SUCCESS IS IN THE MIND PODCAST: Listen to Ed Bonnar Co-Founder – Beaufort & Blake

Ed Bonnar_SIITM Wall Post

Before visiting a mate at University for a pint Ed worked on Saville Row cutting his teeth in the world of tailoring. It was over a beer at the infamous Royal Agricultural University that Ed decided to sew a Union Jack to the back of his dress shirt for a ‘Best Of British’ themed party, this was the birth of Beaufort & Blake.

Founder and Entrepreneur Oliver Bruce speaks with owner operator entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders about their failures, barriers, mistakes, passion and persistence to achieve their vision

Like all entrepreneurs Ed travelled the length and breadth of the UK selling his new innovative (shirt) to people far and wide, well 50 people… – Sadly however the shirts were’t manufactured correctly and kept falling apart, this teamed with the niche market of dress shirts meant it was a rocky start for Ed.

Having persevered and moved his operations from a pigsty (quite literally) to Battersea London, Ed’s overheads exploded and a downturn in sales saw him and his business partner nearly say goodbye to Beaufort & Blake as they faced bankruptcy. It was quick thinking that got Ed out the other side.

Beaufort & Blake expect to see a turnover of circa £3million in 2021 having onboarded 2 highly influential fashion investors and diversified their product offering. Hear it from the horse’s mouth in this episode!

You can listen to the latest podcast with Ed Bonnar Co-founder of Beaufort & Blake here via your preferred provider either Apple or Spotify

Apple: E13: Success Is In The Mind: Ed Bonnar Co-Founder – Beaufort & Blake

Spotify: E13: Success Is In The Mind: Ed Bonnar Co-Founder – Beaufort & Blake

Full transcript below

Ed Bonnar:

Quite quickly into our first foray, after about six months, the shirts from London fell apart after six months of wearing. At the time we came up- we coined the fact that they were, you know, they were a disposable shirt as black tie shirts often were at that age.

Oliver Bruce:

Innovative. I like it. Success Is In The Mind is proud to have partnered with, and be supported by, the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and community, a programme that recognises, celebrates, supports, encourages and champions entrepreneurs in Great Britain. Hello, and welcome to Success Is In The Mind, I’m Oliver Bruce and if you’re new to the show, we will be discussing with current owner entrepreneurs about their failures, mistakes, passion, and persistence in the face of business adversity. Not all entrepreneurs, however, have completed their vision just yet. Some are just starting out. And I want to give you a sense of business reality in a world full of idealism. So what does it take to become successful, to grow a brand, or to start a business? Join me to hear from those that are currently doing just that. As always, you can reach the team and I, via the website, bizpodcast.co.uk that is with a Z, or tweet me @OliverBruce_biz. For those of you that do use Beaufort & Blake and indeed for those of you that don’t, head over to the website right now, type in SUCCESS, upper case, and you’ll get 15% off any product on the website for the next four weeks. In this episode, we will be talking to co-founder of Beaufort & Blake Ed Bonnar. After working on Savile Row, Ed ended up having a few pints with a uni mate in Cirencester. That week, they had a university Best of British dinner party, and they dreamed up the idea, as you do, of sewing a Union Jack to the back of a dress shirt. That was, for all intents and purposes, the start of Beaufort & Blake. Having travelled the length and breadth of Britain, selling dress shirts from the back of his classic Landy, Ed realised they may actually be on to something here. The only issue was the shirts kept falling to pieces. Welcome to the show entrepreneur and co-founder Ed Bonnar.

Ed Bonnar:

Hi Oli. Great to be on the podcast. Thanks very much for having me. Yeah, well, the first shirt was dreamt up over a beer, that’s about right, really. My friend, my business partner, Sam was at the RAU, as you say, and he’s the creative one in the business, and a friend of his was going to this Best of British May Ball that they had at the time and wanted to stitch this Union Jack into the back of his shirt. And it didn’t take long for us to have a look around sort of the market as it were at that time and find the only people selling patterned-back dress shirts were sort of Pakeman, Catto & Carter who have gone, who actually since then have gone bust, and you know, you walk in there and it was like stepping back in time. So, Sam and I had a mutual friend, George, who I have to credit for making the business happen actually.

Oliver Bruce:

Has he goes shares in it or not?

