Since Natalie Reynolds appeared on series nine of The Apprentice, she’s launched a new clothing business, Style Cheat.
The company drives sales with the help of Instagram, building a loyal following of customers (or Cheetahs).
Reynolds talks to us about the lessons she learned from The Apprentice and how she’s taken these forward in business.
What were the toughest lessons you learned on The Apprentice?
I learned that I wasn’t willing to be a fake, hard-nosed businesswoman so that I could win a TV show. I also realised I can’t sell something that I don’t believe in. Being in a house with 15 other people who all think they’re the best of the best really puts things into perspective.
I didn’t want to be like that or be seen in that way because I found it annoying. I must have been annoying! I just want to make money from something I’m passionate about.
Your first fashion label, Panya London, was launched in 2013. What happened to it and how did that influence Style Cheat?
We got everything wrong when we launched Panya. We invested a lot of money into product but didn’t have a route to market and couldn’t attract customers to our website.
We didn’t have any of the things we have in place now to drive traffic to the site or get our name out there. We didn’t understand digital marketing like we do now and that’s a huge part of an overall marketing spend for an company.
There wasn’t a fulfilment process set up either. It was all wrong. We have learned so much from the mistakes we made with Panya, but we’re so grateful now because we have built Style Cheat on really solid foundations and made sure we have everything covered.
Instagram plays a significant role in the business (Instashop, the#iamstylecheat hashtag). What advantages do you think it has over Twitter and Facebook?
With Instagram, it’s all about capturing people’s attention with a photo and then reeling them in with a caption. There is so much opportunity to sell on Instagram because people don’t have loads of time to read through text, they scroll through and if they like what they see then they’ll stay a little longer and find out more.
What tips do you have for entrepreneurs using Instagram for business?
Make sure you understand your customer: who do they follow, why do they follow them and what are they interested in? Research your competitors too. Who are following them? Which of their photos get the most interaction? Why?
Copy their audience and create similar content to attract them to you. Build a loyal and relevant following that will become customers who you can continuously market to.
Consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of the fashion industry. How are you responding to these changes?
Style Cheat’s ethos is to make good quality clothing, with affordable pricing, not cheap fast fashion. We use accredited factories and support UK production where possible.
What are your business goals over the next five years?
Over the next five years I aim to:
- Hit £10m turnover
- Launch into curve, petite, tall ranges and maternity
- Grow our international business in Germany, Russia and the Middle East
- Launch active wear
- Be seen nationally as the go-to label for great quality clothes at great prices