Jade: Owner of Fertha
From about the age of 15 I decided that it was only The London College of Fashion that I wanted to study at. In all honesty at the time I don’t think I really cared what course I did as long as I got there, so at 18 I moved to London to study a degree in business and marketing at LCF. It wasn’t really the fashion part that attracted me to the university it was more the mix of creativity they had there and its global reputation.
I didn’t really have much of a desire to go into the fashion world after university so got myself onto a graduate scheme at WPP and ended up working at Ogilvy for a while before moving over to luxury marketing. I started working at The Dorchester hotel and worked my way up to launch their first new hotels, Coworth Park in Ascot and 45 Park Lane in London.
I then moved up to the global HQ looking after their hotels around the world, it was a great place to work with amazing people and beautiful hotels, I had such a great time working there and learnt so much from them, especially from my boss there at the time. After deciding to leave the hotel industry to travel I came back to London and worked for a luxury marketing and business development agency before I left to start Fertha.
In terms of my intrest in fashion, I know it sounds a bit strange considering I’m building a fashion retail business but my interest isn’t really in the traditional sense of fashion, it’s in businesses especially social businesses, people and recycling.
On deciding to open a charity shop
I guess fertha really developed organically over a few years, it wasn’t really intentional at first. Around 2011 I decided to only buy clothes from charity shops for a year as a New Years resolution, really just to see if I could stick to it. Then after unexpectedly enjoying it so much, it really changed the way I perceived shopping and clothes in general, from there I ended up writing an article for the Evening Standard about my experience which got a really positive response.
I started to become aware of the negative perception many people had around charity shop shopping in comparison to vintage shops. For me, it was all about the environment and the merchandising of the clothes. So ,from there I set up a pop up charity shop in partnership with the charity Mind, which again got a great response and raised a good amount of money for the charity.
I soon realized that I could change peoples perceptions about charity and second hand clothes shopping simply by changing the environment they shopped in and curate the selection. I wanted open the shop for a few reasons really, to change perceptions, to help recycle clothes and to start a business for myself which also benefitted charities.
Then it took me about a year or so to realise that’s exactly what I should be doing, I’ve wanted to start my own business since as long as I can remember. It was becoming increasingly hard for me to work for other people on a daily basis. So I set about talking to all the major UK charities to test the water to see if there was any interest in partnering with me, explaining my concept with nothing too tangible at the time.
I managed to get a few interested and then just thought screw it, so I quit my job and started to set up Fertha. I think the courage came from knowing that I didn’t want to be one of those people who only talk about doing something but never actually do it, it was a kind of now or never situation and ‘I’ll just figure it out along the way’ feeling.
Fertha is a socially conscious boutique, which stocks clothes and accessories for women and men alongside trinkets for the home. One of my main aims for fertha is to re-route the supply chain of the clothing industry by utilising garments that already exist.
There are so many great pieces about that have already been produced it’s not always necessary to buy everything new. Everything that is sold at fertha has been sourced from charity donations, in turn creating an additional and increased revenue stream for the charities we partner with. By doing this it all helps in changing the life cycle of clothes and the way people think about second hand shopping. For me it’s not about trying to condemn shoppers for buying newly produced items, I simply believe that if more people replaced even just a few of their new purchases with items bought from Fertha or other charity shops, it would help make the world a better place in so many ways.
Fertha really is completely different from most shops, charity shops or vintage shops as our selection is curated, second hand, ranges from high street to designer brands and also supports charities with every purchase.
For the first time, Fertha brings multiple UK charities together under one roof, re-defining the idea of the current high street charity shop – enabling charities not only to receive an increase on their current price points but providing them with a wider marketplace to target consumers as concession brands. We currently support Clic Sargent, Sense and Shaw Trust.
After having the shop successfully open for nearly a year now my next big focus is getting the online store running. It’s been great being able to take the time to get to know my customers and get a good feeing of what sells well and how people like to shop before taking the next step.
The online store will be launched by the start of 2016, I’ve worked hard to get the online offering as close as possible to the big players like ASOS, like with the shop I spend a lot of time working on the shopping environment and experience in order to change the perception which would usually be associated with charity and second hand shops.