Ed Bonnar:

No, no, no. But he’s got a life-long discount code. So he introduced us and we- at the time I was working at Charles Tyrwhitt, in Jermyn Street. I’d gone to uni, hadn’t really worked for me, so I dropped out after a year and, sort of by chance, ended up going down down Jermyn Street, really, just in search of a job and wanting to earn money, as a 19 year old does when all his mates are at uni and he doesn’t want to be there. So, we sort of got together and he said, look, I’ve got this idea. I want to make this shirt, but I’ve got no idea how to make shirts, I need a bit of help in business. And so I said, well, look, I can tell you a thing or two and at the time I claimed to know a lot about shirts.

Oliver Bruce:

Which was a lie?

Ed Bonnar:

May or may not have been bending the truth. So we found our first factory in north London, and at the time we paid £46 for our shirts and we sold them for 65 quid. So, you know, there was a 20 quid margin on each of the shirts. Quite quickly into our first, you know, foray, about six months after these shirts from London turned up, they fell apart after six months of wearing. So, you know, at the time we came up, we coined the fact that they were, you know, they were disposable shirt as black tie shirts often were at that age.

Oliver Bruce:

It’s innovative. I like it. Recyclable.

Ed Bonnar:

Just praying that we could find a new manufacturer before the next customer came to buy again.

Oliver Bruce:

Surely your customers were genuinely quite angry and you had a number of complaints, which actually could have been detrimental to the brand. How did you manage that?

Ed Bonnar:

Well what we did find was actually a really valuable tool was to, you know, to be very honest and upfront and personable with our customers and remind them of the fact that, you know, politely whilst they had paid a premium for the product, at the same time, they were buying into a young business with two passionate founders. And there’s really something to be said- and I think I learned this from my roots in Savile Row and Jermyn Street, really, that there’s something to be said for the personal relationship that is knowing that your clothes have been made or at least put together by somebody that you have a very personal relationship with. And in the same way that you, you know, you feel you have a bond, a gentleman has a bond with his tailor, we interestingly learned and one of the things that I brought in, that was, that absolutely helped us to befriend those upset customers and turn them around into positive ambassadors was to really explain that it was about us. And, you know, we as young, aspiring, individuals at the time were really passionate about building a product and learning on the go.

Oliver Bruce:

So it was honesty?

Ed Bonnar:

It was honesty. Absolutely.

Oliver Bruce:

But if we were to scale it back and look back at your sort of childhood and your upbringing: what did your parents do Ed, were they in business? Were they successful? Why did you have such a flare to go into starting something yourself?

Ed Bonnar:

Well, I think I was brought up in an environment, my father was an ex professional rugby player.

Oliver Bruce:

Oh really? Who did he play for?

Ed Bonnar:

He played for the London Scottish.

Oliver Bruce:

Oh yeah, not very good then.

Ed Bonnar:

[laughs] Any rugby listeners might question exactly the extent of professional, that I use there.

Oliver Bruce:

We’re not cool enough to have rugby listeners Ed, they listen to James Haskell, but, you know, we’re competing, we’re getting there.

Ed Bonnar:

[laughs] So he was sort of always at sportsman, but mostly, you know, a fighter and one of the things he taught me is that, you know, you’ve always got to fight your way and actually you get much more of a pleasure doing that, working for yourself, than you do for anyone else. And, you know, it takes a lot of guts. We started when we were very young and very naïve, I’m first to admit that.

Oliver Bruce:

Not that you’re naïve, just to be clear [laughs].

Ed Bonnar:

[laughs] But, it’s, you know, it took us two or three years to realise actually that the world’s a big place. And actually once your friends start getting jobs, working for other people, and finish at 5:30pm and they ring you up and ask for a pint and you say, well, no, actually I’ve got another 15 orders to put into my supplier, it’s both gratifying and upsetting at the same time.

Oliver Bruce:

Yeah. And it is fight or flight really in business. But in terms of why you went into the shirt world, you worked for two of the biggest, I suppose, shirt brands on the high street at T. M. Lewin and Charles Tyrwhitt, why did you jump ship and go straight into starting your own brand and competing directly with them?

