that was different and ethical. How did you know that other people wanted that as well?
I guess any new business is a huge risk, especially when it’s new territory so in that sense, it was a risk. But you know, the yoga business is a big business and obviously we spoke to a lot of people about where they were shopping and what they were looking to buy and there was a common theme. What we found with most people is that by doing the practice of yoga people did start to shop more consciously. By looking at the market growth of yoga, we knew that if anything was going to succeed it would be a yoga brand.
Do you have any statistics on your growth?
The growth has been phenomenal. If we were to compare the three months of this year, comparable to the first three months of last year, you’d be looking at at least 300 percent.
How have you done that?
My business Mat Guthrie has a background in IT so has extensive knowledge on how to build systems. From the very onset we made a business that was scalable. He spent a lot of time building bespoke systems for our business that would allow us to scale internationally and with wholesale partners. So we’ve been able to do that whilst keeping an exceptionally low head count.
Your prices are generally quite lower than other yoga brands out there. How have you managed that?
That has been a challenge because we do obviously pay a lot more because we make onshore. Making onshore gives us the ability to keep a really lean stock holding. We can get a garment into the business from a conceptual idea and once we’ve given that the green light, I can get that into the business in six to seven weeks. I don’t need to stockpile so my markdown is low. We adopt a strategy that we sell for what we can afford, not what we can get away with and we believe that our customer recognises that so they don’t expect a lot of discount. We also try to keep things fresh so we always release new prints.
Do the old prints still exist?
We do have a level of continuity in our business and we’re able to run some of those but that is because every single week the website visitors grow immensely. I think because we’ve still got a huge way to grow we’ll always have that continuity there that safeguards our business, and customers that always buy those. I’ve had a big seller in my business for twelve months – the disco glitter pant – and it’s still a best seller.
We’re looking at an expansion very quickly into the European and UK market. We’ve already done the ground work to secure that. There are lots of lessons we’re going to learn by expanding to an international market. I’ll be able to pull on the knowledge that I have from the UK market but we believe there are still so many lessons to learn and we are not afraid of those failures; we need to learn from everything we do. Once we’ve perfected Europe we’ll use that and move into Asia and America. So that’s a huge expansion which we’re exceptionally excited about.
The other things is we’ve been working with a documentary maker over the last six months and we’re about to launch a film, a 45 minute documentary into the market place. It’s called ‘My Dharma’ and we’re launching that in the next four to six weeks. That’s going to be a free film for people to access, and it’s people sharing their stories of yoga. I truly believe yoga is beneficial and this film is to inspire people to try the practice.
What’s your advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
The first 12-18 months are exceptionally hard, so be prepared for that. We think we’ve done relatively well and got a pretty quick return but it took 18 months of doing enormously committed work hours. If you’re not going to take an investor you might have to work outside the business; both me and my partner actually had other jobs while we funded the business to make sure that we could cover all of those costs. At the same time, don’t be scared to approach investors either. There’s a lot of money there in the marketplace and lots of people looking to invest in exciting new start ups.
Also, make sure that you have the foundations of the business set up in terms of systems and processes so that you can scale enormously. A lot of businesses come up with the idea but they don’t have the vision of the scalability of that business. I think we spent the first three months not even designing products but making the business plan on the business that we wanted to build, so everything for us was really in preparation.
Every day, KBB’s Dannie Doughan chats with an entrepreneur and features their story on our website. If your business wants a ‘Date with Dannie’, email us a quick bit about your biz!