On being a CEO
I’m not sure if I can call myself a CEO, I always find it a bit strange when people have that as their title when they are the only employee in the business! If I really have to put a title down I usually say founder but realistically I’m everything from the accountant, marketing director, cleaner, sales assistant, driver, handywoman, clothes steamer to office manager!
Day to day really involves a bit of everything from getting in a few hours of admin before the shop opens to make sure it looks good any everything is ready for customers, managing the relationships with my charity partners, spending a lot of time on social media to spread the word, trying to get press coverage to making sure all the accounts are in order. I think a lot of people think I just sit in the shop waiting for people to come in but I usually don’t have too much time to lounge about on the sofa!
On keeping Fertha relevant
In terms of keeping up to date with trends I really only think about each individual item instead of if it fits in with latest trends.
Of course if I see something that is really fashionable right now I choose it, but I only choose pieces that I like, not all necessarily my style but I have to be able to imagine someone I know or someone with a certain style in it. Otherwise, I can’t bring myself to put it in the shop.
I think that fertha really stands out from other charity shops as everything in the shop has been handpicked and curated by myself which means it’s a little easier for customers to navigate than the traditional style of charity shops.
On rejection and staying persistent
Obviously no one really likes rejection but I think if you don’t just suck it up and get on with it then you’ll end up sitting in a dark room on your own having not achieving anything. I guess I’m quite good at getting over stuff quickly so it might upset me for a short time but then I just forget about it and put my energy into making something else work.
I’d say the most challenging thing I’ve found so far about setting up my own business is the mental pressure when it’s just me doing it all on my own. That obviously has it’s advantages but sometimes I think it would be nice to have a business partner to share the load with.
On learning from mistakes
God I probably makes mistakes everyday and learn everyday, I’m not sure there is any science to it, I think you just do what you think is right at the time and if it works out then great and if not you make sure you don’t do it again!
Best piece of advice
I’d say the best piece of advice for anyone wanting to start anything is just do something towards it, even if it’s the smallest thing. Its so easy to waste time procrastinating, just get on with it and figure it out as you go along, even if it’s not perfect you’re still lapping everyone who’s still only talking about it!
I think the best saying that people have said to me over and over again is ‘What’s the worst that can happen’. When you think of things in this way and actually think about the worst thing that can happen (which will probably never actually happen anyway) and realise that you can handle the worst thing.
On ignoring advice
I don’t think you should ignore any advice, even if you don’t agree with what someone is telling you just remember what they said and always do the opposite! So everything is usefully in some way! Although if anyone says to you ‘No, don’t do that just stay in a job you hate and moan about every day’ then you should ignore than, it will slowly drive you mad if you stay in something you hate!
On role models and mentors
I pretty much admire anyone who creates something from nothing; anything from starting a business to cooking an amazing meal from scratch, I think there’s something really satisfying about things happening purely from one-persons efforts. I don’t have any official mentors (but could actually do with one if anyone wants to mentor me!) but I’m really lucky to have a lot of friends and family who let me natter on to them constantly and help me out!
On the evolution of Fertha
It’s changed so much, from a weekend pop up using an old suitcase for a till to a real shop that even takes American Express! I’ve got so many plans for Fertha but I’m trying to grow it organically and in the right way, which is tricky for me as I’m very impatient. The next big step is launching the online store and creating a completely new online offering.
On the most significant moment thus far
I’m fortunate to say that there have been quite a few in the last 12 months, two that stand out are the first day I opened and the first customer who came in the shop and actually bought something, I tried to act cool but I got so excited and had to take a picture of him with his Fertha bag! He’s still a regular customer too! It was an amazing feeling that this thing that had been in my head for so long was now in the real world! Also I think getting named as one of the top charity shops in the UK by Stylist Magazine after only 8 months was a pretty significant moment for me.
Charities that Fertha supports:
Shaw Trust: www.shaw-trust.org.uk
Clic Sargent: www.clicsargent.org.uk