Ed Bonnar:

At that time I wanted to- I had set my life’s aspirations on opening my shop on Savile Row. And the apprentices on Savile Row, all sort of start, you start your way- there’s a bit of a rank structure to it all. And you can start on Jermyn Street and a shirt, because shirts are a little bit easier to make than suits. And, yeah. So at that time, yeah, just sorta had my eyes- always wanted to work for myself, but moved from Savile Row to Cirencester and actually the appeal of working in an office above a pub was a bit more than a basement in Piccadilly buying expensive lunches every day, and rather than pulling pints in the evening.

Oliver Bruce:

But you’ve always wanted to work for yourself though, you said, you dropped out of university. Were you any good at education or did it just kind of, did it not sit well with you?

Ed Bonnar:

No, I wasn’t any good at any education. The funny thing is that Beaufort & Blake, you know, there’s two Bs in that word, and between Sam and I, we couldn’t even manage two Bs in our A Levels.

Oliver Bruce:

[laughs] So Sam’s equally as entrepreneurial then?

Ed Bonnar:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. That’s it. I like to say that I went to the university of retail, you know, that was my grounds of understanding, but no, education didn’t really work for me.

Speaker 3:

So, since day one, was the, kind of, the main driving force around the business, was it making money or was it having a product which is actually sustainable and of good quality, or do they go hand in hand?

Ed Bonnar:

At the time, all we wanted to do was to make the best product we possibly could. The focus wasn’t money. You know, at the time we were 22, 23 years old and very naïve about the big, bad world. And really, we just wanted to make something that last. Ironically enough, the fact that we sourced it from London, and then it turned out not to be that at all was very ironic, but we strive, we strove to, you know, to provide the absolute, very best product at all costs. You know, the fact that our lower margins were sort of testament to that.

Oliver Bruce:

How quickly did you sell the first 50 shirts that you made, because you put them on the back of a Landy and it was a cool Landy. Was this sort of specifically around the brand, did you have an idea as to what the proposition was going to be, or was it just because you had one lying around?

Ed Bonnar:

At the time, the brand was very much a gentleman’s outfitter. We were offering black tie shirts to, you know, formal occasions. And we thought, what better emblem than to turn up to a ball with a Landrover. It was sort of, you know, quite a classic British institution or emblem, I should say. And at the time, yeah, it married up quite well. And, you know, we couldn’t really afford much more than- certainly couldn’t afford a shop at that time. So, well, we thought, well, what better place to get around, than to have a sort of movable market store.

Oliver Bruce:

I mean, no shops are not a bad thing though. You dodged a bullet there in terms of the death of the high street, surely?

Ed Bonnar:

Yeah. Well exactly we’re feeling pretty chuffed, this year, with everything that COVID has brought upon us, that actually, never a better time to be all online. We do 95% of our turnover online, 5% of it is shows, the British sort of show scene is, you know- the tour of Britain, I’m sure most of your listeners might know how it is.

Oliver Bruce:

Yeah well I was going to get onto exactly that. The tour of Britain and actually we’ll get onto the death of the high street later. But when launching a brand, you did drive around the entire country, whether that was in your Land Rover or otherwise, but you went to all these events, you went to all these shows and you literally sold on the hoof. I mean, was that how you propelled the brand into, I suppose, the market which you were looking for?

Ed Bonnar:

I think quite a bit of it was sort of discovery by accident. But we took ourselves off to polo matches in this land Rover, and rocked up and actually realised quite quickly that dress shirts were a brilliant product because we didn’t have any competitors. No one else was making pattern back dress shirts. And so our first two years were sort of absolutely terrific when, you know, we were young, we didn’t have many overheads, we didn’t have many costs in life. But it didn’t take us that long, about two years, to realise that actually there’s only a limited market of dress shirts in the UK specifically pattern back dress shirts. So the reason we didn’t have many competitors is because really there wasn’t much of a market.

Oliver Bruce:

No, no, they’d sort of gone there and realised that it was probably a mistake, and you were going there and later realised exactly the same!

Ed Bonnar:

Yeah! Well do you know it was a great route to begin with because, you know, it was so unique and actually that was really, really brilliant for us in the beginning, but we realised that, yeah, going round, all of these events, specifically polo matches, they were sort of our most common event, you know, outing, in the beginning that actually people wore casual clothing far more than they did. Common sense, when you repeat it to yourself.

Oliver Bruce:

With regards to when you started your manufacturing, you obviously had it made in north London and it cost 46 quid. You went out to Turkey to get them made. Now, how did you go about finding the right manufacturer after a while? ‘Cause it must’ve been a lot of kind of kissing of frogs.

Ed Bonnar:

Yeah, it did. Yeah. It was funny that when we first moved to Turkey and Portugal, it was interesting because although the costs were a lot lower, there was frequent occurrences actually, where the supplier would take us out for a big lunch. And my 22 year old, 23 year old self at the time was very excited by going out for a big boozy lunch being paid for by a supplier on his credit card only to find that in the meeting afterwards, after lunch, we’d be dragged back around the showroom table and be told that the prices were going up by 20%. So it was really us that were paying for those lunches.

Oliver Bruce:

Well it would be, yeah.

Ed Bonnar:

So yeah, at the time it was all about chasing that better margin and better quality, you know, we really wanted to offer that to our customers.

Oliver Bruce:

At what point did you decide that actually hiring staff was the right thing to do?

Ed Bonnar:

Well, I think that it got to a point actually where we were making enough money to be able to delegate more things to other members of staff and find actually that packing orders ourselves became quite an inefficient use of our time. At that point, you know, it was a big bullet to bite, but every entrepreneur knows that they’ve got to sort of constantly innovate and find time to build their strategy. And it was sort of second year point that we realised, well, actually hold on, we’re trying to grow this business, and actually we need a bit of help with, you know, the legwork making and getting the orders out the door. And the designer really was a real step towards diversifying our product offering because, you know, whilst I knew a lot about shirts from Jermyn Street, the background, our background was still very much, you know, formal wear as it were.

Oliver Bruce:

And how did you learn to run a business though? ‘Cause you learned about shirts, you learnt about, obviously, you hired somebody to assist with the head space, but how did you know what the right thing to do at the right time was, and fundamentally who to bring in?

Ed Bonnar:

What we realised from each of the seasons that went on that, you know, the four seasons that we had had in our sort of real two year early birth was that actually the best- the products that sold best were the ones that had the best design and the most fantastic array of prints. Because at the beginning we bought our prints wholesale, the fabrics that we plastered on, sewed onto the back of the dress shirts was all sort of, you know, it was bulk wholesale purchase fabric. And actually the small, sort of more sophisticated, designs and patterns were always the one that sold well. And so we thought, well, actually, let’s start transferring this onto other products. Swim shorts was our next product, as well as boxer shorts.

Oliver Bruce:

And at what point did you do the inside of the cuffs though? Because when you roll up the cuffs on the sleeves, you’ve now got, you know, stitched patterns in there. Was that something that you did with the dress shirts as well? Or was that something you brought in later?

Ed Bonnar:

That was- so we wanted to step into that bigger market, as I said, of going into more casual clothing and we thought, well, we have to stay true to the root of the brand, which is, you know, we had established ourselves as being, as print being our unique asset. And every one of our, still to this day, every one of our pieces of clothing has got an essence of print to it. And the designer was a rea pathway to us establishing that sort of unique point of each of our products.

Oliver Bruce:

And when you were stretched – ’cause you must have been stretched pretty thinly before you hired your staff – Now what went wrong at that point? Surely there were things that you were dropping and orders you weren’t fulfilling because fundamentally it was just you and Sam doing everything?

Ed Bonnar:

Absolutely. Yeah. Well at the time we thought to ourselves, well, you know, we just had a great couple of seasons selling just shirts. And we thought, okay, well look, this business has got some scale. So, let’s move to London because that was the plan for both of us, at the time. The first office was above the pub, the second one was in a converted pig sty, and the third one was in the bar above the garage.

Oliver Bruce:

But the fourth one was Battersea! It was an expensive one.

Ed Bonnar:

It was quite a bold move at that time. And one of the mistakes absolutely that we made was going from paying a hundred pounds a month in rent to £2,200 a month in rent at that time was an astronomical amount of money.

Oliver Bruce:

A hundred quid for a pig sty. You’re right. That is expensive. But why did you do that? Why did you go to the really expensive real estate in central London when you’re a startup? What was the logic?

Ed Bonnar:

One of the poor decisions that we made at that point in time was thinking with our hearts and not our heads. And we, at that time, had an affiliation with London, it was where we wanted to be personally, but we didn’t really forecast through our financial pounds properly and, you know unsurprisingly actually keeping up with that sort of rent cost us very dearly, but we did- so, you know, we were profitable at that point in time before coming to London, and obviously moving into London turned that dial then in the opposite direction.

Oliver Bruce:

Did you come up against some serious issues in terms of you questioned the move and you were signed into a lease and, you know, what was going through your head when you had to make those nearly £3000 payments every month?

Ed Bonnar:

At that time it was gut wrenching that having to not pay ourselves, Sam and I, at least for, from what I remember, I think we did about nine months of no pay, of no salary at all. And that was almost the most painful bit because we were sort of kidding ourselves that we had grown this brilliant business and turnover was increasing as we were diversifying the product range. But at the same time, we weren’t making money to put in our own pockets. And if you can’t do that, then you haven’t really got a proper business. So we had grafted and, you know, at that time exactly, it wasn’t a full-time thing. So we were doing other things to get by.

Oliver Bruce:

Such as what? What were you doing to kind of line your own pockets?

Ed Bonnar:

At that time it was working in the pubs and that sort of worked quite quite well for us. Interestingly, it was the grounding for a lot of customer service experience that, you know, is absolutely essential to any retail brand today. And something, you know, we pride ourselves on is that we’ve, you know, there’s a lot of digital brands out there now, eCommerce especially, where it’s very hard to talk to a person at the end of the phone. You’re either talking to a bot or an AI computer or something in that pop-up window and it’s rarely that you get through and you get a straight answer straight away. We’ve always been proud about the fact that we, you know, we keep our phone lines open permanently throughout COVID. We’ve had to narrow the hours down as cut back on some staff staff hours, but it’s nice to talk to a person.

Oliver Bruce:

I suppose looking at when you diversified into the women’s wear, because you went, you know, you fundamentally started off selling men’s dress shirts, you then diversified into casual wear. When did you go, actually, the women’s market’s something we really should be exploring here?

Ed Bonnar:

One of the things we did in 2018 was to take on some angel investors. And we made the decision that actually we would rather have a smaller piece of a bigger pie. So Sam and I, two founders, at that point in time, 80% shareholders, 20% was with another friend who had since left the business, we bought him out and decided that actually to take on some extra funding would allow us to grow. You know, at that point in time, we were still quite loss-making. So, you know, we were close to running out of money. And in fact, not long before that in the beginning of 2018, we very, very, nearly went bust. And that was a dark point in time actually, because I was very close to folding it all in. I went to go and see a friend of mine that worked as a liquidator at the time and had conversations with him about what, you know, what the picture might look like for us, if we dissolved the business. And I had a long conversation with Sam around our ping pong table of a boardroom. And he said, you know, look, we’ve got to go for this. And we’re at a really pivotal point. We’d had a Christmas where we’d bought too much stock, had to sell it at too much of a loss. We had that expensive office in London. We had three on the payroll as well as ourselves at that time. And you know, we were having to pay for our spring summer orders that were coming up. And actually we got a sort of turn around specialist who was a family friend at the time in. And he said, look, you know, write all of your creditors a letter saying, every business goes through ups and downs. We’re going through a down period at the- we’re going through a tough time at the moment, we’ll pay you, but just give us 90 days. And so we had landlords, we had suppliers, we had agents knocking on the door every five minutes saying, when’s my money coming? Where’s all my money? But we came to agreements with them that actually we were going to defer the payments. And at that time, literally the sun came out, the stock arrived. And, we had our first foray into what we call direct mail, which is one of our biggest customer acquisition channels at the moment that is sending customers catalogues through their letterboxes. We sent 30,000 catalogues out to a bunch of people that had never bought from us before, but – I must add within the realms of GDPR – and what we did was to rent these mailing addresses off a third party and send people that had never come across before. But it’s a really great channel to marketing. There’s a real difference between seeing a product on a web page and seeing a product in a piece of paper, you know, a book.

Oliver Bruce:

I haven’t had yours yet.

Ed Bonnar:

Have you not?

Oliver Bruce:

I get the Facebook ads.

Ed Bonnar:

Yeah, well maybe after the podcast, we’ll have to send you a shirt and you can promote us on your channel.

Oliver Bruce:

Nevermind giving me a free shirt, Ed. Have you got something for the guys that are listening to this podcast a discount code of some sort?

Ed Bonnar:

Yeah, well, you know, every man probably wants to be as smart as you, Oli, so we’ll give them an opportunity to do that. We’ll give them more opportunity to do that. Absolutely. They can use SUCCESS discount code, SUCCESS all upper case, for 15% off anything from our website.

Oliver Bruce:

Are you looking for a PR company that can evaluate your brand profile and execute effective communications? Well Bloxham PR, who work with some of the largest brands in the fashion, field sports, and luxury lifestyle sectors can do exactly that. Developing long-term relationships is at the heart of the Bloxham ethos, combining big thinking with big results. They simply never miss a trick. And they certainly didn’t miss a trick by partnering with us for series 2. Check them out, at bloxhampr.com. We’ll get back to the current story just shortly. However, I wanted to let you know what was coming up in the next episode of Success Is In The Mind, it is indeed our Christmas special. And I shall be speaking to Adam and Eloise, the two founders of The Big Bakes about all things baking and indeed Christmas. Here’s, what’s coming up.

Adam Chaudhri:

I mean, we’re so competitive that when the baking competition came up, I mean, I can’t bake at all. And I definitely couldn’t bake back then, but I was still convinced I’d be able to be Eloise despite her actually having some skills in that arena.

Eloise Frank:

He didn’t, but [laughs].

Oliver Bruce:

Well, goes without question really. When you ran the numbers and when you looked at the spreadsheet and you realise that actually this quite literally might be it, what went through your mind and how did you kick into gear to find the motivation to carry on? ‘Cause it must’ve been a massive kick in the teeth.

Ed Bonnar:

It was. Yeah. As I say, I went to knock on the door of the liquidator. What we knew at that time was that we had these excellent shirts coming and in fact, our best ever range. You know, we run from season to season. And so our whole product mix changes. I mean the style, the mix of the products remains relatively similar, we’re always testing and trying and adding new things. But the individual design of each of the products changes, and we had this really fantastic opportunity to sell the best product that we had ever made. We had some new suppliers and some strong margins.

Oliver Bruce:

That’s incredible to have that ability to sort of consolidate and look at what you’ve got coming up and go, yeah, now’s really bad, really bad. And we’re about to go under, but what we’re going to deliver in six months time, it’s going to be the best thing ever, is incredible. And actually nobody on the podcast has actually said anything along those lines in terms of nearly going under and how they kicked into gear. And it’s quite inspirational. And how quickly after that then, after that sort of 90 day period, did you go back to normally sort of functioning I suppose?

Ed Bonnar:

It took us about three more months after the point that the catalogue going to sell through effectively. What we had done is, you know, we started from a point of deep, deep debts and a lot of creditors. But actually I mentioned that we had very strong underlying gross margins in our products that that was due to be delivered at that point. And so within about three months we had generated enough cash or profit from those products to be able to pay off all of the creditors, move forward, continue trading and actually move into the next season to pay for the stock at the next point in time.

Oliver Bruce:

What would you’ve done if it had gone wrong? Or didn’t you think that far ahead?

Ed Bonnar:

There were a few thoughts of going back to Savile Row. The first thing that got me, you know, got me into it was working for myself and yeah, exactly the thought did come back to go work for somebody else. But, and, you know, maybe I can’t do this, but you know, you just, you’ve got to fight you just, and that’s where that fighting mentality comes back in again.

Oliver Bruce:

Looking back at your investors when they came on board in 2018 and they bought that 20% equity in the business, did they, is that the equity they bought?

Ed Bonnar:

Yes, exactly. Yeah.

Oliver Bruce:

And the reason for that was a cash injection, or more knowledge? What was the methodology?

Ed Bonnar:

It was cash injection. And then actually it was the two investors that we took on were actually, are still very active in the management and the business. They were CEO and CFO of Crew Clothing and Fat Face. This was actually interestingly enough, we met them about nine months after that dark or initially dark spring and a successful summer, having turned the business around because at the time we went to them on our knees saying, you know, look, we’re about to run out of cash and everything’s very good, but we’re sort of desperate for cash. And the lady, Louise Barnes at that time said, no, look, boys, I’m sorry, this is not for me. But we went back to her nine months later to say, look we’ve got a great brand with a good customer base here. We’ve just had a successful summer. We’ve turned around the business. And actually, you know, with your expertise, we believe that actually the four of us can build a really great business here. It’s a good opportunity for you because you’ve grown businesses like Crew and Fat Face before. Similar aspects in attributes of customers to Beaufort & Blake, you know, at that time they were hungry for new projects as well themselves. And so they brought with them obviously, you know, 50 years combined experience of the retail industry and supplier contacts and trade and understanding and, you know, veteran understanding of the market.

Oliver Bruce:

What did they put into it then Ed? For 20% of the business, how much did they invest?

Ed Bonnar:

At that time, it was £120,000. So really the door that they helped open for us was suppliers that would give us credit terms, ones that they had worked with in the past, from their prior bigger businesses and the sort of wealth of contacts and understanding of supplier and supplier relationships.

Oliver Bruce:

So when you got those investors on board, obviously they pumped some cash into it. They brought their knowledge, but how did you go about finding the investors? What platform did you go on to actually entertain them to a certain extent and get them on board?

Ed Bonnar:

We first approached them on LinkedIn. And that was the old request button that we all know about too well and slid into the DMs. And we were very fortunate in that we sorta got the hook from there. We put together a pitch deck, an investor deck, very smart PDF, and stayed up till about three in the morning, making sure that they looked- gold stars all over it. And just proposed to them around the meeting table.

Oliver Bruce:

It’s a big risk for them though. ‘Cause you’re making a loss, you’re going to go into liquidation. You’re asking them for £120k for 20% of a potential disaster. I mean, they took- they believed in you.

Ed Bonnar:

They did. Yeah. Well, and that was it. You know, at the time we had just come out of a torrid time and what they did see was the potential. And actually since then, you know, we’ve grown the business and we are at the point of breaking even now.

Oliver Bruce:

That is inspirational. That’s incredible. And looking at kind of when you wanted to open a shop, because that really, if you think about it, when you were going into potential liquidation, if you actually had real estate i.e. High street that could have really screwed you and you know, hindsight’s a wonderful thing, and retrospectively it was a great idea to not do that, but bringing it up into the present day. T. M. Lewin is now a hundred percent online. What does your market share look like in the world of shirts when you’re up against such big boys like that?

Ed Bonnar:

That’s a very good question. I mean, the one thing that we’re in a really good place in at the moment is the fact that, you know, we’re almost without- obviously the pandemic this year has been very unfortunate for a lot of people out there. And of course, I can be selfish and say that actually it’s been fantastic for us. And the reason that is, is that most of our product offering now is casual clothing. And the one thing that the death of the high tree has brought about and change in change in habits of not going to the office anymore, is that there’s almost the death of the suit and the death of the tie as well. And casual shirts are our bread and butter, 55% of our annual turnover comes from men’s casual shirts.

Oliver Bruce:

Really. Wow. And because you now do ties though, you just said the death of the tie’s coming up, are you going to cut those?

Ed Bonnar:

I think so. Absolutely. We’ve got some left from the last order that we had ordered before COVID was coming along, but I don’t think we’ll ever go back to it.

Oliver Bruce:

How did you come up with the name, Beaufort & Blake then, what was the thought process there?

Ed Bonnar:

The story on the website, which you may have seen is that the Duke of Beaufort was the master for the local hunt. And, so, well, yeah, the story goes at the time is that the Beaufort hunt was running past the window. And, it was a raucous university pub, and everyone stood on the tables and started singing Jerusalem, which was written by William Blake. But the real story was actually that we wanted a bit of alliteration and an ampersand was very important to us in the name because we wanted to have, you know, traditional, British roots. Beaufort was actually a name out of four that was picked out of a hat. We had Beaufort, Beaumont, Brayworth and Blacksley. And actually we thought Beaufort had the nicest ring to it. So it’s completely made up. And Sam and I frequently get asked, which one’s Beaufort and which one’s Blake. Our answer is always the same, which is that neither of us are Mr. Beaufort and Mr. Blake. But because the brand is much cooler than both of us, and we much prefer to hide behind the brand.

Oliver Bruce:

So, I mean, are you guys the face, I suppose, in any way, or do you very, very much push the name?

Ed Bonnar:

No, not really. No, not at all. No, we do actually now have a character called Mr. Beaufort. He’s a made up character, which we use in our marketing.

Oliver Bruce:

Visually, what does Mr. Beaufort look like?

Ed Bonnar:

He’s a very well dressed man with a good taste in cars, women and holidays.

Oliver Bruce:

Is he red or yellow trousered?

Ed Bonnar:

That’s a good question. I think probably navy.

Oliver Bruce:

Navy? Wow. Wasn’t expecting that, that is left wing [laughs]. At what point did you actually have that breakthrough moment where you realised, actually this is really working now, this is, you know, we’re getting somewhere or have you not quite got there yet because you’re still breaking even?

Ed Bonnar:

What’s the measure of success, Oli, you know, we all ask ourselves that question, don’t we? It was actually the point at which our investors said to us, we’re going to put £120 grand into this business. You’ve got a checkered trading history, you haven’t made it; you’ve made two profits, four years ago. And since then you’ve lost tonnes of money, but actually you’ve really got potential here. And so at that moment, it was when someone said to us, two people said to us, we’re going to give you £120 grand. That actually, you know, and at that time, that was what, you know, 15% of our annual turnover. And for someone to say that, you know, that was the moment that we thought, well, actually, you know, if two industry veterans here are looking at us and they’re saying, well, you know, you’ve got something here, we’re going to part ways with £120 grand, then you’re probably onto something.

Oliver Bruce:

7 years ago, when you started Ed, what would you have told yourself? Looking back at what you’ve experienced, what would be the one piece of advice that you’d give a young Edward?

Ed Bonnar:

Be willing to go with your gut and take as many risks as you possibly can. Don’t be influenced by trends and look to make your own, tread your own paths and really build something that’s very unique from anyone else.

Oliver Bruce:

Ed if I were to invite you, which I will do, on the podcast in a year’s time, what are we going to see over the next 12 months? What’s on the horizon for Beaufort & Blake?

Ed Bonnar:

We’ve got a very exciting next 12 months ahead. I mentioned to you before we’ve got ourselves to a £2 million turnover. Then the last financial year, it was just very exciting and breaking even which for our journey was actually a really, really, really big milestone. So next year we’re going to grow that to 50% and we’ve got 50% more products by, we’ve got a big expansion. And womenswear I mentioned earlier that our investor with her background running Fat Face and Crew, had a lot of experience in womenswear and she’s done a really fantastic job of bringing that great category out for us. So there’s a lot more to come there for that, for all the ladies listening.

Oliver Bruce:

[laughs]

Ed Bonnar:

We’re looking at some collaborations, which I can’t give too much away about at the moment, with some very familiar big high street brands that we’re sort of working on actively at the moment, subscription is an exciting new avenue for us that we’re looking to offer for our boxer shorts, they’re our second biggest selling category actually. And this year to date, we’ve sold 16 and a half thousand pairs of them. But all of that, much of it anyway is around Christmas time. And we want to be able to offer our customers something a little bit more regular than that, which is very exciting. So, you know, lots more, a bigger team as well with lots of things on the agenda, busy, busy, busy, few months, 12 months ahead.

Oliver Bruce:

Ed, thank you very much for joining me.

Ed Bonnar:

Thanks very much Oli. Real pleasure to be on the podcast and nice to speak to you. And I look forward to some feedback on that shirt in a few weeks time.

Oliver Bruce:

I hope the arms don’t fall off like your first batch!

Ed Bonnar:

[laughs] You can wear it to an expensive lunch-

Oliver Bruce:

Yeah for six months [laughs]. Thanks dude. Cheers. Each episode, I’m going to be talking to you about a podcast, which is worth listening to, and this week is no exception. If you head over to startupsmagazine.co.uk, there’s a magazine in digital and print where they champion tech, startups, and entrepreneurs. They’ve also got a podcast called the Cereal Entrepreneur where they interview female founders within a specific industry, talking about issues they may be facing. They will be talking to founders as we get into 2021 about what issues are coming up in the next 12 months, check it out. It’s called the Cereal Entrepreneur. It is fantastic. Thanks so much for listening to this week’s podcast. If you enjoyed it as much as we did, we would really appreciate it, if you could rate it, share it and subscribe to it. To find out more about the guests featured on Success Is In The Mind, visit our website, bizpodcast.co.uk that is with Z, where you could apply to be on the show, check out the behind the scenes content and keep up to date with what’s coming up. Check out our Facebook page by visiting @SuccessIsInTheMindPod, or follow me on Twitter at @OliverBruce_biz. This podcast has been produced by the team at PinPoint Media. To find out more visit pinpoint-media.co.uk. Thanks so much for listening. Take care.